Dead State – Fifty Shades of Brown

Zombies might be overplayed in all forms of media, yet, I don’t seem to tire of this horror trope. Why that is, I don’t really know, but I suspect it has something to do with the apocalyptic setting – the melancholic stillness of the end combined with spurts of pure dread in form of the walking dead. The overhanging constant feeling of doom is a nice atmosphere builder too and is never lost on me. I do ignore everything action or comedy-orientated though, zombie killing for the act of killing because of gore does not interest me – it got to have that human despair intermixed to work for me. And Dead State got that in spades!

The game starts with you on a plane. Something goes wrong and you crash-land in Texas. You survive, but shit quickly hits the fan, with zombies piling out all around you from the wreckage coming to eat you. Luckily, you get saved and taken to a shelter of survivors in the town of Splendid. From here on you are made de facto leader of the group, and you will have to decide who stays, who goes, who dies, who lives, and in general how the place will be run. Don’t expect people to accept any decision, if it goes against their moral compass or beliefs they might speak out, and even turn on you. If you got a silver tongue you might be able to talk your way out of any situation, but all that depends on your stat allocation and perks of course since this game is above all an RPG.

The parking-lot party got out of control

What makes the survival aspect great is that all the usual tropes come checked. There is human drama, the world has gone down the sewer, the government is kaput, supplies are low, and the shelter has to be made livable, but with that comes sacrifice, naturally. Other survivors have turned to banditry, and if zombies are not enough of a threat, psychos now have free rein with society has collapsed. Managing your shelter is one of the highlights of the game because you will have to balance a lot of different things to make it work without having the survivors turn their back on you. You have to assign people to jobs, trying to best match their experiences, you will have to collect resources to build up necessary facilities, and weapons/other items.

All the ones still living come with their own personalities too, and there are many of them, which is a big plus. But be prepared to read a lot of background stories, luckily, the game is well-written. Survivors can of course die, in many ways in fact. On expeditions, sickness, or other stuff like murder, which will leave a permanent mark on your team. Especially if it is someone with good skills or an important figure in the group. It’s all very well done, and if you take the time to learn the names and backstories of your co-survivors, you will come to care about them, or maybe you will grow to hate some depending on how they make you feel. It’s a fantastic aspect of the game, and I think it is unique since there are so many combinations here written into the story with a lot of choices to make with corresponding consequences.

Oh, I feel you Doug

When you visit the outside world, you get to take two companions with you. You can pick almost anyone in your shelter, and they all come with different skills. A nurse will of course be a better healer than most, but weaker in other skills, while a cop might not be the best doctor, but has an excellent aim at taking out zombies from afar. You discover locations on the map through dialogue, or just exploring on your own, but if you stay out too late your group will get tired and that can be dangerous.

Scavenging has this natural feel to it. You start with locations close by, and when those areas run out of supplies you have to venture further out, which increases the overall danger. The further you come from your shelter, the harder the game gets, and it works really well. There is a clear feeling of progression going forward. On the actual “mission” maps, you move in real-time, but when combat takes place it switches to turn-based. The turn-based encounters can take a very long time, though, sometimes there are hundreds of zombies, including humans waiting to have their turn. While epic, it sure drags on. The combat is not super advanced, it reminds me of Fallout (the original) then say something like Jagged Alliance 2. I find it fine, at times it’s very entertaining, and tense – especially when cornered by multiple zeds. Usually, the damage is high and deadly. Mistakes can be costly. There are a lot of fun combat scenarios too, like when zombies attack both you, and other humans which can be used to your advantage. Luring creatures on unsuspecting AI is something that never gets old to me.

This is fine – my motorcycle helmet is fire proof

The visuals of the game are not the greatest, since it runs on a pretty old engine. It does have a sense of realism to it, though, even if it can look a bit drab after a while. Sometimes I think the colors in Dead State are just different shades of brown. I guess it adds to the feeling of despair in a way, so I can’t fault the game for that – it is the apocalypse in Texas after all. On another note, where the game shines is the music. The tracks in general are very good and fit the setting perfectly. It got the typical combat tunes for increased stress factor and tension, but where I think it stands out is when that typical end-of-the-world guitar plonking starts. It has this gloomy, yet accepting, almost nostalgic feel to it. The music of The Last of Us has the same effect on me.

Dead State is a unique RPG in more ways than one. It has good combat, even if at times a bit simple and drawn out. It got great music, and a ton of different characters to interact with, with their own will and agenda. The only place where it falters a bit is on the graphical front, even so, it’s not so ugly it is unplayable. I, of course, highly recommend this game, especially to RPG lovers looking for deep systems and role-playing opportunities with a massive amount of C&C.

Thanks for reading.


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