State of Decay: The Many Deaths of Marcus Campbell

Gunky just can't seem to keep State of Decay's starter character alive for very long.

State of Decay: the Many Deaths of Marcus Campbell

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So I've been sinking a lot of hours into State
of Decay
lately, and you'd think that means I'm pretty far
into the game. But I'm not, because I'm a stubborn old mook, and every
time the starting character Marcus Campbell gets killed, I start a new
game.

For those of you who haven't played the game, I recommend giving
Martuk's recent article
about the development of the game a good
read. And then play the game, because it's badass.

I should also point out that starting over when Marcus dies is almost
entirely unnecessary. Once you get out of the introductory zone and into
the main sandboxy area of Spencer's Mill (or, realistically, as soon as
you pick up Maya Torres, the second playable character), Marcus's story
commitments are basically done and he is as expendable as your most
beloved character on Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. But I hate
losing him because he's the first guy you get - he's sort of the Rick
Grimes of State of Decay. He feels like the "leader" of the group, despite
the fact that it's Lily Ritter who seems to he the one giving out all the
orders. And, since he's an African American man, I want to see him buck
the long-standing racist horror movie stereotype and make it to the end.

Problem is, I can't seem to keep him alive. I've sunk about 20-some hours
into the game so far, and I've restarted 3 times. He has died
spectacularly each time. Sometimes it's hilarious, sometimes frustrating,
but never is it boring or un-earned.

1. Death By Horde

This first death took me by surprise, and taught me two valuable
lessons: 

1) There are wandering hordes, and they are super dangerous when you're
running solo.

2) When your cricket bat breaks and you have no other melee weapons, just
go home and get a new one. Because you need a melee weapon, always.

It was the first time I had encountered a horde. Marcus had just finished
cleaning out a house in beautiful downtown Spencer's Mill, and, during the
course of clearing the place out, busted his bat across some zombie's
skull. Or, more likely, on its shoulder, because the damn things never
break with a finishing move. He was running solo, because clearing out a
house doesn't really require extra manpower.

State of Decay: The Many Deaths of Marcus Campbell - Death by Horde

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Even two zeds can be overpowering
when you're
exhausted and unarmed.

Anyway, the bat was busted, and he was down to his trusty .22 revolver,
fully loaded with 6 juicy shots. He was carrying a full rucksack of...
something. To be honest, the details are a bit fuzzy, because what
happened next sort of overshadowed the trivia.

He steps out into the sunlight. I had not yet learned to keep a weather
eye on the mini-map for the telltale red stain of a horde's line of sight,
nor had I ever encountered a horde before this point. Later on, I would
encounter them almost immediately after leaving Mount Tanner, wandering
the streets with impunity, but this was my very first one. It came as a
bit of a shock, then, when approximately 8 zombies came charging at Marcus
as soon as he stepped out into the street and jogged directly into their
line of sight.

Eight zombies might not sound like a lot, but when you're by yourself
with no melee weapon or gas bombs or other efficient means of dealing with
multiple zeds, and you are over your carrying-weight limit, it might as
well be 80. Also, the zombies that travel in hordes are usually the
fast-runner kind - you need to use sprints to keep ahead of them, and the
zombies don't get tired.

State of Decay: the best way to deal with a horde

The most effective method of dealing with
hordes of zeds - though, ideally, use a bigger car.

Marcus emptied his revolver at the charging horde, killing a few of them
but attracting far more - another 8 or so joined in on the Marcus-hunt,
drawn out of the shadows of nearby houses by the sound of gunfire. Then he
ran, and he had to sprint to stay ahead of the horde. But the weight of
the load of bricks or Twinkies or Ibuprofen or whatever it was he was
carrying, and the fact that he had been out scavenging all night and was
dead tired already, spelled his doom. He was quickly exhausted and
over-run, and torn into several gory pieces. He put up a hell of a fight,
rallying twice, but he had no means to properly fight back, and there were
simply too many of them.

He might have been fine if he had been carrying a frying pan. He could
have swatted his way out. Instead, he was forced to try to fight by
kicking, which is disastrous after hard sprinting.

This death dismayed and disheartened me, like when a key character on The
Walking Dead dies a grisly death. But I kept on playing this save for a
little while. Until I lost Maya and then one of the other random group
guys, who died trying to retrieve her rucksack. At that point, I started
over.

2. Death As A Runner

This one was terribly disappointing, and taught me another important
lesson - this one, about the relative merit of sending runners on
long-distance supply-retrieval missions, and using terribly weak escorts.

The church had come upon a dire need of construction materials, and I
remembered seeing an industrial warehouse between the park at the
beginning of the game and the tunnel on the way to town. I sent a couple
guys out there and, sure enough, found a couple caches of construction
materials. I radioed back for pickup, and Lily decided Marcus was the man
for the job.

State of Decay: slo-mo jumping head-stomp

You probably wouldn't be so
tired if you d
idn't use so many high-jumping head-stomps.

This goes to show you that Marcus is perfectly expendable at this point.
Runners can encounter serious trouble on the road, and this is especially
true if it's a long-distance haul at night. They take ill-advised
shortcuts and do dumb n00b stuff, and can get killed pretty easily. This
is not a position that crucial characters should be put in, so it stands
to reason that, if a character is sent out as a runner, he is no longer
crucial.

I was using Jacob Ritter, Lily's brother, and this was just after I had
unlocked him as a solo character rather than just a helper. His combat
skills, endurance and health were all pretty low, and he did not have a
forbidding arsenal of weapons. And I was driving the crappy little yellow
car, which is just as much of a lemon as un-trained Jacob is.

Marcus got waylaid by zombies on his way to the pickup spot. Jacob drove
there in his little yellow lemon car to help out, and broke his rusty pipe
and used up all his Twinkies in doing so. But I knew that the road between
the point where Marcus had been waylaid and the warehouse where the goods
were stashed was thick with zeds, so I decided to follow him to "help" him
out.

That was a bad idea. A double-stack of hordes had formed up behind me,
and Marcus got caught by both of them. The crappy tin car, which was
already belching black smoke by the time Marcus met up with the hordes,
was not capable of snow-plowing through the hordes as per usual. So I had
to flee, and let him die.

I took Jacob back a short while later to retrieve Marcus's rucksack, but
the hordes were still there. And I had forgotten to bring a new bat. Jacob
died in a burst of glory, and, having lost two key characters, I decided
to restart. Again.

3. Death By Ambush

This one happened really early on, and it didn't really teach me a
lesson. It did teach me that the game can be a real bitch sometimes, and
that life after the zombie apocalypse can be unforgivingly harsh.

It was just after I had set up at the church, and Lily had given me my
very first swap-n-trade assignment. Maya was the package-carrier, Marcus
was the escort. We drove off in the dead of night to the gas station with
the dinosaurs, way out on the highway.

State of Decay: walking into an abandoned house

"A handyman's dream, one owner,
colorful neighborhood, abundant
local fauna!"

Of course, the place was flooded with zombies. Marcus broke his bat on
the very first group, and didn't have a backup. Or a gun. I had just
started this playthrough, so I didn't have a lot of equipment for my
newbie traders yet. And these trade missions were usually pretty simple
and easygoing.

Not so this time. The gas station was packed with zeds, and the damned
things just kept coming. After breaking his bat about halfway through,
Marcus soldiered on using just his feet and Maya's crowbar. It worked well
enough.

Then it was time to make the swap. The blue indicator was just to the
north and the zombies were all cleared away. Or so I thought. There were
more of them in the house, attacking the trader guy. A lot more. Say, an
entire horde's worth, all packed into one pitch-black room, hammering on
the long-dead body of the friendly trader.

Again, this wouldn't have been so terrible. Maya is a capable fighter,
and Marcus is usually fine using just his boots if he's running with a
capable ally. The problem was the Feral that was tucked away in the middle
of the horde.

Ferals are a lot tougher than your average zombie. They are ambush
hunters with very powerful attacks, and are deadly enough when they are
encountered on their own. When encountered in the middle of 6 or 8 regular
zombies, they're a freakin' nightmare. It leapt out and killed Maya and
then ripped Marcus to shreds while he was still trying to kick his way
back out of the house to flee for his life.

State of Decay: Marcus taking a breather

Kicking ass is tiring work.

At just over 21 hours in, I'm now on Marcus #4. Things are going a bit
better this time - there have been some close calls, but I make sure he
never leaves the church without an undamaged melee weapon and plenty of
Twinkies and Aspirin. When he gets worn out, I trade out his weapon for a
fresh one and retire him for a rest. This time around, I'm determined to
keep my ace dude alive. But if the past 20-some hours are any indication,
my hopes for Marcus Campbell's future are not terribly bright.


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