State of Decay offered players a lot of freedom to do as they pleased, but we were often nagged by the plot to continue the storyline. Breakdown however allows you to experience the zombie apocalypse without a pre-determined storyline, your only objective is to survive as long as possible. Once you have stripped the landscape bare of resources, or not as it’s your choice after all, you can repair an RV to move onto the “next location” where the the difficulty is ramped up a notch. You can choose to try and survive as long as possible with the resources in the valley, or you can try and repair your RV as quickly as possible each time to progress.
There’s little new to experience in Breakdown with regards to gameplay and features. Breakdown plays exactly the same as the main game. You can build up facilities in your base, scavenge for crucial supplies and try to gain new survivors to your group to better help you survive. Your only focus is survival, by any means necessarily. If you were expecting new features and gameplay elements, you won’t find it in Breakdown. But that’s not a bad thing considering it keeps the fun and action fueled gameplay.
You start of the game by selecting your playable character. At your first time of playing Breakdown, you can only choose a random, non-hero survivor. As you complete challenges you will unlock hero characters to choose from at the start of the game. You are then spawned into the world at a random location, with nothing but a few basic items on you, and a gun if you’re really lucky. The first objective is to find a community to take you and Lily in. You have nothing to fall back on, no survivors to take with you, you are truly on your own until you find somewhere to settle. That’s easier said then done depending on where you were randomly spawned. You are literally thrown into the zombie apocalypse. One mistake and you’re dead before you have even got started. It’s a great way to set the tone for the struggle you are going to face in the valley and really puts across the feeling of helplessness and vulnerability which is crucial in a game of this nature.
There are a variety of communities you can come across who will take you in, but ultimately the choice lays with you who you choose. The only real factor is the location itself than the people who inhabit it. It would be nice to have the social element play a bigger role in your decision, but ultimately whether you choose the church or a house, courthouse or farm, there is no difference between the groups of survivors. Once you’re settled into your new home, you have to build up your community before the location of the RV is revealed. That involves collecting resources, saving survivors and earning trust, all familiar elements to State of Decay players. Those wishing to progress as quickly as possible will be pleased to know that the location is revealed after a little amount of effort. For those wishing to stay until their resources dwindle away, you choose when to leave the valley as finding the RV is just the beginning. You need to repair it up, for example finding enough fuel and refueling the RV will make it good to go on your say so.
When the time to leave arises, which it ultimately will, you select the RV from your facility list and select leave. Unfortunately for you, if you have built up a large community, you’re going to have to choose who comes with you, and who stays. You can only take six survivors onto the RV, so do you leave the guy with a bum knee but who is a great chef behind? Or do you take your best fighters along with you? It’s a tough decision to make. You can go into your character list and select from there who stays and who goes, or you can speak to each individual face to face and tell them their fate. Nothing is final however until you have left the valley on the RV, so you can chop and change as you please. It’s best to try to gather as many resources together as possible before you move on though. Your locker full of goodies will transfer with you, so no need to worry about emptying it onto your character. The more food, medicine, ammo etc you have, the more will come with you which will help you build your facilities and keep the community ticking over while you find your feet and adjust to the increased difficulty you will face.
When you leave the valley, you and your survivors will start in a random location on the map, where you ultimately start again, with the exception of some of the resources and the locker you brought with you. The world is reset and filled again with vehicles and loot for you to gather up. But with the reset comes added difficulty. You will experience faster and stronger zombies, along with higher numbers of special zombies which will all slow your progress down. A few levels in and you will need to be more careful and tactful when going on supply runs. You no longer will be able to make a mistake, and where a horde could once be dealt with by your own at the start, will now almost certainly spell the end for you. For those loving a challenge, they don’t come much bigger than this.
When you advance, you will be presented with your score for that level. It calculates your performance, such as zombies killed, rucksacks collected etc. Your score carries over to each new level and the new difficulty is taken into account when you advance. Leaderboards are there for the more competitive player, but they can easily be ignored if you don’t care for them much like myself, but a nice touch nonetheless to see how you compare to other players if you were ever curious. As I touched on earlier, there a wide variety of challenges to complete which unlock hero characters for you to choose from at the start of a new game. Challenges include killing 100 zombies with melee weapons, cook a big meal in the kitchen to killing 5 ferals and bloaters. Some challenges can only be unlocked on certain levels or higher. Completed challenges add to your overall score and are a nice way to reward the player with more characters for the time they have put into Breakdown.
Unfortunately, it can become a bit repetitive, moving back to the same location each time you advance, gathering resources and moving on again. It’s understandable that Undead Labs hven’t added some new locations, what with it being made as an XBLA title first. But it would have been nice to experience some new locations. You can pace yourself however so that this doesn’t become the case. If you’re flying through trying to progress as quickly as possibly, you are likely to become bored quicker than someone who takes their time and fully explores what is on offer. That’s the beauty of Breakdown though, you can play how you want to play and make the experience you want. You can easily spend hours on the first level before ever advancing.
Breakdown still contains bugs and glitches, as zombies and players alike are still able to glide through doors for example. Texture pop still remains, but I did seem to experience it less often in Breakdown. However I have experienced several issues with my fellow NPC’s. Time and time again my survivors who were accompanying me out in the world would walk slowly to get in my car, even when being chased by zombies. It’s frustrating when they get ganged upon as a result or it has given zombies time to attach themselves to my car and rip off my doors. I also experienced two survivors glitched into one another. It was nothing game breaking, but looked like an experiment by a mad scientist gone wrong. Aside from that though, Breakdown was a pretty smooth ride, and the above issues can be overlooked and don’t detract from the experience too much. If you find yourself with a bugged objective for example, exiting and rejoining the game seems to fix the issue.
Breakdown is a great piece of DLC for State of Decay and I would recommend it to anyone who owns the game. While it doesn’t change the game up a whole lot with regards to features and gameplay, what it does do is allow the player freedom to survive the apocalypse how they wish. Want to speed through level to level? No problem. Want to take your time and survive as long as possible before you need to move? You can do that to. If you want a medium between the two, Breakdown allows for that also. Some may enjoy experiencing the same location time and time again, but you can equally get as much fun by staying on level 1 for hours on end. Want an open-world sandbox zombie survival game? I suggest grabbing State of Decay with Breakdown.
You can grab Breakdown on November 29 for $6.99 (approx £4.28) on Steam for PC or via Xbox Live for Xbox 360.
*State of Decay; Breakdown was reviewed on PC