Wot I Think: Dead State

Dead State has been shambling toward release for years and we’ve been tracking its progress since Brian Mitsoda announced the project in 2010. It looked like it might be the game that revitalised the zombie genre long before the rotters had reached saturation point. It was also one of the few old-fashioned isometric RPGs in development before Kickstarter helped the likes of Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity to burst onto the scene. Dead State’s own Kickstarter in 2012 allowed Double Bear to move into full-time production and the game was finally released last week. We sent survivalist Cassandra Khaw to Splendid, Texas. Here is her report.

“You need to go to the pharmacy!” demands the soft-spoken brunette in the wheelchair, my self-appointed deputy, the voice-of-almost-reason in this hellhole of town.

“But I just – ” I palmed the sleep from my eyes. My hands still smell like gasoline and leaky bottles of codeine.

“It’s to the north!”

“But!”

“It’s Brady’s – ”

“Yes, I know. I just came back from there with a stack of antibioti – ”

“We need antibiotics – ”

Dead State might be a post-apocalyptic, turn-based RPG in the vein of Fallout and a more sedentary State of Decay, but it certainly isn’t very good at listening to me. I fumble through dialogue options, desperately trying to find a way to remind dear Davis that yes, we do have the goddamned antibiotics so quit telling me what I already know. None arise. Like me, Davis is a marionette tethered to the narrative’s strings. We’re all just puppets here.

Exhausted of options, I’m punted back to the shelter proper — a converted school ringed by a flimsy wire fence — to plan. Just another day in Splendid, small-town bastion of the almost living.

***

Doublebear Productions’ inaugural title is an isometric survival simulator set within a world gone belly up. Dressed in functional graphics, it opens in a traditional fashion, with you being asked to customize the appearance of your avatar and their character stats. The game then introduces you to a plane, a plane crash, and then a short tutorial in rapid succession. Once that is done, your character passes out from blood loss, and you awake in the basement of a school, surrounded by friendly albeit pungent people. (Zombie apocalypse? No hot showers? Hello?)

Here, you’re introduced to the cast, a ragtag conglomeration of survivors made up of a vet-turned-field-medic and her trucker mother, a policeman, a man in a wheelchair, a shellshocked flight stewardess and a dude who may yet be a zombie. Even from the beginning, Dead State makes it clear that it wants to provide as much freedom as humanly possible. In one of the opening conversations, you’ll have the option to mourn over a family member or loved one, with no restriction of gender.

I’m not certain if declaring your marital status or sexuality has any actual in-game effect. Certainly, no one has faulted me for being a queer Asian woman of indeterminate age but it’s a nice touch that allows you to better identify with your character. However, the lack of player-directed prejudice isn’t synonymous for nice. Very quickly, Dead State will imprint on you the understanding that the people in your shelter are a bunch of whiny, self-centred —

***

“Is there anything I can do to improve your mood?”

“Coffee. I miss real coffee beans.” Davis sighs.

“Okay.” I look through my inventory. Gone. Like everything, the blood-stained satchels of powdered coffee that I retrieved from an undead-eaten supermarket are missing, transformed into a number on my supplies list.

Hopeful, I trigger another conversation with Davis. “Is there anything I can do to improve your mood?”

“I miss real coffee beans.” He says, mechanically. I can almost see a glint in his eyes, a note of steel in his voice. The man knows what he wants. Forget the zombie apocalypse, the commercial grounds have nothing on the real thing.

I sigh and leave for another afternoon of zombie-killing.

Three days later, I do come back with actual coffee beans — a unique item stored in an accessible shelf in the first-floor of the shelter — and hand it to him. I ask him again if there was anything, anything at all, I could do to improve his mood, praying to see a change in his speech.

He stares at me. I stare back.

“I miss real coffee — “

Jackass.

***

Morale is a slippery beast in Dead State. No fuel to power the generator? Minus fifty points. People with okay moods? Another ten point deduction! You can bring luxury items in by the pound but that will only nominally dent that river of unhappiness. Even bringing people what they specifically want seems to be mostly an exercise in futility, as they will do nothing but demand more of the same.

Most infuriatingly, perhaps, the survivors in the shelter appear to be firm advocates of worker’s rights. They have set work hours. That wooden fence you’re desperately trying to build to keep out roving meth-heads and undead hordes? They’ll only work on it for eight hours a day. There is no way — at least, from what I’ve seen — to coerce them into working the graveyard shift in a bid to prevent the shelter from turning into a bloody graveyard.

Maybe that’s because the task of turning this school-turned-refugee-centre into a viable habitat is your responsibility. You’re the one who has to pick up the slack. It is up to you to acquire enough material to repair broken fences and put together a gym. It is your job to create watchtowers and infirmaries and chicken coops too, the same way it is your job to assign responsibilities to other survivors in the shelter. (NPCs can be told to build things, create items, or sweep the ground to boost morale somehow)

Weirdly, for a game that focuses much on socio-political interaction, the RPG elements in Dead State are oddly lacking .Your allies stand like statues in various locations in the shelter. No one wanders about. No one strikes up a conversation with an ally. No one goes to the bathroom. They just hang around, waiting for you to open channels of communication. Frustratingly, there’s not much reason to do so. Conversation is invariably the same selection of questions and answers, over and over and over again.

To be fair, the game does provide more than just static chitchat. Each day is generally heralded by a batch of random scenarios. Sometimes, you’ll be called upon to resolve a problematic situation. Other times, you’ll be an eavesdropper slinking past a mother-daughter argument, or an Agony Aunt for someone with gas. In your travels, you’ll also meet a menagerie of recruitable NPCs. You’ll find them hunkered in boarded-up houses, in pharmacies with their sick spouses, at your front fence dripping blood and gibberish. These encounters tend to be the most interesting scenarios, offering a window into the post-apocalyptic mind.

***

“Splendid PD!”

“Please. Please stop, Joel.”

Catch phrases annoy me. They always have. However, my loathing for them recently achieved new heights. Everyone knows that the zombies in Dead State are visually impaired, relying on sound to track their prey. Everyone. Especially Joel, the last cop in town. I mean, he was the one who warned me about making too much noise in the first place.

But that doesn’t stop him from screaming all the damn time, albeit in the form of hovering text rather than audio barks.

“SPLENDID PD!” He hoots, as we throw ourselves at another batch of zombies, their intestines trailing behind them like leashed puppies.

Of course, there is no mechanical disadvantage to the ululated catch phrases. Your characters’ blathering do nothing to raise the criminally sensitive noise meter on the top-left of your screen. Still, after the twentieth time, it can get old.

“SPLENDID – “

“Right. You’re staying home tomorrow, mister.”

***

Combat is … finicky. Everything in the world of Dead State operates in real-time, up till the point you hit the spacebar or something aggressive comes within range. Then, the map switches into a grid-based layout where everything plays out in neat little turns. The amount of action points a character has dictates how much they can achieve in a round, naturally. If you’ve played Fallout or XCOM or Wasteland, you’ll find yourself at home here. The system in Dead State is reminiscent of the ones used in the aforementioned games, although greatly simplified in comparison, with no option to crouch or provide cover.

The one twist here is the usage of noise. Pretty much everything you do will generate sound. If you create enough of a clamour (aka: shoot lots of stuff), enemies will begin converging upon you. Produce even more sound, and you’ll have zombies spawning helter-skelter.

On a less positive note, camera angles leave much to be desired for. I quickly found myself dreading the notion of fighting inside tight quarters or in tree lines, for fear of a) the omnipresent dangers brought about by the fog of war mechanic and b) not being able to see where I’m bloody clicking. Similarly, I found the lack of visual cues frustrating. Dead State expects you to know how many AP those steps forward will cost you, and what will happen if you fire from out-of-range. But it’s remarkably easy to make a lethal mistake when you’re in the thick of a zombie horde.

Interestingly, the undead, even when appearing en masse, aren’t actually that much of a threat. Unless summoned by gunshots, most seem content to remain standing in place, silent and patient. It is only when you venture a little too close that will they pounce, leaving you room to plot strategic attacks. Other human beings, however? That’s different. From looters to well-armed gang members, sapient beings are your worst enemies here. Though most won’t engage until you’ve wandered within a certain distance, each encounter with another living being is a nerve-wrecking one. Antagonistic humans seem exempt from your own characters’ action points restrictions, and are invariably great shots.

But there are ways to counter it, of course.

I took down my first squad of Coyote Enforcers by lobbing nerve gas into their midst, before pummelling them to death with sledgehammers and bats. Another group, I dealt with by luring zombies into their midst. (The end result was more zombies, but at least those can’t shoot you.) Nothing in Dead State is impenetrable, especially not you.

***

“Honey! I’m home with the gasoline!”

“Great. Have any deodorant?”

“Hot sauce?”

“I miss real coffee “

“ .. screw you guys, I’m going to bed.”

***

Despite these issues, do I like Dead State? I think so.

The mountainous list of responsibilities quickly becomes a second heartbeat. It flows with you. It orders your steps, your decisions, becomes central to all your major decisions. And when you’re least careful, it swallows you whole, dragging you into the heart of the experience. Dead State, like any good simulator, makes it easy to forget that you’re just a tourist, a visitor to this terrible land. Its ability to cultivate a suspension of disbelief even makes the game’s banal locations — supermarkets, pharmacies, and sleazy bars are everywhere on the map, just waiting to be unearthed — interesting. Dead State might well be the first game to have me excited at the discovery of an abandoned picnic.

As the world opens up and various crises occur, flavour is added to the functional processes that underpin the existence of the shelter and its inhabitants. The Crisis Events are especially important, and involve you being dragged centerstage into a community-based conflagration, where your opinion may make or break how the others view you. My first was disastrous. I opted to let the placid Davis experiment with a better water source and it caused a missionary and a sheriff to disapprove heavily of my “wishy-washy” behaviour. Whether by accident or not, this then led to the disappearance of my best melee fighter, and another bevy of complaints and requests. Problematic? Certainly, but also appealingly nail-biting as the Crisis Events make it clear that you can’t please everyone and that there is no right or wrong to anything in this game, only different shades of reality.

There are also many new allies to discover, providing an escape from the repetitive banter of those initial companions. But even as the game opens up, it is not without its problems. Technical issues arise from time to time – characters will occasionally glide, instead of walk, and they will clip through walls like part-time magicians.

Dead State is also a slow burn. Fences take hundreds of hours to build. Events unfold slowly over days, rather than at your whim. And resources? Resources are definitely scarce. Much of Dead State involves figuring out how to maintain a steady flow of food and fuel and luxury items and parts and whatever else your little commune needs, because they evaporate as quickly as water in the Sahara. The game will make you grit your teeth in frustration.

But it is also very good at making you feel triumphant.

I caught myself crowing in delight today, after cleaning out a supermarket of its goods. I killed twenty zombies, all without losing a single ally to infection or sudden death. My haul? About fifty pounds of food, ten gallons of fuel, and a pocketful of fresh berries. A pittance, really, given how quickly my survivors eat through their rations, and how rapidly the generator drains our fuel supplies. But it was more than anything I had acquired in the last three game days. Enough for me to last one night without going onto the field. (Which I will still do, but hey. The luxury of choice is a luxury indeed.)

And if that isn’t a success in this dead-eat-not-dead world, I don’t know what is.

Edit: some clarifications regarding features have been made in the text of this article.

Dead State is out now.

53 Comments

  1. tk421242 says:

    This pretty much matches my views on the game. It has a lot of odd bugs and glitches that are not game breaking but really should not be there in a finished product. Some things are not bugs but just rough game features that should have been refined before a release. There are some things people have pointed out that I can not believe are still not in the game like the ability to do a simple overwatch during combat.

    All that being said I actually find myself playing it quite a bit. I think after about a week of solid play I am comfortable saying I would not recommend it in its current build for the high price point, $30 is just way to much for it at this moment, but I do feel I will get more than enough enjoyment out of it for what I paid during the KS, $15.

  2. gabrielonuris says:

    It is rather strange to see some of those flaws in a game created by the same guy who contributed with the development of Fallout and Vampire Bloodlines… But I think he also developed Arcanum, which is beyond broken (I know, I know, Arcanum suffered from publisher’s pressure to be quickly released, but Dead State? This one is an indie title…).

    • noobule says:

      He basically made it in his bedroom with his wife and like 2 other people. Those other three games were made by professional and established development houses. It’s amazing Dead State got made at all.

    • chargen says:

      He had nothing to do with Arcanum.

      He was a writer for Bloodlines.

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      Harlander says:

      Bloodlines was pretty buggy out of the box, wasn’t it? Something to do with running out of time to finish it IIRC

      • Tssha says:

        The ending also ran out of steam and was mostly just a corridor shooter/stealther at that point. But all flaws aside, still one of my favourite games.

  3. raiders5000 says:

    I’m taking this off my wishlist.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Same. Until a $5 sale, if they manage to improve the state of the game.

      In the meantime, I shall be playing I Shall Remain.

      • Scelous says:

        I remember hearing about I Shall Remain what feels like a long time ago. I’m interested in it, although I had forgotten about it, and the game hasn’t been showing up on Steam on my “survival” searches, which annoys me.

        Thanks for mentioning I Shall Remain. I’m gonna go check it out now.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Please do. It’s more ARPG than Strategic Isometric Survival Game, but I think anyone that is disappointed with Dead State should give it a look.

  4. Golden Pantaloons says:

    Shame about the dialogue being so crude. It sounds like the kind of game I’m always hoping to get when I buy yet another zombox (zombie sandbox) game.
    Maybe this one will finally fulfill my masochistic desire to hopelessly scramble around the wasteland for ever-dwindling supplies while being assaulted by the undead.
    We’ll see.

  5. Amasius says:

    Great to see that Cassandra is left out of the bucket more often now, love her writing.

    I’ll wait until I buy Dead State – it sounds like it could use some patches and there are still some great new RPGs I haven’t played. It’s an awesome time for any RPG fan after a few dry years but I guess that doesn’t make it easier for some of the less known devs.

  6. Dirt5oh8 says:

    Yeah, there’s a solid game hiding under the surface. Played it over a couple of days before the release and a few hours after. Once it gets some patches and bugfixes under it’s belt it’ll be golden.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    Doug. Doug’s the offending character. It’s Doug, isn’t it?

    • tk421242 says:

      Man… screw Doug. That guy is an asshole.

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      Aerothorn says:

      Doug may the the biggest troll ever to feature in an RPG cast.

      • klops says:

        Isn’t a racistic asshole a very typical character in the zombie genre? From old Romero movies to Walking Dead (the tv series [which is horrible shit, by the way]) there are always mean racists. Sounds genre-faithful.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          That’s because most zombie fiction takes place in the United States.

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            Harlander says:

            Now, now, there’s racists everywhere. Or as the Bible says, “The racist you will always have with you”

    • Deviija says:

      Some of the characters you find later on will make Doug look like a downright affable godsend. Lloyd, Clifford, Regina (though at least her crudeness and asshattery makes sense with her characterization and bio), just yikes. And then Effrem, the walking caricature and stereotype of a black man, from being an ex-con and doing time to overusing “the race card” at every turn in dialogue. It’s cringe-worthy.

      As the article stated, the ableism is strong in many interactions, and not just from a ‘this is just how a terrible character’s personality acts’ position. When racism, ableism, or homophobia crop up, you are rarely ever allowed to call it out or chew them out unless it relates to someone’s specific storyline/cutscene at the Shelter. Which gets really frustrating since you get several opportunities for rapist and sex-as-payment dialogue options in the game (while playing a dude PC, anyway, as I’m still in the middle of my first playthrough with my gay dude PC). When dealing with certain women survivors/potential companions, you can insinuate ‘I’ll give you shelter but what do I get in retuuuurn?’ sex as payment dialogues and even can flat-out tell an NPC woman you’re interested in rape (“Are you here to rape me? Kill me? Steal from me?” “All the above sounds good!”).

      You can also be an ass toward an autistic young fellow in the game to awful proportions and slurs. And even one of my favorite characters in the game, that also happens to be one of the most useful/powerful, an out ex-military soldier, refers to himself as ‘a homo’ while talking about his service, Again, with the cringing.

      Argument can be made that you can have characters make faces at you and dislike you for being an awful person, but I don’t think the consequences and repercussions are what they should be, particularly in the really disturbing rape-y dialogues. I suppose I just don’t really see what the value and purpose many of these dialogue options have in the scope of the game? They do not delve into the weighty issues and implications and ramifications enough, it’s all just surface lullz, imo. And I could say the same about many of these characterizations as well.

      • Annie V. Mitsoda says:

        Hi, one of the devs here – Annie, writer/designer – I wanted to respond in particular to Deviija’s comments.

        Effrem is one of the more vocal and combative characters in the game, and at no point did we ever want to make him into a stereotype. He is defensive, and not exactly wild about being in central Texas (especially with potentially racist characters in the game like Troy), and he is someone eager to get into arguments. He is also NOT our only African American character (don’t forget Nathan). He is someone meant to be young and angry, and eager to goad more ignorant characters (again, Troy) into conflict.

        Also, we worked hard to make the game as non-abelist as possible: Davis, despite being in a wheelchair, is probably the most critical one of your allies, and runs the Shelter while you’re away. And despite Jodie’s autism, he’s a savant mechanic and someone who has obviously been protected and loved (as his dialogue mentions his older brother). There are other characters who deal with mental trauma and physical ailments, and we wanted to deal with those with respect – yes, you can be crappy to them as a player, but they will come back at you in kind. Jodie defends himself. Davis will never let others rob him of his agency and dignity. This has been important to us as developers.

        Also, I’d DEFINITELY like to clear up any thoughts about rape: YOU CAN NOT EVER, EVER, RECEIVE SEX AS PAYMENT OR THREATEN RAPE IN DEAD STATE. That is absolutely untrue. As a woman and developer I would never allow that in any game I made, and I don’t think anyone else on our team would either. You can be a threatening jerk in dialogue, but there is never any direct sexual menace. You can be a creep, but again, the person you are talking to has all of the agency, and can outright shut you down (simply by just going “NO, ew” and walking away) There is no way to cajole or force them, there is no way to threaten sexual violence. There is no way to exchange sex for anything. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN.

        Paul, the “useful and powerful” ex-soldier, does use the term “homo” maybe once – to disarm and offput others who would use it against him. He is never afraid of judgement (and in fact there is one dialogue that does pop up between him and another ex-military survivor that sidelong mentions it), and that was deliberate on our part. We wanted to craft a character who was out and proud and would not let slurs hurt him – he is based a little bit on a very close friend of mine as well. I understand “homo” is a slur and neither I nor anyone on the team would ever use it. But it is a word that Paul, as a character, chooses to use for the above reasons.

        I understand that a lot of the more cruel or offensive things you can say as a player do not SEEM to track, but I can assure you that mechanically, they do. Each character has a Mood rating, and when you’re a jerk to them, that goes down – not only reducing the overall Morale of the Shelter, but making that particular character more likely to threaten to leave (or to just outright do so).

        Brian and I, as writers of the game, have done our best to try and make these characters as close to real people as possible – charming or creepy, problematic or eager to please – and understand the setting, being real world, does not often treat those differently with kindness and respect. If you do not respect them as a player, however, there are consequences. There is always a line as a writer for games where you measure what you want the player to be able to say, and the consequences for saying it. Those jerky lines, those creepy moments – those are not us as people, that is not what we would say in that situation. And for those who choose those lines for kicks – in the game as with real life – that will impact how those people (and others) think about you. We wanted to give the player the freedom to perhaps be a jerk – but with an emphasis that there are those who absolutely will not take that, and will fight back. We wanted systems that showed and supported that.

      • Annie V. Mitsoda says:

        Also, I’d like to give a big spoiler alert, and say one more thing.

        SPOILERRRRRRRRRRR

        Clifford is, I think, the creepiest character in the game. And he is meant to be creepy. He is meant to have you look at his stats and go “wow! He’s a badass!” but then hear him talk and go “my god, do I really want this guy around?” He is the ugly face of a troubled world. The creepiness he is and the things he says freak me out, because yes, I have had someone be like that to me. And as a player, if I ran across a dude like that, BOOM, gone.

        If players choose to ignore his creepiness – if they turn a blind eye to it – there are consequences for the whole Shelter. And it’s those consequences, in miniature, that are part of our statement as devs actively denouncing people like Clifford and the sick culture they share. That is an example of how we have tried to build a system that may give the player freedom be careless or cruel, but how the game reacts against that carelessness and cruelty in a definite way.

  8. Thants says:

    Well, looks like it’s back to Cataclysm: DDA for me.

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    Aerothorn says:

    Agreed – it’s rough and definitely needs some TLC, though the devs are certainly committed to post-release support. I’m pausing my game for a few weeks or months to see what they come up with.

    But I’m glad I backed it – it really has a wonderful sense of tension, of flow, and there’s nothing else quite like it. The core design is good, all it needs are tweaks and polish.

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    Carra says:

    Got this, State of Decay and 7 Days behind in my Steam library. Which one should i play first?

    • HothMonster says:

      If you got two other new games to play letting this one sit for a bit until they do a patch or two isn’t a bad idea.

    • tk421242 says:

      Of the three 7DTD is my favorite. While I enjoy State of Decay I felt it became a bit monotonous after awhile. Still a fun game and I spent many hours just destroying hordes of zeds. I think my issue with SoD was that when I played it right at launch there were some balance issues with hordes spawning and passing through walls. Sure that has been sorted.

      7DTD though has been without a doubt one of my more enjoyable games to play. While it cane easily become boring like all zombie games the building aspects have prevented me from experiencing that. I fire it back up with a new stable build is dropped and usually spent two or three weeks dabbling with the new features. Then I move on to something else and return next build for more fun. I love how it plays like Omega Man in my mind… go out during the day and collect loot then return home to fortify and wait for the dangerous night. Really fun game.

    • Scelous says:

      State of Decay.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      NEO Scavenger.

    • Golden Pantaloons says:

      SoD is a quick fun experience. It sort of falls apart if you let it drag out too long. Just play it and don’t think too much about consequences and wrong choice. I think that’s when it’s at its best. It came close to doing something really great, but was dragged down a bit by fuzzy keyboard controls and repetitive content (and a very short campaign).

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      Carra says:

      Thanks for the info, I’ll give State of Decay a go first and let this one stay for a while in my library.

  11. crazyd says:

    I really wish the combat was significantly faster. Slowly trading bashes with monsters has it’s place in other RPGs, but nothing breaks immersion like sneaking up behind a zombie and landing a fire axe in his head… only to display that it is now “Slightly Wounded”. The game would be 100% improved if combat was designed more around tactical positioning and bringing down threats fast and quiet than mindless back and forth bash-fests.

    Despite the immense wonkiness and just plain bad combat, I find myself addicted to the game. It’s like playing Civ in that I always want to play out just one more day…

    • NMorgan says:

      You CAN make the combats go faster. In the options menu, there’s a slider that goes from “Is My System Frozen?” to “What The Hell Did Just Happen?!”.

      • crazyd says:

        What precisely does this speed up? Cause my issue is more with TTK and less with the speed of animations. I want a single sledgehammer blow to the back of a zombies head to kill it, and for a single bite to be deadly.

        • Annie V. Mitsoda says:

          Psst! Dev here. Speeds up animations. /runs away

          • aepervius says:

            I think you misread him. he does not mind the animation time , he mind the TTK, Time To kill.

            In other word, bashing 15 time with a sledgehammer a zombie head (exaggerated) , instead of attacking 1 time and having a deadly blow from behind, is what is annoying him. Attacking from behind and only getting a “slight wound”.

            In such a case the animation , while speeding things up, does not change the TTK.
            This has more to do with suspension of disbelief than animation time.

  12. Emeraude says:

    Oh, well, no time to seriously play (lovely oxymoron) till mid-january anyway.

    Will wait till then.

  13. Daniel Johnston says:

    Review nails it. The daily cycle of exploring new locations and managing supplies and the job board is seriously addictive and fairly rewarding, despite wonky combat. The home base could be so much more alive though, and the interactions with the unmoving statue-people inside it get really depressing. All the interesting stuff happens in triggered dialogues at the beginning of each day. At times the interface makes it feel like I’m playing one of those Spiderweb RPGs.

  14. Tyshalle says:

    I can’t say I disagree with anything you said, but that hasn’t stopped me from logging 50 hours into it already, and I bought it the day after it was released. There’s a lot of bugs, and the game has crashed two or three times, sometimes at the end of painfully long combat sessions and the lack of autosaves has sometimes set me back an hour or longer, which is a pain.

    Worse is the rare multi-level zones, like the 3 story hospitals, or the 2 story apartment buildings, which somehow causes zombies to be able to see you when you’re 10 times outside of their usual vision distance, as well as see you through walls. This wouldn’t be a big deal except it means that if you enter combat mode at any point, you won’t be able to get out of it until you leave the level or search for an excruciatingly long time for where the zombie that is in the basement below you might be, as there’s no way to leave combat-mode until all enemies involved have been killed, or line of sight broken (which as I said, is impossible when they can see through walls).

    All the same though, one thing that needs to be given a lot of love is how every single zone, and there’s probably at least a hundred, if not more, is given its own little story for you to piece together. Some of the buildings have been cut and pasted from zone to zone, but no two zone is exactly the same, and most have been lovingly hand-crafted with tons of little details included that you might otherwise miss. You don’t just see corpses and random destruction, but instead it’s obvious that time and thought was put into everything, giving every house, every store, church, street, field, even random encounters their own little stories. I can’t say enough good things about that, and it frankly trumps in a big way the rather underwhelming lack of dialogue options back at home base.

    Obviously it’d be nice if people wanted different things at different times to help their mood, and all the time you spend at your base is time where the “game mechanics” really become transparent. But it’s not awful, especially when you realize just how many unique characters there are in this game. The start of every new day does bring unique interactions with your people. Cops will scrutinize outlaws. Religious zealots will clash with nonbelievers. Families will feud, and you’ll have to make decisions on who to appease and who to lose, and this can affect how the game plays out.

    The game is very well worth picking up in my opinion. Even at its $30 price point you’re going to get a lot of play time out of it even in a single play through. I’m at 52 hours and have only just finished building the last base upgrade, and I still feel like 30% of the map or more needs to be explored. That’s less than 50 cents an hour. Hard to argue with that price, even with the bugs.

  15. Farsi Myrtle says:

    I wouldn’t say chatting with party members is an “RPG element”, unless you mean role play in the “thou hast wooed me good sir” sense.

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      Harlander says:

      Well, you’ll be roleplaying as a human, and my observations suggest humans talk to each other a fair bit given the opportunity.

    • chargen says:

      Yeah, it seems like she was expecting some long biowarey dialog about this person’s boring backstory and trope-laden troubled past.

      “Just tell me what will make you happy and I’ll go search for it” is all I wanted from these people.

  16. Wonderboy2402 says:

    There are some serious bugs in the game. One infuriating one I have is when your party members get hit with a molotov or torched, they are receive “burned status.” This affects your to hit chance by like -30% and can normally be removed with 48 hour bed rest or in your infirmary… unfortunately it is bugged right now and you can’t remove it no matter what. So I have three of my best NPC in combat stricken with permanent burns.

    Another bug I had last night was inability to repair the generator. So it left my shelter without power for many of the other needed facilities like the refrigerator, laboratory, rec room…

    In many ways playing dead state reminds me of playing Fallout 2 when it came out. That game had a nasty bug where the car you could acquire would just appear as a trunk on the map! Leaving you without your transport and equipment stored. LOL.

    Also, the zombies are really brain dead. There awareness is about 3 squares meaning you just take your best melee npc and run around the maps beating zombies over the head from the rear… Very tedious by the late game as your armor makes you immune to their attacks. And the combat against intelligent enemies is as basic as it comes. No crouching, overwatch, etc.

  17. alms says:

    Maybe I’m alone in this but I’m wondering how many read the whole post: not long before I got to the “Despite these issues, do I like Dead State? I think so.” line, I remembered something else I had to do and it was fortuitous at best that I left the tab open, went back to it some time later, and for whatever reason decided to keep reading.

  18. cpt_freakout says:

    More articles by Cassandra, please! This was really great to read.

    I’m hooked on this game, and I also don’t know exactly why. I think it’s the prospect of new people to add, new things to build, small suburban houses I’m afraid to explore because there’ll be some crazed paranoid with military weaponry pointing directly at the door, waiting for someone to come in. It’s definitely not the combat, because it’s mostly very basic and implies very little tactical planning (if any at all), or the very gamey aspect of talking to survivors in the shelter (you really only need to talk to them once – I’ve been trying out talking to some of them after crisis events and whatnot and they still say the same lines…), but there’s just something very intuitively interesting about running the shelter. I guess in the end it’s more of a ‘management rpg’ than anything else, and that’s pretty cool, at least for me.

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  21. Josh W says:

    Ululation is really cool actually, a friend of mine does it. It’s basically advanced whooping.

  22. Skaldy says:

    This is not a review ffs. Are you sure you played enough of this to tell about it to the people. Because i have (over 200 hours) and all i read was what is in the game. Minor criticism is not a review

  23. Premium User Badge

    DJ.topicality says:

    Regardless of how finicky it may or may not be, I was more excited than I’ve been in some time to spot San Angelo, my dusty speck-on-the-map hometown of yore, in an RPS bit. I drove through Brady (fictionalized here as “Splendid”), TX about a hundred-odd times on my way to and from Austin, and I should dearly like to construct some civilization there. I only hope they’ve stayed true to the canon and didn’t put more than one stoplight in Eden, which is (on yonder map) the next highway intersection over from Splendid to the west.