State of Decay Year One Survival Edition Review

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Undead Labs debut game comes to Xbox One via Year One Survival Edition which is a definitive edition of the original Xbox 360 and PC game including the two DLCs Breakdown and Lifeline with a host of technical and gameplay improvements to tempt new and old players into upgrading.

I reviewed the game at its original release and then Lifeline last year and the same great game I enjoyed so much comes with a few new additions so I want to focus on whats new and how the game has transitioned to a new platform. I will be following up this review with more extensive thoughts on each campaign and then the future of the franchise.

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State of Decay for new comers is a single player zombie survival game set in the open-world of Trumbull Valley (and Danforth city in Lifeline), your aim is survive the zombie apocalypse; build up your community, provide enough resources (food, building material, medicine, gas and weapons) to support them, complete missions and work towards escaping with your survivors in tow. State of Decay and Lifeline are story based campaigns and Breakdown is set in Trumbull County and is an endless campaign which removes the story elements and focuses exclusively on survival as you aim for high scores and progression will increase the zombie threat to provide a bigger challenge.

There is a massive package here with lots to experience across everything on offer, two separate story-driven campaigns featuring the two maps which vary a lot in providing different challenges to the players. The State of Decay campaign is about a group of civilians banding together to form a community, surviving together, understanding more about what is going on in Trumbull County since the outbreak and trying to get some answers.

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Breakdown takes the core gameplay, strips out the story in Trumbull County and makes it a pure survival simulator with expanded difficulty as you go up the levels and high scores given for what you’ve achieved.

Lifeline is set in Danforth city, ravaged by the outbreak much of the city is considered “danger zones” due to the sheer amount of zombies making survival almost impossible, the story is about the military and relies more on gun play, surviving waves of zombie attacks on your base and extracting key people who might help provide answers to the outbreak.

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What I liked the most was the incredible depth and detail in its core mechanics which is why I enjoy it so much, there are so many elements both big and small which I feel make it feel so good from scavenging resources, the vehicle damage modelling, meeting the needs of the community, base building, permadeath for characters, mêlée and gun weapon types and variety, there are plenty of things to do in the game and each campaign offers something unique.

The list of changes and additions can be broken down into three areas: technical improvements, gameplay changes and new content.

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The technical improvements are as you would expect: the resolution has been upgraded to 1080p, an improved frame-rate as well as improvements to lighting, textures, draw distance and shadows and finally overhauled animations which are all very noticeable.

The original Xbox 360 and PC release was technically quite janky and Undead Labs were very honest about that, they released multiple updates to help improve the issues and make it more polished and the latest release I found to be a more polished experience, I didn’t really experience any bugs or glitches and the technical improvements give a welcome boost in performance.

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That being said, whilst it does look and feel better to play, the frame-rate isn’t always smooth when driving  and this doesn’t seem to relate to the amount of on-screen activity. There is a some pop-in still but it occurs further in the distance and a bit of clipping remains as well but both are much improved, finally there is a load screen when you switch characters which is a little bit lengthy but I didn’t find it to be a big deal.

I don’t think the game will ever be 100% jank-free but Year One Survival edition gets much closer and is an improvement that returning players will appreciate.

Some gameplay mechanics have had some nice reworking to bring over features added in Lifeline to the original game and Breakdown such as ammo crafting and snack making at your base, it’s now easier to trade and build trust with other groups of survivors and the combat mechanics were overhauled also with a new unbreakable knife for when your mêlée weapons break, this is a particularly nice addition and whilst it shouldn’t be relied on permanently will give you enough to help get away from an attacking mob.

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For extra content there is a few new things, Lifeline characters are now available in the Breakdown heroes roster (Hawkes, Kilo, Vince and Sasquatch), there are new weapons and extras (under barrel attachments and shotgun incendiary ammo), new vehicles (SUVs) and over 25 new vehicle skins, Jesper Kyd has recorded 30 minutes of new music and finally there is a new mission type. The mission, available across all 3 campaigns is based on mysterious supply crates being dropped in remote areas which make loud noises and attract zombies but contain rare and powerful equipment, providing some intrigue as to who is sending these presents from the sky.

Finally there are a couple of Xbox One exclusive features, the use of GameDVR, 1500 gamerscore there are also monthly challenges which if completed provide the player with extra in-game items and are a nice touch to maximise what the platform can do, saved games from Xbox 360 can also be brought over to Xbox One via a title update.

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To me these new things are nice new additions that round off the package as a whole, the gameplay features help improve the way it plays particularly the knife and if you have plentiful resources then being able to create snacks and ammo is very useful for surviving and stockpiling.

State of Decay Year One Survival Edition does everything promised, expected and maybe even a bit more, a game I enjoyed so much on Xbox 360 for its great mechanics and gameplay but lacked polish and rounding off has got exactly what it needed to meet its full potential. There is a great game with plenty to do and lots of variety in the gameplay, I cannot recommend Year One Survival Edition enough for both new players and others returning whether its from Xbox 360 or PC.

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  • Price: $29.99 ($19.99 upgrade for owners on PC and XBLA until 30th June 2015)
  • Release Date: April 28th
  • Formats: Xbox One (Played),PC
  • Developer: Undead Labs
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Visit: Website – Twitter
  • Buy: Xbox StoreSteam Store