On Term 4’s last week of classes, during the break and until now, I’ve been playing Dead State a lot. A. LOT. Before I start talking about the game itself, a quick reminder from past experiences: I’m kind of traumatized by Fallout 2. It was a turn based game – an awesome one – that I never managed to finish, even though I tried several times along many years. I got very close to the end once, and the computer simply fried, burning my save files along with the motherboard and hard drive.
The main point mentioning Fallout 2 is because I felt many similarities between both games and this might have affected my addiction to Dead State.
First off, I bought it when it was still in Early Access on Steam, with only 7 playable days and limited locations. It’s a zombie game different from the standard go, kill, keep moving, first person shooter, gore, save the world. It’s more like an elaborate RPG, where you play as a survivor from a plane crash in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. From there, you are brought into a school and the best chance for survival is fortifying the place and going out to gather supplies. The school can be upgraded in various ways – garage, workshop, chicken coop, generator, fences, and so forth. You also have a limit of four people in your raiding party, which means that most of the time someone is gonna be left at the school. From the job board you can assign everyone’s tasks and see their progress as the hours and days go by.
Dead State has many variables, and this is one of the game’s strongest aspects. The group’s morale is based on how you’re doing gathering food for everyone, medicine for the ones infected, fuel for the generator, keeping the place working (broken fridges, toilets, damages to the fence). As you explore the school’s surroundings you end up finding other survivors like yourself. From this point you can have different approaches, trying to gather as many people as you can find to improve the shelter and offer them safety and food – which makes it harder to keep the food and fuel supply good – or keep a small number of loyal people, that will never question your decisions. And, boy, there are lots of decisions to be taken. Every once in a while another survivor comes up to you to ask for a day off because they’re sick, tired, not feeling well or something like that and you have to decide if you can go one day without their work or if you need them on point that day. There are also crisis events where more complex situations arise and you must take decisions that will not please everyone in the shelter – once I had to decide between cleaning our water supply or fortifying the fence. I didn’t have enough spare parts to clean the well which ended up poisoning more than half the crew, rendering them useless for a couple of days. In these crisis meetings there are key characters that have their ally base, like politics and so, keeping majority on your side is always a good thing.
There are also conflicts between different survivors because their interests are totally different and it’s up to you to decide what to do to solve their problems.
Combat mechanics are a little weird at first, because it’s a turn-based game, so you do your thing and wait/watch your enemies react/counter. In the beginning each battle takes hours to play through. After some days you’ll get better gear and improve the group’s stats, which speeds up the undead killings. Then you start to meet other looters, gangs, mercs and soldiers just to make your life harder again. I’m still in day 40 of the infection and you simply can’t take a day off. If you don’t go out scavenging, food might not be enough, the generator runs out of fuel and that kind of thing. Once I had to keep exploring through the night – much more dangerous due to the increased number of undead and also harder to see and strike – because I didn’t have enough antibiotics for everyone back home. After midnight, the game considers your party isn’t going to get enough rest, so everyone has a fatigue penalty during the following day.
Every once in a while I think the game is becoming repetitive and then it surprises me with hardcore enemies, or allies asking for very specific items in hard-to-access areas – like a tattoo gun, medicine books, guitar strings and that kind of thing. If you ignore an ally request for too long, they also get pissed and respect you less. They have their own “wanted” items that improves their mood, which also affects the shelter’s overall morale, so whenever you come across specific items on the field like cigars, deodorant, chocolates, coffee, rechargeable batteries and such, it’s better to get a hold of them than food itself, just because they’re harder to find.
More on exploring, at first everything is on foot, you can only walk to places and this takes a long time. After a while, if you rescue the right ally, she says there’s a horse farm nearby and you can raid the place to get some horses for the group. Of course, the horses require feeding every day. After some more time, you’ll find a mechanic that can fix the car in the school’s yard and that moves even faster besides providing you with a sizeable trunk to carry more loot back home. It uses fuel, so it’s always good to take that into account before going out with it – and if you run out of fuel in the field, you’ll have to send someone out there to rescue the car, which also takes some time. Each character’s weight capacity is determined by their strength attribute, which also affects their melee damage.
I started writing with a very clear idea in mind and I totally lost it. Overall, if you played Fallout 1 or 2, and liked it, give Dead State a chance. It still has some minor bugs and glitches but, overall, it’s an inovative take on the zombie genre that’s is kind of getting exhausted lately.