Thursday, 28 November 2013

State of Decay: Breakdown review

State of Decay was a big hit when it was released earlier this year, selling over a million copies in less than half a year. No mean feat for an XBLA game that has only just seen release on PC. And now, with State of Decay: Breakdown, Undead Labs have given us their first major expansion, with the content that a lot of people have been asking for. Does this DLC make the game worth revisiting or should you forget about Trumbull Valley for the time being? Watch the trailer and read the review below to find out the full verdict (and make sure to check out our original State of Decay review here).

While it requires the base game to play, Breakdown feels like a standalone expansion. You do not need to have completed, or even played the main game to be able to jump right in and set off on your survival adventure. Just choose a character from the roster (which is very bare bones at first), and you will be dropped in to the same map you'll be used to from the story mode. You'll start off with the bare essentials to make it in the world, but very quickly you will need to find a community to join, and supplies to keep yourself and fellow survivors alive.

Joining a community is your first port of call and this just involves finding a highlighted spot on the map and asking to join. From there you must help your fledgling community grow, saving survivors from tight spots, going on scavenging runs, clearing out infested houses, and other similar activities. For those that have played the main game, this will be very familiar, and there are no real changes to this aspect of the game. The difference comes in the lack of a story line. While there are these side missions that you must perform to keep your community alive and happy, there is no overarching story. Instead, after spending a little while in your new environment, you get a message informing you of a broken down RV somewhere in the world, and you are tasked with finding it, and fixing it. This requires finding a certain number of supplies, be it gas, medicine, or whatever, and then setting about getting it fixed. There’s a bit of a wait involved while it is sorted out, so in the mean time you can do a few more jobs in the over world. 

This old, broken RV is your one ticket out of the valley, and right into the next...

Once it’s finally fixed, you can leave the valley, and head straight into an identical one just next door. You keep your supplies, your stats don’t decrease, but you may have to leave some of your party behind; the RV can only seat so many. While this might not sound worth it, this is where Breakdown gets fun. As you progress from one valley to the next, the game gets harder. Not too much that it suddenly becomes impossible, but enough that you will definitely be noticing a difference after a few levels. Zombies become stronger and faster, more special zombies spawn, supplies and vehicles become harder to find, you start needing materials more and more. You start to feel more vulnerable with each round, and there’s little you can do to stop it. All you can do to escape is move to the next valley, but then everything’s just going to be worse than it already is. When the inevitable happens and you finally get overwhelmed and killed, you can start the game again from whichever level you reached, so if things got a bit too hard, you can go back to an earlier level, and those that like the challenge can jump straight back in without having to go through the easier valleys.

More playable characters can be unlocked through a couple of means. Some are unlocked simply by progressing through the difficulties, while others require completing different tasks. Thankfully, it tells you what tasks these are on the character select screen, so there’s no need for guessing, or looking for help elsewhere. There isn't, however, a sizeable difference between each survivor. They may start with different weapons or have some mildly different abilities, but for the most part they’re the same person after a scavenging run or two.

Breakdown is a direct response to the players that claimed that the original game was too easy, or those that didn’t care for the story, and Undead Labs have done a brilliant job in answering them. There are new weapons and survivors, and a lot of the original's glitches and bugs have been ironed out. The difficulty increase is noticeable and surviving gets a lot tougher. For those who want to challenge themselves in this manner, this is perfect. For those who don’t care so much about the challenge and just want to enjoy surviving, it’s still a more than worthwhile purchase. Just find a valley that suits your difficulty requirements, and see how long you can last. The only real criticism that can be made is that exploring the same valleys can get a bit boring and it would have been nice to have some more maps to visit, but it’s an understandable omission, and the DLC is still definitely worth the purchase.


by Mike Aitchison

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