State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition Review


Developer: Undead Labs

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Platforms: Xbox One (Version Reviewed), PC

Release Date: April 28

When an unproven studio tackled the survival genre for consoles I wasn’t the only skeptic, but State of Decay easily won me over with its stressful intensity and steep consequences. That was nearly two years ago, but my affinity for the series still holds true, so State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition was primed to suck me back in. With a friendly beep my Xbox informed me the game was ready to play, and my imported save file served to transport me to place I vaguely remembered. As I began my exploration it didn’t take long to discover not much has changed since 2013not even the bugs.

Incendiary ammo seems to do the trick.

With improved visuals and included DLC, Survival Edition is the best version of State of Decay you could possibly own, so it’s discouraging to see how rough the game still is. Between the precarious vehicle physics, at times clueless AI partners, and persistent glitches the game is just as you remember it, but for me it was even worse. I experienced far more technical difficulties than I ever did in the original. Within 2 minutes of playtime I managed to completely immobilize my truck, and at one point I was catapulted outside the map during a siege on my base. Thankfully, massive fall damage doesn’t result in a permanent death, but my absence during the attack resulted in the death of several survivors. Bugs are frustrating to encounter in any game, but when a single death can have huge consequences the sting is even more painful.

A bug allowed me to meet the ominous mannequins living outside of Danforth.

While the technical problems still remain constant, something that has changed is the resolution and overall visual fidelity of State of Decay. The Xbox 360 wasn’t powerful enough to do the game justice, and the jump to Xbox One still proves underwhelming. Survival Edition is running at the sacred resolution of 1080p, but certain items like the Molotov cocktail will bring your framerate to its kneesyet another casualty in the war between resolution and framerate, and a symptom of this underpowered console generation.

In addition to these visual upgrades, Survival Edition includes the previously released DLC “Breakdown” and “Lifeline”, making Survival Edition a perfect entry-point for newcomers and those of us who never played the DLC.

Lifeline puts you right into the action, giving you a sizable base and an almost never-ending arsenal. You control a group of military personnel and experience the apocalypse from a different narrative perspective. If you prefer the scrappy survival of the everyday man, then this may come as a disappointment. You have a stockpile of military-grade hardware and access to supply drops, recons drones, and aerial bombardments. But even with these tools at your disposal Lifeline is no cake walk. Brutal sieges against your base can quickly grow out of hand, and replacement characters are hard to come by.

Lifeline gives you access to some serious equipment.

Lifeline also changes things up by taking place in the ravaged city of Danforth. The concentrated urban areas are even more stressful and unforgiving than the original terrain, and Danforth’s simple interstate system effectively compartmentalizes the map- cutting down on a lot of tedious driving present in Trumbull Valley. All these differences give Lifeline a distinctly separate feel from the original game, which is why I found it most enjoyable.

Resources don’t respawn so it’s a slow trudge to your inevitable defeat

Breakdown, on the other hand, strips out the story aspects that kept the original game moving forward and presents a rather vanilla survival experience. This would all be excusable if it occurred in a new area, but Breakdown puts your right back in Trumbull Valley. You are randomly placed in the all too familiar map and must find a community of survivors to team up with and survive. Resources don’t respawn so it’s a slow trudge to your inevitable defeat. Each run unlocks new characters to play with on your next attempt, but the foregone conclusion of failure didn’t entice me to keep coming back. It all just feels like a hollow slow grind with minimal reward, and frankly should probably just be avoided in favor of the main story.


State of Decay: Survival Edition doesn’t solve the longstanding issues that rankle the game, instead it opts to simply apply a fresh coat of paint. Entertainment doesn’t have to be perfect, and State of Decay was (and still is) a seminal survival game of the last generation. Its innovative gameplay should be able to trump the annoying quirks for most players, but its issues will certainly prove too much for others.

If you already own State of Decay for your Xbox 360 you’ll receive a 33% off discount on Survival Edition until June 30.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.