With the current COVID-19 pandemic occurring at the time of this writing, it seemed appropriate to take a look at some games that prominently feature the end of the world as we know it, or at least the post-apocalyptic landscape of the time after. In this installment, we will be looking at Dead State: Reanimated released by Doublebear Productions in 2012. (Normally I would link to the developer’s site, but it seems that the indie development team disbanded in 2018 to work for larger companies.)
The apocalypse this time is once again zombies! The introduction vaguely alludes to a global pandemic being the cause, but doesn’t really get into the details of it. Dead State: Reanimated, hereafter just Dead State, tries to cram a lot of things into a single game: squad-based tactical combat, base management, and role-playing elements.
When starting a new game, you get to pick your gender, choose from a preset list of character appearances, pick a name, and a skill set. You can either use a preset skill set or customize your character’s attributes and skills manually by spending a limited amount of starting statistic and skill points.
As the actual game begins, you are on a plane that has a zombie-related incident and crashes in Splendid, Texas. You miraculously survive and are picked up by a small group of survivors who take you to their base in the local high school. The school fence is in disrepair and you are tasked with going to a hardware store and returning with a toolbox to fix it.
There are plenty of in-game tutorial notes explaining the concepts of the game, but to a large degree gameplay can be broken down to exploring locations, while fighting zombies or bandits, and base management inside the high school. The base management portion consists of running around talking to other survivors, putting supplies found exploring into stock, and assigning jobs to survivors. These jobs can be to build items, build upgrades for your base, repair damaged buildings, help maintain the building, or join the party to explore.
Building just about anything requires parts: construction materials that can be found while exploring locations. There is also food, fuel, and luxury items that are put into supply at the base. Fuel is used to run the generator or can power a car, food has obvious uses, and luxury items help keep morale up.
You can also run through some dialog with the survivors. There are some stock questions where each one will tell you about their skills, past, and what special luxury item they want you to find. Occasionally there will also be something plot-related to talk about, but it is typically just a set list of the same conversation options.
The other half of the game is you traveling around various maps fighting anything that moves and trying to find every clickable shelf that might contain loot. You quickly acquire a good number of guns, so you have the option to use melee weapons or firearms.
The game penalizes firearm use by having a noise system, which is the green box at the top left corner of the screen. Making a lot of noise by firing guns or breaking down locked doors can attract more zombies. Even though the enemy AI is not particularly bright, one nice touch is that zombies will attack the random hostile looters as well as your party.
I’m not going to go into depth on the combat system, other than to say it’s fairly minimal compared to more modern tactical squad combat games, like X-Com or Phoenix Point. There’s no cover mechanic, so it mostly comes down to getting enemies to run into bad placements or reloading the game if combat goes poorly. It’s usually easier with melee enemies, as you can place your team so they run up to you and are out of actions – allowing your team to then get a turn to attack them.
I really wanted to like this game, but there are a few problems with it that I found quite annoying. It starts off fairly strong, giving you places to go and goals to achieve. However, it then kind of trails off. After the first few locations, you are then basically stuck waiting for an event to happen to unlock someplace new to go.
There also doesn’t seem to be any benefit to revisiting areas. There is a set amount of items that do not reappear, so once you’ve looted everything, it is not worth going back. The aggressive humans also are annoying. In particular, there is a camp that you find where the occupants are hostile. But if you kill them, you get guilt tripped by one of your survivors for “attacking” first.
The graphics are decent for an independently made game, but nothing too special. All of the conversations are text based, with no voice overs. The music is mostly quiet background tracks. The sound effects seem fairly minimal as well.
Overall, I would give Dead State a “C”, or 5/10 stars. It’s a good concept, but one that has a bit too many rough edges to be really good game. One warning is that it has been reported to have issues on certain systems, such as not having 4K monitor support, and with no active development those issues are not getting fixed. If you really love zombie games and are willing to overlook some lack of polish, then you can find this game on Steam here.