State of Decay

It’s quite possible that this game, State of Decay, is simply not for me. Normally I like a zombie apocalypse or two, but this one has two features that make it difficult to like.

One is permadeath, even though it is just the kind that makes you switch characters. I must have killed a few hundred zombies and convinced myself of my general competence  before one uber-powerful one came out of nowhere and kicked my ass. It was nothing I could have prepared for. Maybe it was realistic, but not fun. Sadistic, really. Why continue? I was sort of attached already to my character and his cheap death didn’t exactly win me over.

Two is offline death, where characters die and resources dwindle while you’re not playing the game. This was even more insult to injury. I am lucky enough to have a job and a life; I can’t babysit a game. I’m lucky these days to play on weekends. I’m already addicted to caffeine. I need something I can play, then stop, and return to, as I see fit, without randomized penalties.

A game that did permadeath pretty well in single player PC in recent memory was XCOM. That game allowed saving and loading, there was no offline deaths and draining of resources, and death still mattered. (And they did it turn-based, too! Kudos!)

Why can’t State of Decay manage the same?  I can understand why the developers made these  two decisions – there are plenty of young, masochistic gamers out there who will replay a game again and again after a largely randomized death. What to me is crummy design is to them a badge of realism.  I’m older, more temperate, and have less time on my hands, alas.

What particularly frustrates me, if it is not already clear, is that I would like to play more of the game. I really would. I would like to work around its weaknesses and derive enjoyment from it. But I can’t justify the attempt, and that makes me conflicted – again, not something I want in a game.

The Bat

So I finished Batman: Arkham Origins a few days ago. Despite some game-crashing bugs which have now been resolved, it is my favorite of the Batman: Arkham games, mostly because the villains, as numerous and crazy as ever, have some decent social critique of the Bat to share along the way. As Anarky would say, the Bat would seem to be part of the problem.

The plot of the game revolves around Black Mask hiring eight super-villain assassins on Xmas Eve to kill a young, more physically direct Batman, and while some of them confine themselves professionally to just trying to kill Batman (Deathstroke comes to mind) others seemingly go out of their way to cause civilian causalities (Firefly) or simply don’t care either way (Mad Hatter). This antiapathy forces Batman to start to acknowledge he is responsible, in more than one way, for the overall situation in Gotham. His refusal to take life has consequences, by allowing individuals like the Joker, who arguably need killing, to continue to go on spree after spree. Batman, for all his super-competence, has resigned himself to the role of super-villain janitor, sweeping them again and again into Blackgate or Arkham.

That’s why Batman is my favorite superhero – he places some real limits on his actions that are not based on being a Boy Scout, like Superman. He won’t kill you, but thinks nothing of sending you to the hospital first. He won’t shoot you, but he will break your legs. He won’t break the law capriciously without reason, but he is a vigilante.