Permadeath and Appreciating Randomly Generated Characters


I bought State of Decay during the Steam Summer Sale recently and I only got the chance to play it now. I won’t be giving a long review but long story short, it’s worth every penny regardless if it was discounted or not. It’s everything an open-world zombie game should be. There are glitches and shortcomings, but that’s unavoidable. Resources are finite and controllable characters can permanently die. Timing and strategy are key factors to ensure survival. Sometimes you need to make tough choices that’ll force you to either mercy kill a survivor that’s probably infected or take the risk of waiting it out.The interesting about it is that you can avoid infection to begin with and never have to face this dilemma. In short, this game is pretty awesome and I’ll be discussing its best quality in my opinion.

State of Decay isn’t like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and The Last of Us. We don’t follow a duo or a handful of characters and see them evolve over time. There aren’t any heartbreaking cut scenes with intense voice acting and writing to move you to tears. It’s not even one silent protagonist for the entirety of the game. In this game, you could actually be playing more than 100 randomly generated survivors in one go since death is permanent. One survivor could be eaten by a horde, while one gets expunged from the community from being a freeloader. The game then gives you the opportunity to find replacements or additions to your little community. It seemed like the type of game that didn’t require much investment from the player. However, I was dead wrong three days later and 24+ hours spent playing.

I found myself heavily invested in the randomly generated characters in this game even when it was only the beginning. It’s an impressive feat considering a lot of AAA titles seem to have lackluster narratives and characters despite the massive production level.


I’ve only been playing the game for two hours and I was already fond of Maya Torres. She’s not a randomly generated character because she’s the second survivor you can switch to during the introduction. However, Maya isn’t invincible and she can die like any other survivor in the game once the first mission is over and done with. She was pretty bad ass and her short bursts of dialogue were always entertaining. I preferred playing her all of the time and her skills leveled up over time. She was becoming one of my strongest characters. I envisioned Maya as the “Rick” of my little survivor community, but then something happened.

As she became stronger, I became too confident with my abilities. Maya was a powerhouse, but even the strongest fall especially if you’re being cornered by a horde. I tackled a mission wherein I had to help another community barricade and defend their home. It was frustrating trying to shoot zombies between the planks plastered on the windows, so I went outside to kill some zombies with my axe. Alas, the horde was too much to handle and they cornered Maya. I tried to heal with painkillers, but there were too many clawing at me at the same time. That’s when she died.

I could have shut off the game before it autosaved, but I was just too stunned by what happened. I really didn’t expect to die during that mission and I couldn’t believe that I lost my favorite survivor. It’s the type of feeling that just makes you want to drop the controller and take an indefinite break. I contemplated about starting over from the very beginning, but I decided to move forward and let this tragic death motivate me to make better choices instead. It’s still hard on me though and there are times when I wished that she was still alive.

After Maya died, I’ve never had another death in the community. The loss was truly devastating and it always reminded me not to rush into battle. I would carefully select who to play and pick the appropriate weapons and supplies. I miss Maya but I’ve also grown fond of the other survivors. I was able to bond with them through experiencing unique moments with most. I had to outrun three hordes without any painkillers left playing as one survivor named Ed. I rarely played the cop survivor Michael, but I would always ask him to accompany during risky supply runs. I didn’t need to have “story-heavy” cutscenes, the moments spawned organically from the awesome map Undead Labs created.

I managed to rescue a randomly generated survivor named Julie Espinoza. She was described as a pyschopath and would always blurt out aggressive phrases. Julie is tough as nails and she’s probably the second strongest character in my camp. Maya and Julie would have been great zombie killing partners!

Community morale takes quite a dip whenever you lose a survivor. I definitely feel it too as a player who watches over the group. I was on a supply run playing a moderately skilled survivor that was accompanied by the strongest survivor I leveled up in the game. The latter was Marcus and he’s the first character you play in the game. So yeah, I had time to make him into a powerhouse. I had more than enough supplies and picked strong characters. I was ready for the feral zombies that appeared at night time. What could go wrong?

Sometimes you make plans, and accidents can still happen. I was busy fighting off a small group of zombies when I noticed a notification telling me that Marcus died. I was shocked because that just came out of nowhere. I looked behind me and realized that he was mauled by a feral zombie (very deadly) that just leapt from the dark. The whole community was sad and heck I was too. I even stopped playing the game for a while and haven’t touched it since. You don’t know how many hordes and near death experiences I encountered with Marcus. I invested so much in him, and now it’s gone.

It’s truly amazing how this game makes me care about these types of characters. I admire the resourcefulness of independent developers. No budget for a blockbuster story, writing, and voice acting? We’ll find other ways to make you care. State of Decay succeeded in doing so.

  • Nick Verboon

    You know I love me some State of Decay. The game auto-saves instantly when a character dies so if you mess up you’re stuck with it. I lost two of my main characters in a row once. One got torn in half by a fat zombie and the other got overwhelmed and torn apart by a horde because he was injured and there was nobody else available. I ended up restarting the game things got so bad. Awesome sauce.

  • Benny Bedlam

    Really? How far were you in the game when you restarted?