State of Decay: Lifeline DLC Review

Lifeline is the second add-on released for Undead Lab’s State of Decay, and takes the zombie-dodging fun out on the road for the first time. While prior DLC release Breakdown made use of the original game’s map for some endless survival mode antics, Lifeline furthers the State of Decay story in the over-run city of Danforth.

The military has lost control of the situation there and all-but pulled out of the city center. As the commanding officer (and, later, other soldiers) of a remaining unit, it’s your task to be shouted at by an unseen member of the top brass until you rescue enough important Danforth citizens to be allowed to return home yourself. Or until you, or too many of the VIPs, get torn apart by rampant zombies. Whichever comes first.

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Ideally, this is what you want to be leaving on.

Lifeline has the same time-sensitive missions that State of Decay is known for, and the same sense of being pulled in multiple directions at once (metaphorically, although some of the larger zombies will do that to you as well.) Somewhere, a progressive corporate interview process is using State of Decay to vet candidates on their ability to prioritise tasks and cope with the sensation of being unable to solve every single problem that arises.

The military focus of this expansion means the day-to-day activities play out a little differently from those found in the base game. Your overall mission is to rescue key people, so you’ll spend the majority of your time locating and ferrying these important folks (as well as any stranded soldiers and civilians you can hoover up) back to your base of operations. There’s far less time available for you to scavenge up supplies, and more options for getting hold of resources by other means. Also, unlike the original State of Decay, your main base never moves.

As a military commander, you have the means to request (at the expense of Influence) additional supplies to be air-lifted in by helicopter. Specific resource types like materials, ammo and the like can be requested for relatively low costs, or you can go all-out and blow 300 Influence on a multi-resource care package with a couple of bonus guns thrown in for good measure. It’s also possible to use the new Ops Center building to order your troops to search nearby properties for resources (again, at an Influence cost.) This will periodically bring in a few random bits and pieces.

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Just like any good platform game, you can jump on their heads to kill them.

Spending Influence to bring in extra supplies makes a kind of thematic sense. You can imagine that your commander is convincing higher-ups to dedicate more resources to the mission, and at a certain point her credibility and persuasive powers will hit a wall. The system of spending influence to retrieve things like guns, ammo and medicine from your own military store, however, is now a very “videogame systems not quite translating to new situations” problem. While it’s quite funny to imagine a frantic soldier being unable to grab some spare ammo during a zombie siege because he’s too paralysed by a crippling lack of self-importance, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

Sieges happen a lot in Lifeline, because every time the helicopter shows up to lift out some of your rescued citizens it brings a huge clump of eager zombies in its wake. The DLC pretty quickly settles into a rhythm of rescuing a person or two, getting a couple of other minor tasks done (maybe a side mission or some quick, nearby scavenging) and then returning to base to fend off a hungry horde.

There’s a much greater emphasis on using firearms, something which always seemed semi-optional in State of Decay (and often undesirable because of the noise generated.) During a siege, noise really isn’t a problem as you’re already being attacked by pretty much every available zombie in the vicinity. With so many encroaching on your base at once, and valuable human targets in its center, assault rifles are just what you need to pop a row of zombie heads in quick succession.

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Treat the zombies like incredibly unwelcome door-to-door salesmen and you’ll be fine.

What base sieges lack are options to position your troops, or at least give them vague orders like “cover the civilians” or “snipe from long range” or perhaps just “hey, guy who hands out side quests, can you maybe not charge that juggernaut head-on?” As things are, your AI friends are a little unpredictable in their behaviour, which can cause some frustration when they do something boneheaded (like running outside the compound and then refusing to come back in.) This goes for the people you have to rescue too, who sometimes act in rather bizarre ways.

The biggest disappointment of Lifeline though, is how much of the brand new map is basically off-limits. It’s entirely in-keeping with the narrative that large areas of Danforth are overrun with zombies and inaccessible, but it’s still pretty annoying to look at those huge areas of red covering something like half the map. These Kenny Loggins approved Danger Zones will spawn infinite zombies at you if hang around in them, so players are forced to stick to the highway ring-road and suburbs around the city. After one too many escort pick-up missions, it can begin to feel a bit like you’re just taxiing people to the airport along the Manchester bypass. Albeit with more undead roadkill smeared across your windshield.

Thanks to the addition of vehicle storage, your taxi of choice can at least be packed with goodies. After many requests, Undead Labs has added the ability to stash multiple rucksacks in the back of cars. No longer will you find yourself inside a building full of stuff wishing you could carry more than one backpack at once. Just do a couple of runs to the car and shuttle it all back to base. This feature has been applied universally so you don’t actually have to own the Lifeline DLC to make use of it, but it’s so incredibly welcome that it’s worth praising here.

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See those red bits? You won’t be going there.

Lifeline retains the same sense of mission urgency central to State of Decay, but changes the main activity focus from careful scavenging to firearm engagements and base defense. There’s enough story meat to keep you chomping away for the 5-6 hour length, and it provides the option to stick around rescuing civilians after your “main” mission has ended if you think you have the resources and manpower to do so. The same geometry glitches and occasional behavioural bugs that have afflicted State of Decay since launch are still here too, though most players are probably used to such things by now. Danforth is quite a disappointing new map, consisting mostly of a highway loop and some small community areas from the off-ramps, but as a relatively cheap ($7.00 USD) expansion Lifeline provides just enough of an alternative approach to the standard State of Decay gameplay that it’s worth consideration.

A change of focus from civilian to military engagement places a greater emphasis on firearms and offers neat thematic alternatives to scavenging resources. But Lifeline’s familiar urgency is restricted to Danforth’s rather mundane outskirts.
  • Harry

    As someone who loves state of decay, and still regularly jumps back into Breakdown, this is disappointing. I was psyched to get to drive around a new map, scavenging in a major city, sorta like the bit from the first season of the walking dead where they’re in Atlanta. I mean I understand it’d be a nightmare to have to render all the skyscrapers with interiors, but it’s still a let down. Hell I’ll still probably end up getting it, just for more state of decay on a new map (with no Lily to boot)

    • Peter Parrish

      I should maybe have mentioned that this map has a radio personality too and … you may not love her either.

    • BrunoShwag

      If you guys are still on the fence about this new expansion. Check out this playthrough of Lifeline I found. It is edited well.

      State of Decay Lifeline – – Enjoy.

  • Jordon

    I’m a big fan of State of Decay and did a little time in the Army. So you can imagine my surprise when I had heard the Army wasn’t only not the bad guy. But actually sorta the heroes in this DLC. But I gotta say the map is a bit of a let down. And the zombies are way overpowered, they hit harder and come in what feels like endless numbers sometimes. For example I gotta mission to save a survivor from a gas station. When I arrive there there’s already 10-15 zed’s slapping the girl around and she’s down on one knee before I even got the door open. I tried getting through the crowd the giving her some room to get up. But of course my characters drained before there’s even 6 of them dead and the survivor gets torn apart and my character almost didn’t get away. 30 minutes later I’m at the last phase of the siege and killed countless freaks. I’m talking at least 6 ferals, too many to count of armored’s, and 4 juggernauts. I go out of the gate to kill the last zombie who’s already missing arms and a good fraction of its torso. Then a friggin feral pops out of thin air hits me ONCE downs me then kills me. All while Kilo and some other solider are standing 8 feet away doing nothing. I mean seriously? C’mon dude update the NPC’s a lil more and the zombies a lil less. And why can’t we repair our trucks? Your telling me I can call I’m some mercs but can’t recruit a mechanic? And taking ammo should cost influence when it’s a requirement to live longer than 10 minutes.

    • Peter Parrish

      Yep, I hear you. The zombies have been amped up and the NPCs really struggle to cope sometimes. You have to do a lot of Lone Wolf stuff in this one.

  • George

    You can repair your truck. Leave it in one of the designated bays and make sure you have a workshop. Worked for me!

  • Lycan

    Pretty bummed out about the map but the soldiers look cool af been Dieing to use some military characters (since I myself am one 68W) in sod sucks the map seems so enclosed and restricted if it wasn’t for the fact that finally I’m using the type of characters I wanted to I wouldn’t keep playing zeds on steroids not my thing makes no sense 3-5 rounds to the head and they keep coming smh and not much scavenging like in the original wish they’d just add more to the map and for future reference undead lab these are the type of characters we want to play as not some campers lol (although still was great) I’ve bounced from breakdown to lifeline over and over again just wish I could transfer characters over to the original

  • jessa

    im so glad everyone is basically agreeing with each other, i thought i was just brutally sucking at this game. i felt the first state of decay was pretty easy, but i enjoy the fact you could rome around and only have a hand full of zombies coming after you. i went out to get some supplies in this game and was raped by at least 20 zombies. its extremely frustrating and making me not want to play the game, but its addictive like heroin, so ill continue to play. i was pretty devo when i killed Sasquatch , rip you weird man.

  • Jordon

    Yah, don’t get me wrong despite my complaints I love this game!! And sorry for my previous spelling errors my autocorrect does more harm than good. I meant to say ammo shouldn’t cost influence. But hopefully everyone will make enough noise and they’ll tweek the game a lil. One last thing, anyone think the idea of them coming out with a map bundle would be great ?

  • meeee

    I’m rather disappointed. Yea, you get lots of toys. Yea, lots of zombies. Sure, I can stack ruck bags in my car now (in breakdown too). But there is no control for where to position your troops in defense. There is NO improvement of AI. Your companions can still just run away in the middle of a mission. I’ve had companions stuck behind fences during combat WAY to many times for my liking. I’ve been overwhelmed by zombies while my companion is bouncing back and forth behind trying to figure out how to get to me. This is a deal killer for me because you really need companions to help in this DLC. Also, missions are not varied and game play is too repetitive and the game becomes boring quickly.

    In the earlier versions, there was sense of immersion. There was a feeling of hopelessness,but you just keep on plugging away. In this I feel helpless, like there is no point in even continuing. Might as well just put a bullet in my skull now. I’ll stick with breakdown, thank you very much.

  • anom

    I understand UL needs money and all, but I would have rather waited longer for a more fleshed-out city than this. When I started the game I was excited at the possibility of exploring. but even 20 feet west of your base you get the ‘infinite zombie spawn’ warning. All the unexplorable areas feel like a taunt from the developers. I chose to nuke the city since there really wasn’t anything else to do with it after the main story. I hope that annoying radio operator gets mutated from the fallout.

  • seularts

    This DLC is soooo easy. I build 70% of my base before I even got to the first mission at the chopper. After you get the base up and running and recruit about 13-14 soldiers, it’s impossible to lose. Sasquatch’s missions were fun, but short and if he dies, the fun just goes away. I finished the DLC losing just one civilian, because zombies managed to eat her before I could even reach her. The nuclear explosion at the end was a nice touch, but the whole map was so small, it felt like a NASCAR closed circuit with little place to explore and even scavenge. I like to play stealthy, avoid hordes, look for supplies, but here the focus was on saving people and that’s about it. All the resources were brought by helicopter. Defending the base was super easy, though the AI is still a bit buy, but never the less nothing a few drones and snipers couldn’t solve 😀

  • lazerbeak

    Well Ive read the reviews and all the comments, and won’t be bothering with this DLC, unless I really having absolutely nothing better to do, Scavenging and exploring was my favorite part of the game, why would I want to play what looks like a zombie attack siege level from COD