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State of Decay - Breakdown DLC

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By Bobfish05-12-2013
MrJenssen (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
State of Decay - Breakdown DLC

The Defence

Developer:
Undead Labs
Publisher:
Microsoft Studios
Genre:
Action, Adventure
Release Date:
29-11-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core i5
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce GT 240
AMD Radeon HD 4750
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
3 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

When State of Decay was first released, two requests were made, levied almost like allegations. The first was to implement some form of multiplayer, preferably via a form of persistent co-op á la DayZ. Second, a greater focus on the sandbox part of this zombie survival sandbox. Light as it was, many found that the (admittedly extremely well-crafted) story sections got in the way of the game. The former request remains a firm “maybe someday” at present time, but the latter was considered, addressed and has now been implement officially as of November 29th in the form of Breakdown. The game's first official, paid DLC. What, then, does it actually do?

The Trial

State of Decay - Breakdown starts out similar to the main game but now you get to select a character for yourself. Well, the first time you must choose a randomly generated character, but as time goes on and your game level increases, you will unlock more. Up to a final total of thirty-four named hero characters, some of whom you may recognise from the main game. These include several who were previously unplayable, such as Eli Wilkerson, the plucky military Captain Diane Montressor, or unarguably the most lovable character in the whole game - Judge Lawton.

Ermagerd! Berks!

Ermagerd! Berks!

These hero characters all initially come with higher stats than the randomly generated characters, as well as some special weapons. Such as a microphone stand for Jacob Ritter, a special 'Warden' shotgun for Sam, a UMP sub-machinegun for Diane and so on. You can also start a new game from any level previously unlocked, allowing you jump right into level 6 for example, and immediately get munched in the face by a bajillion hordes before the game finishes loading. Okay, that may be mildly facetious, but don't kid yourself going into this. Because you see, another thing the DLC brings is significantly ramped up difficulty. After my first in-game day, I had one character dead, two hurt, and one of those was also sick. On level 1. There are 10 in total, so bear that in mind.

Having said that, levels 2 and 3, even up to 4 to a certain extent, can be easier than the first. See, when you start out a brand new game, even with a hero character, you will be at the disadvantageous default stats, out in the wilderness at a random location with only basic supplies and no place to call home. You have Lilly for company, sure, but the only interaction you have with her is by radio. At least until you work your way into a randomly generated existing community.

Getting yourself up and running under these circumstances, especially considering the community you join, will only have about four people of which, if you are really lucky, maybe two more will be playable...yeah, that's rough. During later levels you can take six playable characters (plus Lilly) with you in an RV, as well as most of your gathered supplies. So whilst it may contain a higher concentration of zeds, and higher numbers of tougher zeds like ferals and what-not, you start better equipped and prepared to survive. Even starting a hero character resets your stats. Albeit to their defaults, which are higher than a random one. They are still mostly around the 2/3 range, not maxed out.

Zombie ER.

Zombie ER.

Gameplay itself is, shockingly, exactly the same as the core game. Even the way the game progresses is pretty much the same. Lilly will notify you of randomly generated missions like hunting for ferals, wiping out infestations and hordes (which pop up stupidly fast by the way) and all the usual shenanigans. But you are free to ignore them and just go on a random scavenging hunt.

Once you're either bored with the difficulty, which obviously drops off as you become better equipped and increase your skills, you can fix up an RV that will spawn somewhere randomly on the map and head on out to the 'next' valley. Which is, literally, the exact same map with all the loot and survivors rest barring the six you chose to take with you. However, this time there are no pre-existing communities that will take you in. This leaves you to track down one for yourself and move in there. Though, with six survivors (plus Lilly) and if you're smart, a decent stockpile of materials, most of them will be readily accessible to you right off the bat. Especially considering that all of them have now had their population requirements lowered, with all but the largest now only requiring six. Convenient that, isn't it?

From there it's back to the same old grind. Hunting for resources, setting up outposts, recruiting new survivors and finding the RV so you can head on to the next valley. Rinse. Repeat. Up to the final level of 10. Though Undead Labs' staff have openly stated they can't make it past the eighth valley themselves. That may sound like PR bull, but let me assure you, from level 3 onwards it is no mean feat. Most regular zombies are now armoured, juggernauts and ferals are everywhere...yeah, you get the picture. It's a tough game, a very tough game. But Undead Labs put in a couple more levels because they know some people are just that good.

Some of these unlock requirements are...a little sadistic.

Some of these unlock requirements are...a little sadistic.

The hero characters will help you a lot, but you will have to earn them first. A handful are unlocked simply for reaching a new level, up to the fifth, but the rest require completing certain tasks, which are also locked by level. Though, you can complete them out of order. Some of them are simple and easy enough, such as killing five bloaters or growing 10 food in the garden. Others are a little more brutal, Such as killing 400 enemies with car doors or 25 headshot streaks. Five headshots in a row.

The DLC is definitely one for the long haul. Which is surprising given the price. It adds very little beyond the new weapons, and it actually ends up taking out more than it adds in the way of missions. However, with the multiple valley resets and greater abundance of resources up for grabs overall, it can easily scratch that single player, zombie apocalypse survival itch for a very, very long time. And hey, you can always restart the whole thing, without that pesky plot getting in the way, whenever you want.

The Verdict

Overall, Breakdown adds in far more than it takes away, despite the fact it doesn't really add much at all. It was expertly crafted to offer what the fans wanted, without really doing much of anything. It could be argued that it's a lazy, quick fix solution with a price tag slapped on, but the truth is that it's an extremely intelligent and well executed tweak of the existing gameplay, thus allowing Undead Labs to smoothly sidestep all the usual issues you would have with adding new content to a game. There are some minor issues here and there, specifically around the difficulty, which has a bit of a scattershot curve to begin with, and the ludicrously huge spawns that just come flying out of nowhere just...because reasons. But at the end of the day, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, offering a dizzying amount of playtime for a fiver. Plus, Undead are still working on minor tweaks and fixes that will smooth everything out, at no extra cost, for both the core game and the DLC. There are complaints to be made, certainly, but they are niggles which will hopefully all be fixed in short order.

Case Review

  • Price: Literally hundreds of hours of gameplay for the price of a footlong.
  • Replayability: Even after finishing off all 10 valleys, there is ample incentive to jump back in, at any previously played level, and crack on again.
  • Difficulty: Scattershot at times, starting off almost impossibly difficult, then becoming a little mundane for the next couple of levels, before it ramps up properly.
  • Map: It's the same map, so you'll know pretty much where everything is.
  • Repetitive: There's really only so much variety you can add to a sandbox survival simulator and it could become a little too samey after a while.
4
Score: 4/5
Pretty much exactly like the main game, with a little tweaking.
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