Tag Archives: management simulator

State of Decay 2, the categorical and harsh suffer sim

I never played the original State of Decay, but I really wanted to. On paper, it sounded challenging, but rewarding, putting you firmly into that fantastic scenario we all ponder now and again, thanks to so much post-apocalyptic media in our lives: how would you survive in a world gone to shit? I know I personally wouldn’t last long due to my lack of cardio and upper-body strength, but I’d hope I could contribute to a community in other ways. Either by organizing our rations and inventory or even just making sure people knew what goals needed to be accomplished and by when. Still, eventually, I’d be zombie food. Or even a zombie myself.

So far, for my little community in State of Decay 2, despite things going pretty poorly from time to time, no one has died (editor’s note: I wrote this sentence almost three months ago, but as of mid-September I have had a member die out in the field trying to take on an infestation by himself, insert sad face here). I take great pride in this because there’s been some seriously close calls. However, Choe, our resident nurse, got frustrated with the lack of medicine and eventually left the group. Otherwise, I’ve been able to keep people somewhat satisfied, even if morale is constantly bouncing between stable and poor and nobody wants to be on latrine duty.

It’s not one hundred percent fun to play, and I constantly feel like I’m just treading water and making very little progress. The area around my tiny community is mostly cleared out of zombies, but keeping my group of people healthy and happy is a constant task that never seems to churn out great results. Basically, I pick a spot on the map to investigate, take a friend with me, use our only car which is damaged and low on gas, go kill a few zombies, and discover, if at most, a few items to bring back, but mostly an empty shack or house. Rucksacks are the most important thing to find, but they are few and far between, so I’ve been relying mostly on calling in special drops to pick up…which feels a little like cheating sometimes.

Fast forward to now-ish, and I basically haven’t played the game in a few months…for specific reasons. Well, I noticed that a new piece of DLC came out recently called Daybreak, and it is part of the season pass which I guess I purchased at some point. It’s a brand-new game mode for State of Decay 2 completely separate from your base community. Basically, it’s a re-playable co-op “zombie siege” experience, something akin to Horde mode in Gears of War 4. You and up to three teammates play as elite Red Talon soldiers, armed with potent high-end weaponry. Working together, you must defend a fortified position where a technician needs time to repair a critical satellite relay. You’ll have to survive seven waves of increasingly difficult swarms of zombies, including the brand new blood plague juggernaut, with the ultimate goal being keeping the technician alive. Do that, and you win.

Between each wave, you can run out into the woods to pick up more ammo, weapons, and wall repair kits from CLEO drops. You only have two minutes though to grab what you can before a new wave deploys upon your small fortress. What I really like about playing Daybreak is that you earn weapons–melee, guns, and tossed explosives–to use in both further attempts at the DLC, but also in the main State of Decay 2 mode. You can even earn the opportunity to recruit a Red Talon soldier into your base community. I’ve attempted keeping the technician alive twice now–first time, we were successful, and the second time, he got killed in the final wave. Either way, it’s a pretty fun mode that, thanks to you earning new gear and being able to bring it back to your main game mode, feels more connected than it probably needed to be, even if it feels a little repetitive.

I do look forward to playing more, but a part of me now just wants to unlock all the best gear and weapons first in Daybreak and then start a new community over, especially since I just lost Mike who was suppose to become my group’s leader. At some point, I’ll have to avenge his death, take back all his good gear, and focus on someone else to take the lead, but even the thought of that currently doesn’t fill me with excitement. In the end, that’s kind of what State of Decay 2 is, a game I both want to play and stay far away from because it is draining. I now know why people refer to it as a suffer sim…you do it to yourself, really.

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You kind of control a pond’s ecosystem in Among Ripples

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One of my goals for 2017 is to chip away at my Steam library, and I’m using HowLongToBeat to help me determine where to start. Certainly not with Crusader Kings II, which the site claims is around 175 hours in total to see through to completion though I do what to give it a swing at some point after really enjoying the fun that was an old GBE Playdate.

Instead, I went with Among Ripples, estimated to eat up 19 minutes of my sweet, precious time. I think I ended up logging closer to 25 minutes before exiting out of the…experience and staring for a bit at my two cats, wondering where they’d fit into the whole survival of the fittest scheme. I actually think Pixie would last longer in the wild, hiding with all her might, while Timmy would totally walk up to a predator to lovingly rub his face on it. Ah, tiny domesticated lions.

There are no cats in Among Ripples, at least none that I could find. There is, however, an otter, and that made this slice of casual gaming all the more wonderful. Though I still really don’t know what it was. In descriptive terms, it’s a meditative ecosystem management simulator. You are the puppet master of a small pond, filling it with food and predators/prey, watching life unfold over the seasons. Basically, you add different creatures to the mix and see how everything interacts. I did this just fine, but kept expecting something more to happen beyond this, despite knowing that this was all there was to experience.

It’s an extremely simple slice of sandbox gaming. You can click on a few things to get life going and then sit back to take in the watercolored art and gentle, calming soundtrack. However, among all this niceness is the fact that nature is ruthless, and animals eat other animals. You must be prepared for this. They also do other things many might scoff at; one time, at the Philadelphia Zoo, I saw a giraffe drink another giraffe’s pee. Nature is surviving at all costs, whether we’re talking about reality or simulation.

Among Ripples is neat, but not enough. I understand that the goals are your own to set, and I watched an otter live through all the seasons, which is all I ever ask of otters, as well as saw a bunch of crayfish rot. I don’t plan to write a haiku review about it as I didn’t feel like it was technically something I completed, but rather dipped my toes in; sure, I could leave this up in the background one day and really watch the pond evolve, but I best move on. No worries though. To quote that eccentric, charming mathematician from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Just not in my pond going forward.