I will never get tired of Trumbull
Zombies are to video games what mildew is to my bathroom, troubling abundant but tolerably present. At this point in time, we appear to have struck a happy compromise with these shambling horrors, using them to bring drama and conflict to scenarios in games such as the Walking Dead by Telltale or the good old fashioned cathartic joy of smashing their heads into the blunt end of the baseball bat. In return, we granted them near ubiquity in Videogames, the likes of which even makes the trusty Ak-47 a little jealous. These undead denizens of our iron sights are the primary antagonists of one of my favourite games of all time, but it’s not because of them. It’s because I will never get bored of exploring Trumbull Valley from State of Decay.
Now State of Decay is a game you’ve probably heard about (If you follow me on Twitter it’s one of my most frequent talking points) but for those poor sods among you who are in the dark to this particular joy allow me to briefly sum it up. State of Decay is open-world survival games set in a fictional valley in northern America that is currently overrun by Zombies. The goal it to build up a small settlement with a bunch of other survivors, scavenging for resources, weapons and vehicles. It was just one of those many zombie games released in the wake of DayZ, with the noteworthy distinction of being actually good.
Mechanically the game is nothing noteworthy, with a basic levelling systems for various character attributes, combat mechanics that grow as your characters do and driving that feels a tad floaty (4×4 can just flip over on tight bends). It’s not the base mechanics though that drew me into the world of State of Decay but the world itself that I so loved discovering time and time again.
Trumbull Valley isn’t a special place, there are no cities, no shady government facilities or bastions of occult power. All that makes up Trumbull is a sparse collection of settlements of various size all strung along a circular road with a large expanse of farmland in the middle and mountains to the north. It’s this normality, this air of the every day that makes Trumbull so fascinating to explore. Many of the locations you’ll end up scavenging for resources tell their own story. An old fairground filled with military equipment now abandoned once the army pulled out or was overrun. A campground scattered with entrails and a rifle that never fired a shot.
One of my favourite books is another piece of zombie fiction called World War Z by Max Brooks. It’s an anthology telling the story of a Zombie plague that sweeps the world and the fight back humanity desperately wages to take back the earth. One of my favourite parts is where a pilot is explaining her training and told that when confronting the walking dead or the scene of a massacre is to never think of them when they were living, to never eulogise them. It’s a natural impulse to come up with stories about locations or zombies and it’s one that State of Decay plays with beautifully.
To date, I’ve played what Steam claims is 223 hours worth of State Of Decay and almost all of this time was spent in one of the games DLC’s called Breakdown, where the game lets you off the story leash and lets you discover Trumbull at your own pace. From the start of any Breakdown playthrough, you’re given the same level of freedom that you would find in Skyrim or GTA, a huge world to explore at your own pace, allowing you to write your own survival narratives.