The head survivor, Marcus, crept towards an empty house. The group had been held up in the church for weeks, tensions were running high and supplies were dwindling – they needed a strong leader, now more than ever. He stretched out a shaky hand and clasped the door knob, tentatively twisting it to avoid any unnecessary sound. The handle wouldn’t budge, the door was locked and the windows were boarded up from the inside. There was only one way in, to barge down the door. He pressed his shoulder up against the sturdy wood; letting out a long, drawn breath, he slammed his body forward. The door swung open letting out a loud crack as it struck the wall. He froze, standing in the silence of the house – he had gotten away with it, nobody heard his entrance. Marcus slipped into the house, shining his torch into the rooms – he knew what he was looking for. He began thumbing through draws, cupboards, lockers and cabinets; anything that could contain what his group desperately needed. He had searched most of the house, but to no avail, when, finally, he found it – the materials he needed for the group to build an infirmary. He packed the materials into a rucksack and left the house, heading for home.
But, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted it, a small workshop – could that have more materials? He darted towards it, barged open the door and scurried into the small, isolated room. He could have called for another survivor to come and scavenge the building, but he was on a roll – he was running the show. Marcus decided to go it alone, but he was still in a hurry, he wanted to get the materials back to the church before the horde had a chance to cut him off. He rifled through the bins, throwing lumps of off-cut wood and sheet metal out of the way. He moved towards the tool cabinet, searching through draws and pots for anything of use. He flailed his hands around the work surface, not noticing the box of glass pots poised on the side of the table. His elbow struck the box, his heart dropped as he watched the container tumble to the ground. The glass shattered on the concrete, as an ear piercing smash echoed through the room – then silence.
Marcus ran towards the door and swung it open, the characteristic moans and groans of the advancing horde rang through his ears. He jolted forward, towards the abandoned car across the road. The building materials were weighing him down, but he couldn’t leave them behind, the group depended on him coming home with the supplies. He pushed on, grinding his teeth as he neared the vehicle, just meters away from safety. He could hear the zombies behind him, stumbling forward in an uncoordinated jog, the loud rabble were just inches away. Marcus swung around and fired two shots, hitting the first zombie clean between the eyes. He squeezed the trigger of his revolver letting off five rushed shots into the chest of the nearest zombie – it didn’t back down. He turned back, using the last of his energy in a desperate attempt to push forward. But it was no use, he was spent. He dropped to his knees, clasping his chest and gasping for air. The horde bundled him to the ground, tearing at his flesh, pulling at his limbs and beating him with their bloodied fists. Marcus inhaled and used any remaining energy to push the zombies off of him; with regained vitality he stumbled forward, reaching out a tired hand to grab the handle of the car door. Inches away, his finger tips brushed the metal folds of the car. He took a hit, the oxygen left his lungs as he felt himself lifted into the air. He opened his eyes, his feet kicked out as he tried to escape the grasp of the Big ’un. It’s gigantic vice like hand wrapped around his waste and squeezed his bones; the beast grabbed him with both hands and pulled, pulled with all its might. The Big ‘un tore Marcus in two as easily as snapping a twig, and threw his severed body to the ground. His lifeless corps laid in two on the cold tarmac, Marcus was gone.
The camera pans back to the church as the player takes control of Ed, Marcus’s closest friend. Lilly, the radio operator for the starving survivors, says a few words in Marcus’s memory. “He was a good friend; he did so much for us”. It was up to Ed now; it was time for him to fill Marcus’s boots. He grabbed a rifle and a crowbar and set off to recover the rucksack that Marcus had left behind – the group had to carry on surviving, even if it was shrinking in size.
Everything that you just read happened to me, or should I say Marcus, on my first play through of this game. I’d grown attached to Marcus – I had spent hours leveling him up through the XP that I’d gained in combat. I’d picked his special abilities and decided that he’d be best suited for bladed weapons than blunt weapons or firearms. In my mind he was the group leader, and he had everything under control. To be perfectly honest, his death came as a complete shock to me. It wasn’t pre-planned, there was no big build up with cut-scenes and boss fights – it just happened, and it happened because I was careless. You will grow attached to these characters, the game has a way of sucking you in and making you care about the bunch of survivors that depend on you. It’s your leadership, and your decisions as their leader, that is the make or brake for the group. It’s amazing how much Undead Labs have made me care about a bunch of pixels.
State of Decay is a real gem of a game, there is so much to do and there truly are endless possibilities. It’s a game that you can play in your own way. Complete the main story or just search the vast world for supplies to gather and zombies to kill – it really is up to you. The characters in this game aren’t JUST that; they are your group, your friends and your fellow survivors. It’s up to you as to whether the group succeeds and expands or fails and dwindles. Inhabit large industrial buildings with scores of survivors or barely survive in a dingy, isolated house with just a handful of people clinging on to life. Your actions dictate the success of the group and the lives of others around you. Undead Labs have thought of everything with this title, you would be a fool not to at least give it a go. It may not be the best looking game, nor the best running, but the vastness of the world and the endless possibilities that will be at your fingertips will leave you more than willing to brave the occasional bug and glitch.