My head was throbbing as I awoke on the side of the road. My stomach, clearly hungry, was yelling for any sort of food but as my brain kicked into gear, I was suddenly reminded of the world I was now stranded in. Hunger would have to wait.
As I walked on from the side of the road, my eyes caught movement in the distance and reality quickly set in. This shattered landscape was now taken over by the walking dead, mere husks devoid of any humanity. As the Zombies began shambling towards my position, I realized that I needed to find some shelter, and fast.
The world was broken, my band of friends and fellow survivors now down to just me and a woman named Lily, who unfortunately couldn’t offer much help at the moment due to a medical condition. We needed to find safety and the weight of the world was suddenly on my shoulders to make it happen.
Thus begins the newest downloadable content to Undead Labs’ open world title, State of Decay. ‘Breakdown’ manages to change the established formula in interesting new ways including dumping a traditional narrative, but is it worth your time?
Have a look below the jump for my thoughts…
At a basic level, Breakdown represents the “sandbox” mode that developer Undead Labs has been toiling away on since the main game’s release. What you’ll find here is that the main story line has been stripped away leaving you with just that open world zombie goodness. The gameplay and mechanics don’t deviate much from what you experienced in the main game, so I won’t rehash much of that here. If you’re looking for more detail or even a little refresher, make sure to read through my initial impressions on State of Decay right here.
The premise of the DLC is that your character and Lily are essentially all that’s left of a group of survivors. It’s up to you to find a place to call “home” within the familiar confines of Trumbull Valley, then upgrade it, protect it from the hordes and gather supplies, just like you did in the core campaign before. The difference really comes in when you eventually come across an RV. As you build it up with upgrades and sap the land of it’s supplies, you’ll soon be ready to “leave” which is where things take an interesting turn. You’re only able to take a few survivors with you to “escape” your current situation forcing you into making tough decisions such as who should be left behind and what to take with you. As you escape, you get a results screen and are then put back into the world, hence the “breakdown” aspect. Think of it like you’re prestiging only instead of getting bonuses and new stuff, your reward is hardship and eventual death.
When you come back, the map will be the same, but the interesting twist is that the world changes in various ways. For one, the difficulty will rise as there will be less cars, less supplies, and more difficult zombies to deal with, kind of like starting over with reduced odds of staying alive. Former locations holding vital supplies will begin to disappoint looters with meaningless junk instead of valuable resources. The main thing to keep in mind here is that there is no “win” condition, it’s all about pure survival and how long you can stay alive against rising odds. This cycle continues until you’re eventually defeated by the horde. If you thought the core game could get stressful, this content will more than likely break you down.
Trust me on this, you will die. This isn’t your typical mode as Undead Labs has seen it fit to ramp up the difficulty after listening to user feedback claiming the campaign was a bit on the easier side. Personally, I was okay with the campaign’s difficulty level and while I didn’t lose a survivor (that I was controlling), I did come close a few times and the game’s mechanics were stressful enough on it’s own. So for those of you looking for a challenge, Breakdown looks to deliver in spades.
So what else is new and different then?
For one, Undead Labs have introduced a ton of new hero characters you can play as in the sandbox ranging from former priests, para-military, doctors, etc. Each has a unique look, ability, and weapon which does help to increase the replayability further but they’re not unlocked right off the bat. To entice you to continue playing, each needs to be unlocked by completing a certain challenge such as killing 100 undead with blunt weapons. Some challenges even require you to get to a certain level (number of RV trips you’ve taken back to the valley in one playthrough) before you have to opportunity to attempt the challenge. Once unlocked, you may even run into these characters during your play through. Not surprisingly, these challenges only serve to increase the addictive nature of the title.
In addition, new weapons have also been added which goes hand and hand with the improved loot system. The game now takes what you already have into effect so you won’t find a ton of similar items. This also means you should find more unique weapons as you play which now include a wide array of guns in addition to more traditional melee weapons.
An apt name for this DLC, Breakdown could definitely apply to a few different situations whether you’re talking about society as a whole breaking down during the outbreak, the RV that leaves you stranded, or breakdown as a metaphor for your mental state after loosing a character you worked so hard to create and round out. If you’re the type of person that loves structure and a compelling story, Breakdown may not be your cup of tea with it’s open ended nature and looser structure. If you’re a fan of the franchise and want more content to sink your teeth into then Breakdown is a can’t miss experience.
State of Decay: Breakdown is out now on Steam (PC) for $6.99 and is coming soon to Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360.