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Dead State Review
It was my first major success since the little group of survivors chose me to be their leader. We had attacked a gang of bikers that had threatened our meager little shelter, defeating their leader and taking plenty of loot on the way out, enough to keep the shelter running for at least a week. I was proud of myself, and proud of my team of scavengers who had now been turned into a decent fighting force.
The very next morning I was murdered. Game over. Although well fed and well stocked with supplies, I had neglected the shelter’s morale, which at this point was around -3000.
Morale is one of the many elements to take into account if you want to survive in Dead State, a successful kickstarter project from indie developer Double Bear Productions.
Dead State is a zombie survival game with a twist: Instead of focusing on zombies, the main focus in survival. The game switches between resource management and turn-based combat. Your shelter is your sanctuary, where you can assign jobs, speak with other survivors, and build improvements in your only refuge from the end of the world.
However, you can’t survive if you just stay in one place. You are able to take up to four survivors out into the world beyond the shelter, including yourself. Some survivors are better than others in scavenging expeditions; while some are better doing day-to-day chores around the school that serves as the group’s shelter.
Combat is turn based and is very similar to the classics Fallout 1 and 2 as well as the original X-Com. Your characters have a certain amount of ability points which can be used for using weapons and items as well as opening doors. Combat doesn’t start until the enemy is encountered, however, so you don’t have to worry about saving points to fight like in classic X-Com, where all movement takes points.
The survivors consist of many unique individuals with their own stories and desires. You start out with only a handful but as the game goes on you will collect more. Some will show up at your gate, asking to be let in, while others you will have to go out and look for. The more survivors you have the more you can improve your shelter, though they will take up more food and resources. The main problem with this is the clashing of unique personalities, as not everyone gets along. The cop has a problem with the biker chick, who has a problem with the preacher, and they all want you to solve the problem. Some of these confrontations can even turn violent if you’re not careful.
Some of these characters even become sub-leaders in your little community. When there’s a crisis the sub-leaders get together with you to work out a solution. Each sub-leader represents certain other survivors, and pleasing them pleases those survivors. Here the goal is often to keep the most people happy rather than choosing a decision that’s best for everybody.
The many individual options plus the multiple survivors, some you may never even run into on your first playthrough, add to the game’s replayability.
There are three major resources to keeping your shelter stable: Food, fuel, and morale. Food feeds the people, of course. If there’s a risk of starvation then morale goes down. Fuel keeps the generator running which keeps the power on. Losing power also makes morale go down. Morale keeps people in the shelter happy, or at least content, and there are several ways to improve it, as well as several ways to lose it. Certain shelter improvements raise morale. Individual happiness raises morale. Some survivors are near impossible to keep happy but as long as morale in general is high, most of the survivors will be happy. The major way to improve morale is to collect luxury items, which consists of almost everything that can’t be eaten, worn, used for fuel, or used for combat. Collecting several luxury items from scavenging trip will help increase the daily morale level. If morale is too low by a certain date it’s game over!
The game’s graphics are very reminiscent of classic Fallout, with a top-down perspective that can be adjusted to give you a 360 degree view of the area much like the Sims. The character models aren’t the prettiest things to look at but the gameplay more than makes up for it.
The sound works for the game, from doors opening, to guns being fired, to the zombies moaning in order to summon more of their friends. The music is okay, though can get a bit repetitive after a while, though some areas have their own unique musical themes, such as the biker hangout mentioned earlier.
The game is not without its problems with the occasional bugs. I was having serious issues with the game crashing on me and sometimes freezing before the most recent update, which took care of a lot of those problems. Even so I still sometimes have problems going through doors or having people stack on top of one another. These are pretty typical problems for most indie games but it doesn’t take away from the gameplay too much.
Despite the issues, Dead State takes a familiar theme of survival and resource management and gives it a new, unique twist that provides hours of entertainment.
This game was reviewed on PC