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State of Decay hands-on tips: eight ways to fail and die

Ed returns from another voyage through zombie-ridden America

Did you get a chance to enjoy the sun this weekend? I didn't. I was otherwise preoccupied, staring into the ghastly, glitchy, somehow lovable maw of Undead Labs' State of Decay, an open world zombie survival simulation for Xbox Live Arcade.

Last week's hands-on skimmed the surface of the messy but more-ish combat - the gist, in case you missed it, is that burning out on stamina, rushing into fights without solid reconnaissance and blasting your guns willy-nilly are all fine ways to discontinue your existence. Today, we're delving a little deeper, via the proven medium of tips-in-reverse. Here are eight things you should absolutely do in State of Decay if life has lost its charm.

1. Neglect the basic resource questions
If your base doesn't have enough beds, people will succumb to the effects of sleep deprivation and, eventually, leave in search of better accommodation. If you don't have enough food, they'll starve to death. Skimp on gas and you won't have any electricity for your fancy, old world light fittings (thankfully, cars come with belief-rupturing infinite fuel supplies). Run short of medicine, and - well, you get the idea. Less equals bad.

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Have a look at the Home Status bar in the top-left of the screenshot above. Of the four counters, food and medicine are the ones you need to worry about most - they'll diminish day by day, depending on base population and how many survivors you place in harm's way, and scarcities can be ruinous. Building materials (the stack of small rectangles) aren't quite as vital, but you'll need them if you want to expand your medical facilities, kitchen, sleeping quarters and defences. Ammo's important too, obviously, but in a pleasant break from the zombie-slaying norm, running out of the stuff won't doom you. Well, not immediately.

2. Advance the story without due preparation
The further you push into State of Decay's main narrative, the uglier and nastier the breeds of walking corpse you'll discover. To begin with, all you need worry about are the basic shufflers - trouble in numbers, but easily dispatched in a one-on-one fight. Later on there are hunting side missions that star extra-tough, rangy Feral Zombies, who move and pounce very much like the Hunters from Left 4 Dead.

They're a real nuisance when you're travelling solo, as they can pin you down, but Ferals aren't a patch on the punchily titled "Big Bastards" who begin to appear in the world once you complete a certain story mission. Imagine having a fight with a forklift truck that's made of sausage meat, and you're halfway there. Pro tip: use flammables and exploding barrels to down these guys from a distance.

3. Overload your inventory
There's space for eight items by default, though you can expand the inventory by upgrading to larger backpacks. It's possible to destroy items to free up slots by holding a button, but you can only store them in Supply Lockers in survivor bases, and you'll need to spend Influence to get them back (once they're in the locker, they're community property). So resist the temptation to go nuts on weapons, or you may be faced with Tough Decisions of the Resident Evil-esque kind. The other night, I had to destroy a precious replica cricket bat to make room for some morphine. Tragic.

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4. Send a runner to scavenge from something that's miles away
While exploring buildings, you'll occasionally stumble on caches of ammo, medicine, building materials and food, which can't be dropped into the regular inventory like other items. Your options at this point are three-fold: "break open" the cache to free up a few regular items; load up a second back-pack at the risk of over-encumbering yourself (meaning you'll lose stamina faster while sprinting); or radio home for another survivor to come collect the goods.

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