Under Siege: State of Decay Lifeline Review

Undead Labs State of Decay add-on is another great experience

Lifeline LogoAlmost a year to the day since Undead Labs and Microsoft Studios released State of Decay on XBLA to huge consumer sales for a downloadable title only title exceeding 1.5m sales and had a PC release to help with that.

As you may have seen from my first look last week Lifeline adds a new story and map from the viewpoint of the military and is a great addition to the game. For my impressions on the base game, see my post from last July, they will form the basics of my impressions now as I don’t want to go over familiar ground again.

Lifeline’s differences lie in protecting your base from zed sieges whilst still going about your normal activites; collecting materials, protecting civilians, rescuing stranded soldiers and doing the story missions, unlike in the base game if you don’t do the missions within a timely manner you get a dereliction of duty which will cause you to fail that mission – you don’t have to do them immediately either and one dereliction of duty won’t cause your game to fail. I liked scavenging whilst doing the missions as that was a decent way of getting round the time problem as the game doesn’t fully continue time wise whilst you’re in a mission, handy when you have found a nice stash of ammo or materials.

There are lot of new guns in the game which give you choices on your character specialisations and more uses for ammo. My weapon of choice were pistols as I could get relatively easy headshots, ammo was relatively easy to find and when I was protecting my base from sieges I could get the grenade launcher easily in my pack without becoming encumbered which made things a lot easier when the zeds breakthrough the gates. I could also produce grenade launcher ammo in my workshop (among others) which gave me a huge excess of them.

Without proper traps and preparation it’s easy to become overrun and lose high value assets or soldiers which is not what you want, I don’t like my people dying! Perma-death wasn’t something created for people like me who gets attached to their characters, I built up 3 or 4 as my main characters then rotated between them to save their overally health for more raiding and missions later.

Sieges are one of the best and worst things in a good way about Lifeline, I enjoy killing waves of zeds but they often appeared at inconvenient times when I’m on the other side of the map and have to bomb it back in whatever car I can find to swoop in and save the day for my fellow soldiers and civilians. There is actually a counter that tells you how close you are to a siege which is useful but I also don’t want to just hang around for the next siege when there are zeds to kill and places to scavenge materials from! The sieges come in 2 waves aiming at the north and east gates but occasionally vehicle ops as well, the aim is obviously to clear the zombies descending on your base and it’s easiest to do that with the gates closed and when the zeds pile up outside that is when my grenade launcher comes in handy. Juggernauts and feral zombies can very easily breakthrough the gates so its important to kill them as quickly as possible, ferals need head shots, juggernauts need two or three shots with the grenade launcher. The mines and traps come in very handy for this too and if you’ve unlocked them you can call in artillery barrages to help you clear the zeds.

Lifeline makes keeping your base in one piece a little easier as you can call in supply drops at the cost of influence for ammo, medication, materials, guns etc, they have different costs but are well worth it if you need something extra, I did at one point go well overboard and used up all my influence, followed by being rather loose with my ammo and I had a big problem! Use them in moderation, but also build your own ammo when you need it too as that’s cheaper.

This time based aspect adds a lot to the game, it affects exploring and in what order I did missions as well as how I did missions. With your task being mainly to rescue high value targets I found that did not mix well with trying to scavenge for resources, the best thing was to get the target and if there were a lot of zombies then just get them back to base, I could then grab someone at base to come back with me. Of course if there was no-one around I’d fill my boots with materials but that wasn’t always the case, especially at night.

Speaking of boots (english word for the trunk of a car?) Undead Labs added a new feature that allowed you to put multiple backpacks of materials and items in the back of vehicles which makes scavenging a lot easier and you don’t need to go back and forth for everything you find, different sized vehicles hold a different amount but I almost always used pickup trucks for that exact reason. When I go back to Breakdown or the base game the added feature will be extremely useful when the map is much more spread out than the city of Danforth.

The map itself is of a reasonable size but does feature large areas with red markings on your map which are areas completely taken over by zeds, going into these areas will see relentless amounts of zeds attacking you which makes them not worth using and the map should be navigated around these areas. There is a decent amount of space and content in the map though, safe(r) areas in the map have a lot of buildings and places to scavenge so there’s lot to look around in. The highway is a great hub and quick way to get round the map, I found it useful to create outputs at each major group of buildings that were off the highway and that significantly aided my play through when scavenging so I didn’t run out of ammo or health.

One big problem I had with Lifeline were bugs which caused me a fair bit of frustration at times. Undead Labs were forthcoming that the game was rough in places which I didn’t mind – the frame rate dips at times but its fine mostly and other technical aspects, but the bugs did begin to pile up.
The main ones I had were: zombies becoming “immortal” when I drove into them or shot them they didn’t reacted at all, frustrating when I’m trying to save someone and it won’t let me kill the zombies attacking them. One of my weapons (grenade launcher) “disappeared” when it was equipped, I tried to aim with it, the reticule appeared but the gun didn’t raise and I couldn’t shoot anything – fixed by removing it from my inventory and re-equipping it (I had plenty of ammo too). I did a big run on materials once and had about 130 in my base, I tried to upgrade my field medic, it charged my resources but didn’t do it, I clicked it a couple more times and it didn’t do it either, in the end I lost about 60 material pieces before it accepted it. The last bug was missions not appearing, I had started a new save and without spoilers had kept characters alive needed to do missions that stack up immediately and it didn’t give me any new ones over a period of a few days – fixed when I re-loaded my save. It’s a lengthy list of frustrations, but Undead Labs have confirmed Title Update 6 is due soon which will hopefully fix some of these issues.

My list of bugs is a long one and its a shame that its taken up a lengthy part of my impressions as I did play the game multiple games and they weren’t “regular” bugs but were frustrating when they did happen and people who were enjoying the game less than I was might have been put off from continuing their playthrough.

State of Decay is a great game and Lifeline is a big and great extension of that game and makes me extremely confident of where Undead Labs and Microsoft Studios will take the series going forwards. The new story is fun, I really enjoyed the different military perspective and the strategy and base survival elements are a big part of what makes it different to games like Dead Rising, which I love about State of Decay, it really is a different experience and sets itself apart very well. I’m a huge fan of resource collecting games and building things up – I play a lot of Banished, Tropico, Prison Architect and State of Decay scratches that itch for something different very nicely which both third person action game elements too, it’s not only one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade, but potentially one of the best on Xbox 360.

Lifeline is well worth the money and time investment if you’re a fan of State of Decay, hopefully we will find out more on the next game in the series going forwards soon although unfortunately it won’t be at E3. Such is my excitement and interest in the series, I will write-up a new post soon about my hopes and dreams for the follow-up – probably post-E3.

Thanks once again to Sanya at Undead Labs for providing me with a review code for the game, the community engagement of the team as well has been great to see.undead-labs-and-microsoft-bringing-zombies-to-xbox-live