State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition Review

Richard Walker

In State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition, it feels like you're constantly putting out fires. Even when you're away from the game, the doomed post-apocalyptic world carries on without you, expending your resources and threatening the well-being of your ragtag community of survivors. It's arguably one of the purest realisations of what an actual, real-life zombie apocalypse might be like, in all its hopeless, desperate glory.

The beauty – if you can call it that – of State of Decay, is that almost every aspect of survival is presented to you, right down to the minutiae of having to deal with people's emotions and morale, to ensure they don't go mental and start tearing the community asunder. State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition can often feel like thankless busywork, as notifications constantly pop up in your journal, as another stranded survivor needs escorting home, or one of the folks at your base threatens to have some sort of meltdown. And of course there's the looming threat that one of them will contract the black fever and turn.

"Follow me!"

While all of this is happening, you have scant resources to manage, with tough decisions to be made at practically every turn. Do you opt to build more outposts, so that you can resupply and keep the zombie hordes at bay or do you blindly pursue the game's missions, ignoring the rest of the things going on around you, potentially at your peril? Do you help your neighbours, prevent other enclaves collapsing or hunker down and barricade yourself in with your community, stretching thin what few supplies you have.

At your home base and outposts, you can stock up on ammunition, medicine and other precious resources from storage lockers, but only as much as your backpack and weight limit will allow. It's another thing to take into account. Scavenging for construction materials, food, medical supplies and so forth is always an ongoing concern.

State of Decay is like the anti-Dead Rising in combat encounters too. It's all too easy to swing away at a group of 'zeds' only to find your stamina depleted and your jugular being gnawed on by ravenous undead. Upgrading your skills by performing these actions repeatedly means the difference between life and a permanent death for your character, while switching between playable members of your community enables runners to rest up, recovering lost stamina and vitality. It pays to be frugal in State of Decay, not just with resources, but with your group too.

Shooting a gun or searching for items loudly also runs the risk of attracting a nearby horde, or worse still, a 'freak' zombie like a screamer, drawing in yet more zombies, or a juggernaut, able to decimate you and any allies with its gargantuan size and heft. Try and run one of these over in a car and you can normally expect the front axles to give way and the front to buckle. Vehicles are nigh-on essential too, given the size of State of Decay's open-world, and you can store weapons and other stuff in the trunk if your inventory is reaching capacity.

Much of State of Decay is spent scouring the world for safe zones, clearing out infestations, convincing enclaves to join your growing community, upgrading your home base and generally surviving. There's a story driving things forward, with the army, the self-appointed law and others forming and fracturing relationships. Tensions run high, bad things inevitably happen and you'll have to adapt as an already dire situation worsens.

In the Breakdown expansion included with this definitive package, you start out as a random character armed with a simple melee weapon and little else. You're let loose, forced to find a community that will take you in, and the fight for survival is an unending trial by fire. You'll unlock new hero characters with their own weapons and abilities, through completing various challenges as the zombie apocalypse escalates. Essentially, it's more of the same, but with less onus on story.

The Lifeline expansion is a little more interesting, putting you in the boots of members of the surviving Greyhound One military unit in the doomed city of Danforth. You have your military training and a range of army supplies to draw upon, but managing these is all the more important, as they can permanently dry up and bring your battle for survival to a close. You'll have to rescue civilians and keep the defences of your base fortified, while making the same kind of tough choices that pervade every facet of State of Decay. All the while the zombie threat level can increase at any time, placing your base under siege as you strive to extract high value assets from the LZ.

Served up as a whole, State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is an enormous game. You're able to choose from State of Decay's main campaign, Breakdown and Lifeline via the main menu, and simultaneously have a save for each on the go. Existing saves can also be ported across from the 2013 Xbox 360 version of the game to Xbox One, meaning you 're able to pick up from where you previously left off. As an overall package, State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition represents outstanding value, with a good few dozen hours of gameplay at a bargain price.

Incendiary ammo is the best.

You'll find a set of achievements for each part of State of Decay: YOSE too, offering a nice slab of Gamerscore with 72 achievements, including the ones taken from the original game. Altogether, there's a good spread across the entirety of State of Decay: YOSE, with the list bolstered to provide a total of 1500G. That means hours spent in the main campaign, Breakdown and Lifeline to unlock the whole lot. It's a good, solid list, fleshed out with new tasks and Gamerscore to track down.

It's not without its flaws, and State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is still haunted by more than its fair share of bugs, but this is survival horror at its most nerve-shredding and tense. The open-world is staggering in size, marred only by muddy textures, frequent pop-in and an almost wearying, (and no doubt intentional) constant drabness to its apocalyptic world. State of Decay is how we imagine a real-life zombie apocalypse might play out, with splintered communities, and an all-pervading sense of desperation and despair.

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition isn't an easy ride by any stretch, and it'll test the mettle and patience of players looking for a more instantly gratifying experience, but stick with it and Undead Labs' seminal open-world survival horror rewards in spades.

State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is a generously proportioned package (that's not a euphemism), containing a stack of content, a huge open-world packed with ravenous zombies and precious few supplies to see you through. The apocalypse has never looked so damn bleak, although the 1080p upgrade helps bolster the gloomy visuals. State of Decay heralds the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

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Music is spare yet atmospheric, voiceover work is excellent and the soundtrack in general is pretty damn good. Then there's the always satisfying squelch of a burst zombie head. Nice.


The frame rate has a tendency to drop a bit when things get busy, pop-in is rife and environments are relentlessly brown and drab. As far as post-apocalyptic worlds go, State of the Decay is pretty much on the money. The remastered 1080p paint job helps freshen things up a bit.


State of Decay can be tough, demanding management of your stamina and health, with medicine and ammo in short supply. Car handling initially feels a bit loose, but soon feels natural. Occasionally frustrating, sometimes a chore, State of Decay is still mostly enjoyable.


Year-One Survival Edition is pretty expansive, offering tens of hours of gameplay, with the main campaign, as well as the Breakdown and Lifeline expansions. Fantastic value for money.


A strong list with good spread, there's plenty to do here, offering a nifty 1500G for your trouble.

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