Updated Tue, Jan 14, 2014 by Martuk
If you’re a fan of zombie survival horror games not of the FPS variety, you must have heard of State of Decay by now. If for some strange reason you haven’t heard of what may well be the best zombie game of 2013, it’s the first offering from Undead Labs, a studio founded by former ArenaNet founder Jeff Strain. The studio was formed in 2009 with the original goal of developing a console-based MMOG featuring those shambling flesh-eaters that we all know and love.
Undead Labs set its development plans forth in two phases, but it’s possible that publisher Microsoft initially only gave the green light from publisher for the first, likely to test the waters and see just how viable the project might be. That project was codenamed Class3, a label that later became known as State of Decay, an open world sandbox zombie survival game that literally starts you off neck deep in the zombie apocalypse.
The meat of State of Decay is in gathering up other survivors, scavenging for supplies, and setting up outposts and a base of operation to keep the hordes of undead at bay. State of Decay’s launch came with a few issues and a basic storyline that wasn’t entirely fleshed out, but for zombie survival fans, there was plenty to do ranging from scavenging supplies to frantically trying to save other survivors or allies that often times comes down to a choice of where to be and who to save as it all takes place persistently, sometimes ending with a survivor becoming the main course of a zombie buffet. And if there was an “Oh $h**” moment of 2013 on our yearly game awards, it would have likely been botching a simple search while scavenging and bringing down a massive horde of undead on our location. It’s at times like that, my friends, that diving head first through a two-story glass window is actually a good idea, especially if your impact point is near the car. A broken leg is easier to deal with than a shredded torso.
State of Decay received several updates following its launch to improve gameplay along with its first and only DLC to date, Breakdown. Breakdown was a different beast from the original game in that it ramped up the difficulty by removing the story and letting players focus solely on the survivability aspect of the game. As you explored the map of Trumbull Valley, you can eventually find an RV that can be repaired for a quick escape with a few other survivors. From there you move on to the next rank of the map. The map itself remains the same each time but the amount of zombies and their damage increases, there are noticeably more specialty zombies, and supplies and vehicles are radically decreased at higher ranks and placed randomly on the map.
State of Decay hit Xbox live last June and quickly sold over 500k copies. The title’s arrival on Steam’s early access in September helped push it over the 1 million mark. Not too bad for a game that was originally developed for Xbox Live Arcade and restricted to a 2GB limit. Makes you wonder what Undead Labs could do if you turn them loose on a full size project. And that’s where Class4 comes in.
Undead Labs announced last Friday that they’ve signed an extended multi-year, multi-title development agreement with Microsoft. And while Founder Jeff Strain couldn’t go into detail about what the agreement involves about the worst kept secret in Zombieville, there’s plenty of information about what the original goal of the studio was with Class4.
“We’ll be able to share details later this year, but as with State of Decay, we think it’s best if we just keep our heads down and build some prototypes before we talk too much,” Strain wrote on the Undead Labs website. “For now, suffice it to say there are big things going on with State of Decay.”
While Class4 hasn’t been formally announced, it’s safe to assume that it’s most certainly one of the multiple projects that the Microsoft development deal includes (publishers do love their sequels). If you’ve been following Undead Labs since it was founded in 2009, you may already know about Class4. If not, just keep on reading because here’s what we know so far.