State of Decay Screenshot

Wow, it feels like forever since I've updated the blog, and now I've become one of those guys who starts off a blog with apologizing for not updating his blog.

In any event, I finally found some time tonight in between writing and editing reviews for GameCritics, taking care of the day job, spending quality time with the family, occasionally playing a game, and trying (and mostly not succeeding) to finish the final edits on my book. With all that stuff going on it’s too easy to let the blog slip, so thanks for your patience.

And…  to elaborate on some what I was just referencing, my oldest (now age 11) is with me for the summer, and he's finally getting to the age when I feel like I can start introducing him to some things that he might not have been ready for earlier. Nothing too extreme of course, but as an example, I felt pretty comfortable letting him sit down with the recent XCOM and he took to it right away. I'm definitely looking forward to sharing more sophisticated stuff with him as he gets older, and it's great to be able to enjoy something on a more equal footing than we were able to when he was younger.

(It's also a pretty stark reminder of the passage of time, but let's not dwell on that for now…)

Getting back to the book for just a second, I'm really close to the end of my revisions but it's been tough to find enough quiet in the house (while I'm still awake) to wrap it up, but I'm going to knuckle down and push through it. My wonderful wife has been totally supportive of the entire process, so she's going to run interference with the kids and buy me a window of opportunity later this week. I look forward to typing the words "edits are done" before Friday. Keep your fingers crossed for me, okay?

Now, on with the show…

So State of Decay finally came out on Xbox Live Arcade recently, and I've been playing it for review. If you've been following this blog, then you know I've had my eye on this project ever since I first saw it at PAX last year and I'm extremely happy to say that now that I have laid hands on the final build, it does not disappoint.

If you're not familiar with the game, here it is in a nutshell: a couple of guys go camping and come back to civilization, only to find that the zombie apocalypse happened while they were away. They soon hook up with the remaining survivors, and from that point the game becomes a fantastic blend of individual real-time action (bashing in heads with blunt objects) and a community-based simulation (keeping people happy and running an efficient headquarters).

I've had several people mention to me that they're not up for "another zombie game" and I totally get that, but the fact is that State of Decay isn’t like any other zombie game I've ever played. As someone who is a fan of the subject material, I've always been wanting a game that tackled the survival aspects frequently seen in books and films, but those parts are usually given only cursory attention, if any at all. SoD runs the complete opposite direction, and fully embraces it.

State of Decay Screenshot

Once your characters make it to the first base (a church) there are other characters to talk to, each with their own skills and disposition. Your active character will get injured or grow fatigue, and they must be swapped out with someone who's fresh, so taking care of the full roster is important. (Also important? Finding more survivors to replace those that will inevitably be lost.)

While at the church, the player will have to find fuel, food, and resources by scavenging the remains of the surrounding town. It's as involved as actually going into each house and structure and searching inside for usable goods. Anything discovered can be carried back, or the player can radio back to base to have another character come and pick it up. Oh, and just FYI, those characters can be ambushed and killed along the way, so it's not just as simple as giving a command and forgetting about it—you may actually have to go and bail them out if things go south.

Did I forget to mention that permadeath is a thing here? Silently creeping through an infested part of town trying to make is low noise as possible is pretty goddamned intense when you know that your best character could be lost with just one wrong move.

There are a billion other details I can talk about, but if you tried the demo and thought that it was just another action romp, let me assure you that it's definitely not. State of Decay is a huge, incredibly deep simulation set in an open-world environment that must be navigated on both micro and macro levels, and it's the only game I know of that tries to translate surviving the zombie apocalypse into the kind of complicated, stressful and desperate game experience that I always thought it should be.

My full review is coming soon. Stay tuned.

Not much to report on this except that it's out, but hey, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is out.

Anticipation among my Twitter people is surprisingly high (perhaps not so surprising?) and I just downloaded my own copy earlier tonight.

Side note: Although I generally prefer physical copies when given the choice, I remember the original AC being something that you only played for ten or fifteen minutes at a time at best, and the thought of having to swap carts out several times a day was not appealing. In this special circumstance, I figured a DL was the smart move.

As far as my history with the series goes, I haven't played any Animal Crossing since the original game back in… dear God, was it actually 2002, eleven years ago?


Yeah, well whatever… the point is I'm looking forward to revisiting the series.

Brad Gallaway
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