State of Decay was the first game released by Undead Labs in the summer of 2013. It was an incredibly enjoyable open world, zombie infested experience selling well over a million copies on both Xbox 360 and PC. Now almost a year after its initial release, Undead Labs have released a brand new expansion called Lifeline. Set within an entirely new area with a new set of characters, how does Lifeline improve upon the already impressive State of Decay and does it do enough to warrant the purchase?
I love State of Decay. I bought it on release and it was the first game I ever reviewed. It’s easily one of my favourite Xbox Live Arcade titles, with a fairly sizable open world map in which you can explore, scavenge and find survivors to help fortify a home base. Now after the first DLC pack Breakdown which did away with the story for a more survival mode type challenge, Lifeline gives you a brand new story and area to play through. You play as members of the military unit Greyhound One, dropped into Danforth city with the task of recovering key scientists and valuable individuals before evacuating them to safety. It’s a simplistic story and the characters don’t have much depth, but it’s enough to give you incentive to keep exploring the world and pushing on in an attempt to rescue as many innocents as you can.
Combat is unchanged from the main game, which I always found enjoyable if a little simple. Being a member of the military means more fire power, so there is a much bigger emphasis on guns than before. There is a big variety of all types of weapons, however they don’t feel too different from each other when unloading precious ammo into hordes of the undead. There was a slight snap lock on to a zombies head, useful for those long-range shots, everyone knows you gotta shoot them in the head.
The new area to explore is a nice change from the original setting Trumbull County, placing you inside the quarantined Danforth City. Whilst not as large as the base game map, it does differ a lot, giving a fresh take on State of Decay. Whilst Trumbull was all large open spaces and small rural towns, this downtown area is a lot more dense, meaning the action happens much more often.
Just like the original State of Decay, influence is key to everything, from taking weapons, ammo and health items from the stockpile to calling in aid from the military, the more you help out the more influence you gain. Bringing back supplies to upgrade the base will help gain you influence, as will many other things. It’s a good system that works great; gain people’s trust in order to get the bigger weapons. I definitely felt more pressed for time, down time between missions was very limited, with every second counting when you are tasked with something. This made it harder to gain influence, something I found very easy in the base game. There’s no time for leisurely scavenging trips anymore, more often you’re given more than one mission and must choose which one you should tackle. These are mostly choosing between whether to rescue civilian or help soldiers, each offering a different reward.
Something new that Lifeline brings to the table are the sieges, in which you have to defend your home base from waves of zombies. They’re easy pickings from inside of your guarded fence, but if they break through you could easily lose a few precious members of your group. It’s frantic fun and using the many guns available is essential to staying alive. You have a number below the mini map to show how much danger the base is in, with the higher the number the more likely it is a siege will occur. These are my favourite parts of the game, racing from the other side of the map after the distress call comes in over the radio to call in an air strike onto a group of ghouls trying to smash down your gate really ramps up the urgency of your situation within this overrun city.
Having any character die in the game doesn’t force you to restart from a checkpoint, if you lose them they are gone. That’s it, dead until a new playthrough. One of the early missions tasked me with finding a scientists wife in order to get some vital information off her. I completely screwed up the rescue and got her killed, causing a bit of a setback for me. You won’t encounter anything to completely mess up your game but it’s still a nice touch, having a character you’ve leveled up a lot get ripped apart by a horde makes you extra cautious the next time you venture out from the safety of a home base.
Unfortunately, the framerate issues haven’t been improved with this new content. It doesn’t happen a lot when on foot, however jumping into a car can cause the game to noticeably skip, if only for a split second every now and again. Another problem that should have been addressed is the rather simplistic partner A.I. From time to time they are helpful, giving zombies a quick smack in the face with a melee weapon, but I found they very rarely use their ranged weapons, often just standing about whilst you take out the undead from a safe distance.
Another disappointment was some of the sounds in the game. The voice acting was done fairly well, as was the general zombie grunts and groans. The music seemed very lacking though, sometimes absent altogether when driving or exploring the world. Some ambient music would have been welcome, maybe a car radio would have been out-of-place in the apocalypse, but I still would have liked to hear something.
I found myself playing Lifeline in short bursts. Loading times are quick and you’re always being given something new to do, finding a new building to explore or gaining resources and upgrading your bases. There were a few times in which I did play for longer periods, but it’s fantastic if you have a spare half hour or so, the minimalistic story helping to keep these short gaming sessions more enjoyable.
State of Decay: Lifeline is a fantastic add-on for an already impressive title. It’s a fun game that adds some nice new features for State of Decay fans to enjoy. It’s low price is another selling point, giving you more content than a lot of DLC on the market for other games. If you already own the original game, you should absolutely pick up Lifeline.
[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]
Sieges are frantic but fun
Managing bases is simple and enjoyable
New map and characters breathe fresh life into the game
[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]
Simplistic partner A.I
Choppy framerate on occasions