Sur­vive, thrive and drive in a ru­ined world

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - James Nouch Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft Stu­dios De­vel­oper Un­dead Labs For­mat xbox One ETA Spring 2018

Lots of games ask play­ers to make choices. Will you choose a mage or bar­bar­ian? Will you be good or evil? Will you in­vert the Y-axis like a chump, or learn to twid­dle those thumb­sticks prop­erly for once in your damn life? But few de­vel­op­ers chal­lenge their play­ers to make truly tricky de­ci­sions, and that’s where Un­dead Labs comes in. The in­die stu­dio is once again look­ing to perch its play­ers on the horns of the most de­vi­ous dilem­mas it can de­vise, craft­ing a world in which progress all­too-of­ten comes at a pun­ish­ing cost.

In a be­hind closed-doors meet­ing at this year’s E3 con­fer­ence, Un­dead Labs co-founder Jeff Strain shows us how some of these dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions might play out, in a demo that kicks off in the peace­ful con­fines of a hill­top refuge. We’re a few hours into the game, and our com­mu­nity is home to nu­mer­ous sur­vivors, each with their own man­ner­isms and phys­i­cal at­tributes. Take Matt, for in­stance. On the plus side, he’s a melee ex­pert who’s de­vel­oped his bladed weapon pro­fi­ciency over the course of dozens of en­coun­ters with the un­dead hordes. On the down­side: Well, Matt’s a ter­ri­ble snorer, and his noc­tur­nal snort­ing is such a nui­sance that this hard­work­ing hunk im­poses a -3 penalty to your com­mu­nity’s morale.

Plants vs zom­bies

Morale may be cru­cial when you’re liv­ing in a world as un­apolo­get­i­cally bleak as this, but the game’s slickly re­designed in­ter­face shows that our big­gest prob­lem right now is hunger. Sup­plies are per­ilously low, and our rag­tag band of sur­vivors is get­ting antsy. If we could just add a farm to our tum­ble­down base, we’d be that much closer to sweet self-suf­fi­ciency, and as luck would have it, we al­ready have all the ma­te­ri­als we need to com­mence con­struc­tion. All, that is, ex­cept for seeds.

Thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of online mul­ti­player, though, we won’t have to suf­fer a trip to the gar­den cen­ter alone. Matt piles into the beaten-up mus­cle car parked along­side the base, and a net­worked sur­vivor joins him in the pas­sen­ger seat. To­gether, they ac­cel­er­ate down­hill into the zom­bie-in­fested neigh­bor­hood that’s sprawled be­low, the en­gine roar­ing as they wind their way to the city cen­ter. All that vr­rrm has riled up the horde, but that’s no mat­ter—our online bestie serves as wheel­man, dis­tract­ing the un­dead with bois­ter­ous revs and rad dough­nuts while Matt runs in­side to re­trieve those pre­cious plant pips.

Seed-packet in hand, we open the menu, and send word to be­gin con­struc­tion back at our com­mu­nity— there’s not a mo­ment to waste, after all. But once we ar­rive back at base, we re­al­ize our er­ror. The noise has at­tracted the horde, and we’re faced with a fight that we can’t sim­ply drive away from. Matt carves up hordes of un­dead with his ma­chete, and drops many more with his sidearm, but still takes a beat­ing. Sev­eral other sur­vivors are badly hurt in the fra­cas, too.

It’s hard not to look around and see fail­ure—after all, the sur­vivors we’d set out to pro­tect are all nurs­ing bro­ken ribs and black eyes thanks to our ef­forts. But Jeff Strain smiles and ex­plains that, on bal­ance, this all went rea­son­ably well. Our farm is up and run­ning, and—hey!—at least no one died. Bro­ken bones and mul­ti­ple lac­er­a­tions may sound like a rough trade for a sa­chet of seeds, but these are the de­ci­sions you’ll be faced with in StateOfDe­cay2. Good luck.

“Sup­plies are per­ilously low, and our rag­tag band of sur­vivors is get­ting antsy”

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