Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / State of Decay

Go To

State of Decay is an open world Zombie Apocalypse survival simulator and the first game from developer Undead Labs, founded by Jeff Strain (aka lead designer of World of Warcraft). Released on XBLA on June 5th, 2013 and released on the PC on September 20th the same year, State of Decay is set in the rural Trumbull Valley: 16 square kilometers of farmland, forests, and small towns. The player returns from a week-long camping trip to find the dead have risen and must establish a group of survivors to endure the zombie apocalypse. The game's official website is here.

State of Decay combines elements of multiple game genres including third-person combat, base building and community management, loot collection, skills improving, and permadeath, among others. The game is single-player only (Currently Undead consistently stated they had no intention of making a Co-Op DLC), but will pave the way for Undead Labs's future zombie apocalypse MMO, tentatively titled "Class4" and State of Decay 2 to be released on next-gen consoles and PC. The game's campaign mode ostensibly follows four core survivors, Marcus "the Hero," Ed "the Friend," Maya "the Veteran" and Lilly, the team's (immortal in gameplay terms) mission control. These survivors band together to face a zombie apocalypse in the rural Trumbull Valley. Notably, any character other than Lilly can be killed at any time. The player is encouraged to scavenge, build a secure homebase, acquire new resources and firepower, contact other survivors, and eventually escape the valley. Simply put, if you've ever wanted to scream at characters in zombie fiction "you're doing it wrong!" here's your chance to set the record straight.


The game received positive reviews from critics, with IGN giving it an 8.9 out of 10, but they did point out that the game had framerate issues.

The game was released on September 20th 2013 for PC on Steam's Early Access program with enhanced graphics and keyboard support. Details can be found here. Later updates and patches tuned the port's much maligned mouse control to something acceptable for modern shooters. In 2015, the game received a re-released version for the PC as well as the Xbox One titled, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition, which updated the graphics to run better on the PC, as well as some minor additions to the base game.

The first DLC, Breakdown was released for seven dollars on November 29th, with a focus on long term survival and true sandbox gameplay. The main focus of the DLC is the titular "Breakdown" mode, an Endless Game mode, and introduced playable characters drawing from notable NPCs from the Storyline Mode.


The second DLC, Lifeline was announced in February 2014 and released on May 30th. Set in the city of Danforth just outside of Trumbull Valley, a small military unit called Greyhound One battles a city of dead to rescue high priority survivors and complete their mission. The player is also given a massive stockpile of weapons and resources from the get-go, and expected to manage it carefully throughout the crisis. It also added new achievements, both for itself and for Breakdown.

During the 2016 E3 event, Undead Labs announced a sequel, called State of Decay 2, which was released on May 22nd, 2018.

The next sequel, State Of Decay 3 Was announced in 2020.

State of Decay contains examples of:

    open/close all folders 

     Main Game and General Tropes 
  • A.K.A.-47: Most of the guns in the game use fictional names to various degrees. For example, Remington's firearms in-game follow the format of "(Model Number) Outdoor Occupation" (eg. Maya's Remington 750 is referred to as the "750 Forester"). Most, if not all, of the Kalashnikov variants in the Assault Rifle category keep their names. Glocks are referred to as "G" then the number (G17 for the Glock 17, G19 for the Glock 19, etcetera).
  • Action Girl: Many of the female characters can be trained up to become this. Non-randomized examples are Maya and Sam.
  • Action Survivor: Most characters don't have the Soldier/Police background.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The military pickup might be the developers just not wanting to create a whole new model of a Humvee, but real life US military actually do have civilian-model trucks in service. Not only that, having militarized civilian trucks rather than Humvees running about is actually more realistic, as the CUCV is more widely available in mainland America than the HMMWV because of their roles as support and maintenance, something that the more combat oriented Humvees are unsuited for.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Hitting zombies with an edged weapon usually hacks off their arm, but doesn't necessarily make them less dangerous. Specializing in this weapon type eventually allows you to unlock a skill which will have a survivor slash both of a zombie's legs clean off, after which you can either immediately finish them off, or just leave them to die after a few seconds.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: In Year One Survival Edition, a mysterious female voice on the radio is picked up by Lily going by the callsign of "CLEO". She announces coordinates of supply drops that contains plenty of valuable survival materials and sometimes unique melee weapons and firearms. Of course upon reaching any one of the drops, a whole clusterfuck of undead are waiting around responding to the obnoxiously loud beacon it makes....
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In spite of Permadeath usually happening from characters getting killed, you won't be able to die in the first few missions of the game until you cross the Mt. Tanner bridge as it's essentially a tutorial.
    • The game will give you a break if your character falls to their death accidentally while away from zombies - the screen will fade to black but you'll then be back playing the same character with the game's state being alike to when they took their fall.
  • Anyone Can Die: Once you leave Mt. Tanner, nobody is safe. However, this only applies to the playable characters. NPCs are usually unkillable, except in scripted events, such as Pastor Mulroney, who was infected and shot by Alan, who gets infected himself and has to be killed. Before their scripted deaths happen, they are all but invincible.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Logs tab is reminiscent of this. Also throughout the game you may find random pieces of paper in loot, ranging from diary pages, to notes left for loved ones, to the asshole who claimed to have poisoned one of the canned foods you've just looted earlier.
  • Armies Are Evil: Zig-zagged. The Army comes into the valley, but they are more interested in quarantining the area and investigating the source of the disease. They don't explain the situation to anyone, threaten to shoot those that tries to escape the valley and "squatters" (i.e loot live in others' house, regardless of the former occupant has been zombified or not). As it turns out, most of them are soldiers who are Just Following Orders. Sergeant Erik Tan, over the course of the game, decides to assist a family surrounded by zombies, against orders to stand down, provides the player with helpful aids even when he and his troops are abandoned themselves by the higher-ups (who pack up and leave town without warning), and finally performs a Heroic Sacrifice to help everyone escape the valley.
    • Also given a lot of exploration in Lifeline where you are the army. Given that your orders are all about trying to find people who may be able to figure the zombie plague out, caring one way or the other about civilians is a distraction. You can go around saving them if you like, but you don't really get anything important for it. It definitely helps show why the military may have bigger concerns and need civilians to just stay out of the way.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Light machine guns and grenade launchers, both of which can obliterate entire hordes of zombies with ease and both of which are nearly useless due to ammo scarcity. Light machine guns eat up powerful rifle rounds that would be better used for Assault Rifles or hunting rifles. Grenade launcher ammo is so rare that the player is lucky to have gathered 20 rounds after finishing the entire game. They always spawn with a full magazine, so players can have some fun with them, before putting them in the locker for good. Also be careful if community members grab a Grenade Launcher, since they can easily kill the player or cars with splash damage.
    • The .50 cal anti-materiel rifles (Mk. 15 and M107 CQ). They can shred multiple zombies with one shot, and can down The Juggernaut with merely 4 headshots. They are also Too Awesome to Use, due to the scarcity of .50 cal rounds, and in the case of the M107, also extremely loud and cannot be suppressed. It gets even worse in the Breakdown DLC, where their weight are increased to 20 lbs, which means they instantly encumbered normal survivors, draining their Stamina even faster when they sprint.
    • Revolvers and revolver rifles are inherently awesome, and some have highest damage per shot with the appropriate specialization, just behind Grenade Launcher and .50 cal rifles. However, their loudness (they cannot be suppressed) and limited ammo capacity make them very risky to use.
  • Big Entrance: You can shoulder in the door or jump through a window to enter a building. The former is the only way to get through locked doors for most of the game without a character with the Ninja Special Technique requiring maxed out Wits, which causes locks to not exist when they open a door.
  • Big Good: The player's group slowly evolves into this for all of Trumball Valley. After the Army is revealed to be useless and the Courthouse is overrun, the player will be the one helping out other survivor groups and confronting the Wilkersons over their criminal schemes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The remaining survivors are able to escape Trumbell County thanks to Tan's Heroic Sacrifice, but Lily has only months to live due to her lupus medicine becoming literally impossible to find, and the final scene heavily implies that Trumbull wasn't the only area to be infected with the Black Fever, as a city can be seen on the horizon.
    • The Lifeline DLC confirms the outbreak is not isolated to Trumbull Valley, but is global. Reports of outbreaks in Australia, Africa and Europe come in as the game progresses. Cities across the United States are also experiencing outbreaks, with the military being overwhelmed.
  • Black Comedy: Lily's sense of snark definitely lightens things in what would be an otherwise bleak scenario.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • A few of your facilities can be considered this. The Kitchen has an option to temporarily increase your survivors' max Health and Stamina (only if one of your survivors is a good cook), as well as reduces the chance of food poisoning and/or spoilage. The Training Area gives a Stamina bonus and helps prevent injuries. The Infirmary helps characters heal faster and prevent a sick character from infecting healthy ones. Library speeds up research, upgrades and most importantly, Wits gain. They are nothing fancy to look at, but surviving without them is going to be REALLY hard.
    • Assault rifles when firing in single shot mode. They have a combination of high accuracy, damage and large magazine size. It's more "fun" to go full-auto, but considering the scarcity of ammunition, sticking to the "boring" single shots will make your supply last much longer. (However, on the XBOX controller, it's not that easy to consistently press the right trigger button lightly enough to shoot only one bullet at a time.)
    • Some of the more mundane melee weapons are this. Sure you could be creative and beat zombies to death with a sawed off table leg or gardening hoe, or a medieval mace. However, a solid steel wrench or pipe-wrench weighs less and is far more durable.
    • Snacks. Nothing fancy, just your average "Get out of a tight spot free" card. Pop one to refill your stamina and keep fighting, or sprint as far as you can.
    • The Machine shop in conjunction with vehicles. It can't produce any of the explodable goodies that the Munition shop can, but it will keep your vehicles in working condition. It also can fix broken car doors and engine, something no other workshop can.
    • Firebombs and molotov cocktails. They're not as flashy as the military explosives you can find, but they can easily clear an infestation or stop a horde and they don't make noise when used so you don't have to worry about drawing in more zombies. Best of all, you will almost always have some in the supply locker as a few are added every time you collect a fuel resource.
    • Normal searching. Sure you can fast search, but unless you have the stealth perk, which itself can take quite awhile to get, you run the risk of causing a racket and having the game spawn a horde of zombies to punish you. Normal searching take a few seconds longer, but carries no such risk.
  • Breakable Weapons: All your melee weapons eventually become damaged, and further hits with a damaged weapon will break it altogether. Damaged weapons are automatically repaired daily in any home base that has a workshop while a weapon that breaks from overuse is immediately removed from your inventory.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: The Year One Survival Edition comes with a special character (and a Hero in Breakdown) that's armed with a rifle with a build-in silencer and two really good swords, along with bringing two useful skills to your base (Medic and Researcher). On top of that, you gain a one-time radio call for help, which will instantly spawn a custom-painted SUV next to you and a modified SKS rifle in the storage of your base. This is particularly potent in Breakdown, immensely helping with the ever-increasing difficulty.
  • Broken Bridge:
    • Well, barricaded, but the trope still applies. Fairfield is inaccessible until certain main missions have been completed.
    • The bridge leading out of the Ranger Station is broken, requiring to take a detour on foot to the ravine it's crossing over. This is done solely for tutorial purposes on climbing ledges and one of the most popular mods for the game is the one "fixing" the bridge.
  • Bullet Time: Time briefly slows down when you dodge or are about to execute a zombie. Characters that have max Shooting level can choose the skill "Focus Aim" that slows down time for as long as their Stamina lasts.
  • But Thou Must!: Downplayed. The only mission that you have to complete are the main ones. For every other mission, you have the option to decline or just outright ditch the mission completely once its active. Even in the main questline, if you're feeling particularly callous, you can let yourself die to cause the mission to end in failure (although the game will still consider the mission completed, you just don't get any rewards.)
  • Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore:
    • The Ranger Station is obviously not safe from the beginning - completely open from each side, with big windows covering every wall and not a single barricade built by NPCs. It's no wonder it is overrun when Marcus and Ed are searching for Maya. After witnessing what happened, she instantly decides to pack everything and run the hell out of there.
    • Not counting the court in Marshall, all enclaves held by NPCs are completely unsafe, but only after taking a sizable beating - sometimes few sieges in a row - you can recruit their inhabitants into your community.
  • Car Fu: You are welcome to use any working vehicle you find to run down the undead, though they will take damage and eventually become inoperable unless repaired regularly at your home. It's useful for wiping out a horde or two if you have some way to repair it.
  • Cosmic Deadline: There is every indication that Undead Labs was forced to ship the game before finishing the third Act, such as the presence of a third town with no story sidequests or anything of particular interest, and the rushed feeling of the endgame quests.
    • The ending cinematic is almost nonsensical and feels awfully rushed.
  • Closed Circle: Mt. Tanner Lake, Spencer's Mill and Marshall are initially cut off from the rest of Trumbull Valley by quarantine walls erected onto the only bridges leading to Fairfield. After gaining access to Fairfield, yet another wall locks the survivors from the only way out into Danforth.
  • Cool, but Inefficient:
    • Both shotguns and revolvers have good stopping power, but share the same disadvantages: small ammo capacity, making a lot noise impossible to muffle, pitful accuracy and slow reload.
    • The Garden/Greenhouse Base Facility. With a little work, you can make your base indefinitely stocked with food. But there is such a huge overabundance of food everywhere, you'll never need it except at the absolute highest levels of Breakdown.
    • Savini Residence, one of the possible home sites, is even invoked as such in-universe. It's main selling point is a tree-house that can be used as a pre-build watch tower. Other than that, it's one of the smallest home sites and in area that will be quickly far away from all the story missions.
  • Critical Hit: With blunt and heavy weapons, these instantly crushes zombies' heads, while an edged weapon can decapitate. Specialization in each weapon type can increase critical chance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lily definitely has her moments.
  • Disaster Scavengers: This is what you do to survive.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Maya. She starts with the 750 Forester hunting rifle and bunch of spare ammo, while possessing Soldier, Eagle-Eyed and No Nonsense traits. This makes her an excellent combatant and scavenger, armed with one of the best guns of its class and her traits not only provide bonus to levelling-up, but also flat starting skill increase. And the 7.62mm her rifle needs is the most common rifle round you can find. You can use her as a PC from the moment you meet her.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: A somewhat indirect example. It could be a complete coincidence that the only police station in the game is directly adjacent to (or rather, attached to) a small donut shop. Could be.
  • Dying Declaration of Hate: Survivors will sometimes scream curses at the zombies when all is lost and they are being devoured. Also, in Lifeline, you can nuke the city and leave any remaining survivors to die... Vienna Cho, the DJ who has been coordinating rescue for the normal civilians (whom the military has largely ignored in favor of VIP survivors) uses her last broadcast to tell you what an utter bastard you are for murdering the rest of them.
  • Elite Zombie: The Screamer and Bloated zombies can tilt the odds against you, while the SWAT zombie's armour makes him a pain to kill with guns. Of all of them, though, Feral zombies and Big Bastards are easily the deadliest. Ferals are fast and can easily tear a survivor apart at low health, while Big Bastards are immensely tough to kill and deal massive damage to any vehicle that tries to run them down.
  • Escort Mission: A random type of mission quite commonly encountered. You need to escort someone to carry a resource to trade for another, or "rescue" and escort someone home. Unlike most examples of this trope, these kinds of missions can be highly beneficial. Normally to get a survivor to accompany you, you need to spend 100 Influence, which is no small cost. When you get an Escort mission, however, you get a free zombie fodder that is quite capable at protecting themselves and protecting you, allowing you to clean houses, establish outposts and rack up kills to level up your stats and skills. That said, they can actually die on your watch if you're not careful.
  • Expert in Underwater Basket Weaving: Several characters have joke traits with no impact on the skills the game tracks (i.e., the ones useful in a survival situation) intended to reveal hints of their old lives in pre-apocalyptic modern society. Examples include "Daydreamer", "Loved 'Idol'", "Clerk", and "Enjoyed Antiquing". By the time the second game rolls around, most of these joke traits have vanished...
  • Failure Is the Only Option: During the Mt. Tanner segment. You can barricade the Ranger Station and run straight to Maya to save her as quickly as possible, but the survivors in the Ranger Station will be dead no matter what by the time you get back.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Ritter children, flip-flopped. Before the apocalypse, Jacob is the responsible one. Once it hits, Lily becomes the responsible one.
  • Finishing Move: You can do this to a knocked down zombie with a button combination. The animation is different depending on your weapon.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Lily Ritter cannot die. No matter what. If the base had 50 Ferals running amok, she's still get up every single time she gets knocked down. Too bad you can never control her as your character: the game would be easy indeed.
    • Inverted in virtually everyone else, once their plot-necessary points get covered. Even the duo you start with.
  • Gorn: The players can crush undead skull or liberate them from the zombie's neck with bladed weapons or one of the game's many firearms. In return, player characters can get ripped in half by zombies.
  • Guide Dang It!: Outposts are generally poorly explained in-game, but what really sticks out is how any building turned into an outpost provides a passive growth of specific type of resources... as long as you didn't clear it clean first. So if you plan to keep getting ammo, food or fuel from a specific location, you must leave at least a single unlooted container in it and you can't even check what's inside of it. This is particularly important when it comes to places that generate ammo.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The Juggernaut/Big Bastard and Feral can do this to a survivor at low health, as can the normal zombies. It's rather unsettling to watch two zombies fighting over your corpse end up pulling you apart at the waist.
  • Have a Nice Death: Every time the character that you control dies, you are treated to a lengthy scene of him/her getting clawed at, gnawed at, ripped in half and continued to be chewed on. If you have a grenade and nobody is nearby to save you from a brutal death, you can go out in a blaze of glory.
  • Heal Thyself: Played straight. Health items can restore you to 100% health. There's an exception, though - when you take too much damage (or get bitten by a Feral zombie), you become injured, meaning your maximum health is reduced and you'll need to rest in an Infirmary to recover from the injury.
  • The Hero: The player can play as any group member and are encouraged to switch between characters to utilize their individual skills. However, the starting character Marcus Campbell is one of the most effective survivors, especially early on, and tends to be viewed as the main protagonist.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sgt. Tan volunteers to hand-detonate the explosive at the end so that the others can get away. Lily offered to do it herself, but Tan points out, as he has been infected, he's a dead man anyway.
  • Heroic Second Wind: When your health is depleted, the screen turn black and white and you get the prompt Press B to get up. Press it fast enough and your character will stand up in a dramatic fashion, knocking down all zombies around, with his/her health and stamina restored to maximum (though this maximum is lower than normal, which can only be recovered by resting in an infirmary), allowing you to fight back or escape. However, Feral Zombies and Juggernauts can straight up execute downed characters no matter how fast you press the B button, resulting in an instant death.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Averted in the original game, after the sun sets the world becomes almost pitch black, to the extent that nighttime exploration can become extremely frustrating. Played straight in the Year One Survival Edition remaster, which made the game world much more visible at night as an Anti-Frustration Feature.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted. Even with one of the rare silencers in-game that hasn't been jury-rigged out of a machine shop the silencers in this game generally only do what they would in the real world, slightly reducing the noise and removing the sharp *Crack* of gunfire. A .22 rifle being silenced will almost sound like the distinctive movie fwip while suppressing an AK-47 will only result in a slightly softer BANG. The trope is played completely straight in actual gameplay, however. So long as the weapon you're firing has a silencer attached, zombies will not react to it, even if it's a full sized .50 caliber sniper rifle being fired directly behind them.
  • Honor Before Reason: At the start of the game, while heading to the Church, Ed will say they need to tell Lily her dad's dead. Marcus (or Maya, depending on who you're currently playing as) will then remind Ed that he was just bitten by a zombie, so if he wants to tell them before they heal him, the trio will likely be kicked out on their asses.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Unique example, but more or less in the spirit of the trope, having your character eat a Snack item will cause their stamina to temporarily regenerate very quickly.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Only averted with material rucksacks. Your weapons are seen when you use them, and disappear otherwise.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: A subtle Meta example, so subtle that it seems unintentional. Alan Gunderson is presented by the game as a cold-hearted and ruthlessly practical survivor (he judges fellow survivors based on how useful they are with a weapon). Then many players picked up the habit of killing off useless survivors to save food and ammo, or make room for more "useful" ones.
  • The Juggernaut: Guess who.
  • Karma Meter: Come in three flavors, Influence (that are replacement for cash), Ally Trust (those who are "friends" become playable) and Neighbor Trust (items bought at their supply locker cost less and they can eventually join you when you raise their trust to full).
  • Kill It with Fire: Molotov Cocktail and Flame Fougasse are both effective against zombies. The latter makes fighting Juggernauts a lot safer.
  • Knife Nut: In YOSE, practically everyone gets a survival knife by default when completely unarmed, replacing the pathetic kicks from the original game. It is useful in a way, especially since there are new animations for when they grapple the zombie and continuously stab it to death!
  • Left Hanging: As with the third town, it feels as if certain plot points weren't fully developed before release.
    • It feels as if there was going to be a final confrontation between the player's group and the Wilkerson brothers, but ultimately nothing comes of it.
    • CLEO. Is it a civilian group, a covert branch of the military, an AI, or what? We never find out.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: When the zombies are hit by cars or explosives.
  • Made of Plasticine: Zombie heads will burst every time you use an insta-kill attack on them. Doubly so when you use a car: just being lightly touched by an open car door can potentially gib a zombie.
  • More Dakka: There are 99 guns in the game. Each one looks differently, has its own stats. Stats that were painstakingly calculated from data taken from real world experience, police and military consultation, firearm reviews and magazines. Why only 99? "99 was the number we had done the day they told me to stop adding guns.". And in the Breakdown DLC, they added a few dozen more guns. And a few dozen more in Lifeline.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Subverted. While initially Marcus, Ed and Maya have no idea what's going on and hesitate to use the term, they are quite bluntly informed by Lily about Zombie Apocalypse raging for the past two weeks.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: A combination of the plague and flesh-eating types, although they aren't the slow and limping type, they can run, tackle you, climb stairs, ladders and fences, bust through doors and windows, etc.
  • Permadeath: Yep. No character is the 'main' one, and everyone who dies stays dead. For what it's worth, should ALL of your playable characters get killed, the game just creates a new one and puts you back in action.
  • Perspective Flip: Both the main game and Breakdown occur from the perspective of the civilian survivors, while the military are couched as secondary antagonists. Lifeline occurs from the perspective of the military, whose orders are that civilian survivors, barring a few exceptions, are largely unimportant and the military's focus should be elsewhere.
  • Player Headquarters: Played straight and mandatory. The player must always have a base of operations. In fact, in the base game, this is a core gameplay mechanic. Much of the game revolves around settling and upgrading increasingly-capable headquarters structures ranging from single-family dwellings to warehouses and fairgrounds.
  • Press X to Not Die: A few occasions where you need to shake off zombies or are near death.
  • Put Their Heads Together: Characters with the Powerhouse trait can choose the skill "Double Kill" which does exactly this.
  • Random Drops: Each type of container has a list of items that can spawn in. When the player searches, a number is "rolled" and determine what item (if any) they can find. The item list is specific to the kind of container in question. For example, a Rifle case in a Military Stash has a different item list than a Rifle case in a Police Station.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: Ammo, food, construction supplies, weapons, etc.; anything and everything can run out if you're not careful (or if you stop playing for several days). You also have a limited amount of storage space for the things you find while scavenging, and bigger packs of supplies need to be carried back to a home base or broken apart for salvage. Vehicles can help alleviate some of these problems, but they too have limited space. Safehouses need to be kept supplied to be functional, as well as upgraded to fit your needs.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Nope. They cannot be suppressed, which makes them automatically inferior to pistols and rifles. Even the coolest revolvers in the game will eventually just get dumped into to the community locker or traded to other survivors for the influence points.
  • Roar Before Beating: The Feral gives a very distinctive one once he detects you. Given that this zombie is extremely quick and extremely deadly, this is definitely bad news.
  • RPG Elements: Characters have base stats, and can upgrade their abilities through use and training.
  • Save Scumming: The game only has an auto-save feature, but it certainly doesn't stop someone from backing up and reloading the save file before searching. It is much more time consuming and tedious than with the usual quick-save/quick load, though.
  • Scavenger World: Scavenging is the primary means of getting new stuff.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Some of the shipping containers in Marshall bear these kinds of names: "Namkrik", "Inivas" and "Oremor".
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the game, a city can be seen on the horizon (and is also visible from the dam in the northern part of the game). It is possible future games or DLC will be set there.
    • Proved true with the Lifeline DLC, which is set in that very city. The Trumbull survivors are going to be unhappy when they learn just how easy they had it in there.
    • Lifeline states that this is a worldwide apocalypse, so there's definitely potential for other tales.
  • Shout-Out: Many, often poking fun at other zombie-related franchises. The game wiki has its own page for these.
    • The Walking Dead': There is a potential community site in Spencer's Mill (the first town) called the Kirkman Residence as well as shipping cointainer labled 'NAMKRIK', both references to Walking Dead'' creator Robert Kirkman. There also posters in Spencer's Mill that say "Richard Grimes for Sheriff", a reference to protagonist Rick Grimes.
    • Zombieland: The achievement "Rule #1" (unlocked when a playable character's Cardio stat reaches the maximum level) is a reference to "Rule #1: Cardio", an essential skill to avoiding zombie hordes. "Gotta Enjoy the Little Things" is earned by doing a Toyota Tripwire, a move Tallahassee loved doing in the film and the quote itself being his advice to Columbus. There's also an office building near the courthouse, a travel agency featuring posters advertising four specific cities — the aliases of the four leads. The grocery store in both Marshall and Danforth is named Blaine's Grocery, after the same grocery store Tallahassee and Columbus search in the film.
    • Plants vs Zombies: A backyard in Spencer's Mill (near the church) features an arrangement of sunflowers, lawnmowers, and zombie corpses (including one with a traffic cone nearby, and another with a bucket similarly arranged).
    • Evil Dead: Outside the city of Marshall is a sign saying "Campbell's Used Autos", a reference to Bruce Campbell who portrayed Ash Williams in the Evil Dead series.
    • The achievement for self-sacrifice is called "Ya Always Were An Asshole, Gorman!", a direct quote from Aliens.
    • The Simpsons: "Everything's coming up Milhouse!"
    • Breaking Bad: If your safe house has a research room and an infirmary, you can update it to a medical lab and create "potent stims." When your mission control suggests this, she says: "...not that I intend to break bad on you, but I think it could help us."
      • Before even starting it, the description for the action is "Heisenberg would be proud".
      • A character in Breakdown is Walter. He also only wears a hazmat suit, similar to Walter White's cooking gear. Note that this hazmat suit cannot be damaged and makes you completely immune to Bloater gas and Screamer's shrieks.
    • Lily listing all the possibilities of where the zombies came from:
    Lily: Maybe it's some kind of messed up super-virus. Maybe it's radiation from outer space, or black magic or... or the Wrath of almighty God.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: The starting trio were all up in the mountains on a backpacking trip, and had the misfortune of immediately finding out that things had gone wrong when they were attacked as soon as they got back.
  • Sniper Rifle: As the game was designed as Third-Person Shooter with Xbox 360 in mind, all scoped weapons lack the actual scope when aiming. This makes sniper rifles one of the most useless weapons in the game, since there are no plus-sides of their extremely low fire rate and slow reload. Scoped pistols at least come with additional crosshair, making aiming easier, while retaining all the good properties of pistols.
  • Soft Glass: Played completely straight. If a quick escape from a building is necessary, characters can effortlessly throw themselves through a window and land outside with nary a scratch...or just when you don't want to over to the door. It does cause a lot of noise, however.
  • Spin Attack: Characters with Heavy Weapon specialization can choose this skill, which knocks down all zombies around.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Jacob Ritter and Eli Wilkerson. Both their families disapprove of their relationship (though for different reasons). Then Eli gets killed by zombies. Poor Jacob can't catch a break.
  • Stealth-Based Game: Being able to move quietly is useful for lower level characters. Searching around for stuff can make noise, too, unless you take it slowly. You'll definitely need to crouch in bushes and whatnot to hide from roaming hordes.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors:
    • Alan is still wearing his uniform and is quite vocal as being "the only law enforcement officer on duty left in Spencer's Mill". Said uniform is of Department of Fish and Wildlife ranger.
    • Sheriff Carl and all his deputies are all wearing uniforms, but in their case they are still on active duty under Judge Lawton jurisdiction.
    • Sergeant Tan, after realising the military left him and his men to rot, is pretty much a deserter in combat gear acting on his own.
  • Taking You with Me: Companion characters that have lost all health (i.e before they get ripped in half like the player character) can pull a grenade or molotov from their Hyper Space Arsenal and blow themselves up. Player-controlled characters can do this too, if they have a grenade/molotov cocktail equipped. In fact, in Breakdown mode, dying like this is required to unlock a Hero character.
  • Timed Mission: Non-story missions are generated randomly and only last a given amount of time. Failing to complete them can cause you to lose trust among your community, fellow survivors to die, cause the (limited) number of recruitable NPC's to dwindle and die or cost you valuable resources.
  • Toyota Tripwire: Door hits are instant kills in return for taking very minimal damage to your vehicle.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: In the tutorial segment on Mt. Tanner, neither Marcus nor Maya can be killed until they cross the bridge and they can only be downed at worst. That makes sense, but in the original game, the developers forgot to account your maximum health going down. If that gets depleted, you won't die, but you will not be able to get up again, softlocking the game. However, since the tutorial is relatively easy and you have Ed and Maya helping you, you'd have to go out of your way to get this to happen.
  • Universal Ammunition: Due to memory limitation and game balancing, many types of ammo of similar calibers in real life are grouped into one. For example, the 7.62mm round in the game represents many different calibers such as .30-06, .300 Win Mag, 7.62x39mm and .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO. This is pointed out in the description for the 7.62mm and 5.56mm, noting that they represent "caliber families". And also due to said limitations, any instance where the weapon's real-life counterpart is chambered for a round that falls outside of any of the caliber families (eg. 10mm Auto), the weapon is rechambered for a round that falls into a family. For example, the Glock 20 pistol, which is chambered for the afromentioned 10mm Auto round in reality, has its in-game counterpart rechambered for .45 caliber, as the devs simply couldn't add any more ammo types with the limitations in place.
  • Updated Re-release: Year One Survival Edition, released on April 28th 2015 is a remaster of the original base game. Updates include: better graphics support for PC and Xbox One consoles; Breakdown and Lifeline DLC; new guns and underbarrel grenade launchers (DLC weapons included in base story); knives replacing unarmed combat for all survivors and a new set of "supply drop" missions in the main campaign.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: You can rescue survivors and integrate them into your community, build trust with other groups, and in general prove that you've retained your humanity even when most everyone else is no longer human.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: On the other hand, as noted in Jerkass Has a Point, players can be ruthlessly pragmatic, killing off survivors that won't aid their community.
  • Video Game Delegation Penalty: Sending an ally to loot a place can cause this ally to be lost and have to be rescued.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Want to clear a house and scavenge for supplies? Clear a zombie infestation? Check out a rumor of survivors? Advance the main story? It's all good. However, given many activities are on a timer, there's a distinct disadvantage to carelessly goofing about and ignoring every mission request.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Feral zombie is one of the deadliest individual zombies in the game. It outruns survivors and can kill a player in seconds with a single Deadly Lunge... That is until you roll into one as it attempts to pounce you. It is then knocked prone and vulnerable to a finishing move.
  • Zerg Rush: A favored tactic of the zombies, of course. Zombie hordes use this as a mechanic, being a cluster of zombies (at least eight) that travel as a pack.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Very heavily implied. The extent is unclear, but Trumbull Valley is completely overrun.
    • If the game's codename Class3 is anything to go by, then that's probably the extent of the apocalypse. The planned MMO is codenamed Class4.
      • Could be a reference to The Zombie Survival Guide. Class 3 outbreaks involve thousands of zombies across a state or region... Class 4 involve millions over a continent or planet.
  • Zombie Gait: Depends on the zombie. The weaker ones plod along and can be kept at bay just by walking. Tougher ones can sprint nearly as fast as a player character, and some (usually members of a horde) can outrun the player even at full sprint.
  • Zombie Infectee: Done non-conventionally. Zombie bites are survivable if treated soon enough, but if left untreated they do eventually result in death and reanimation (although it's not specified the extent to which the zombies are a specific disease, versus simply causing non-supernatural fatal infections due to being rotting corpses.)

     Breakdown DLC Tropes 
  • Endless Game: Where your survivors must locate and fix an RV in each level to escape the town (and reach a new level that looks exactly the same, but with resources refreshed and difficulty increased).
  • Joke Character: Pastol William Mulroney, who is shot by Alan in story mode after getting sick, is the easiest to unlock Hero. He's also a total pushover with terrible trait that makes him not even worth rescuing, not to mention dragging to higher levels.
  • New Game+: The DLC Breakdown mode, in a sense. There is no longer a storyline, only the player's community trying to survive for as long as possible. The player must locate and RV somewhere and repair it. After that, the player can choose 6 characters to advance to the next level, where they keep their entire equipment, the entire map resets, all containers become lootable again, the zombies become more dangerous and vehicles gets fewer.
  • Promoted to Playable: Most, if not all of the {NPC}s from the main story can become playable, mostly gained through certain achievements.

     Lifeline DLC Tropes 
  • Actionized DLC: With the protagonists as military, it takes the concept of More Dakka Up to Eleven. Compared to the main game where ammo is scare and guns were uncommon at best. In Lifeline, your home locker at the beginning has access to small armory and enough ammo and explosives to kill everything within the city limits thrice over. Weapons are much more commonly found in loot and with the introduction of supply drops, you'll soon find yourself absolutely swimming in dakka. Aside from firearms, the radio now gives the players access to various forms of artillery strikes and drone support.
  • All for Nothing: Greyhound One's mission to rescue people who can hopefully find a cure to the zombie plague turns out to be for nothing. State of Decay 2 shows they never found a cure and the country collapsed between games.
  • Apocalypse How: You get reports from throughout the Americas from as far afield as Toronto and Caracas and a Hawai'ian squad member comments that all contact with the islands has been lost. And if the other updates received from HQ is any indication, the entire world is in a really bad shape.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Dr. Thomas Horn offs himself first canonically, on the assumption that being bit means death and reanimation.
  • Death from Above: Comes in various artillery and Attack Drone flavors. At the beginning, you have access all of them. Eventually the off-screen artillery team is lost to the zombie horde, but their abilities can be regained by occupying the field assets as outposts.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Serves as one to the typical Armies Are Evil perspective in zombie stories. In Lifeline, from the Danforth survivors perspective, the Army is cowardly, cruel, and unhelpful. However from the view of the player, who controls the Army, they're simply having to deal with The Needs of the Many. Even the cruelest action of the DLC detonating the nuke, is done with the best of intentions for the rest of the country. Likewise, the various Army soldiers aren't portrayed in the usual hivemind fashion. Some want to save everyone, some want to save those that they can, some don't care about the civilians, and most just want to get out alive.
    • Sasquatch's hunts serve to discuss and deconstruct the idea of special zombies.
  • Downer Ending: You can choose to let Sasquatch complete his mission, which is to set off a nuclear bomb in Danforth, killing the zombies — and any civilians who remain. This is doubly sad when you take into account the survivors from the main game were heading into Danforth.... presumably just before this happens. So they made it only to die.
  • For Want of a Nail: The first VIP inadvertently sets Greyhound One's long, dangerous mission to secure other HVTs around Danforth after he blows his owns brains out on the assumption of being a Zombie Infectee.
  • Nuke 'em: The conclusion if Sgt Eldridge's sidequests are completed.
  • Just Before the End: It's implied this is the direction in which the United States is heading. There is still a President out there somewhere and the Army is still, barely, operating, but the situation is deteriorating fast. The government is so desperate to stop the outbreak they've apparently authorized the use of nukes on infested cities.
  • Mission Control: Greyhound One keeps in contact with surviving military leaders over the radio. The first is Colonel Peel, codenamed Doghouse Actual. After a while they lose contact with him and have to contact his superiors, codenamed Highroad Actual.
  • Multiple Endings: Unlike the main story, the fate of Danforth rests in your hands. The ending is usually a combination of several decisions made and influenced with the presence of certain characters, but mainly result in whether Danforth receives thermonuclear nuclear annihilation or not. Some of the major choices include:
    • Whether the main mission is completed or screwed up (if you let too many {VIP}s die).
    • Rejecting all civilian evacuations or rescuing enough to bring Vienna Cho to the FOB.
    • Assisting Sgt. Eldridge in his sidequests or if he dies during them.
    • Completing Sgt. Eldridge's research and then decide to let him nuke Danforth or helping Vienna Cho (if alive and present to) sabotage the signal to the primer.
  • Private Military Contractors: A fictional example named, 'Red Talon Executive Security'. Presumably they were under contract from the US Military to assist with evacuation efforts within Danforth. Their services can still be called upon should the player re-capture their abandoned facilities, providing sniper support and sending ground troops to your position (replacing Mickey Wilkerson and Sheriff Carl's radio support options in the original story).
  • Synthetic Plague: It's heavily implied that the zombie plague is not a naturally occurring event. During his various hunts Sasquatch points out that the various special zombies seem to be designed to function in a certain manner and that many of their abilities, such as the Juggernauts massive amounts of new muscle, defy the known laws of biology.
  • The Siege: A key gameplay element in Lifeline. Every half hour, your base comes under attack from dozens and dozens of zombies in two waves. Everybody in base, soldiers and civilians alike, must repel this attack. Worse, each of these attacks are stronger than the last ones, and includes many more special zombies. It can get out of hand very fast.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: In Lifeline, the game gets in an unwinnable state if Sasquatch dies while doing his sample-hunting missions. Worse still, this is probable given the fact he's a weak NPC and his approach to battle is anything but elegant.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite their escape into Danforth, the Trumbull Valley survivors are not seen nor encountered by Greyhound. No mentioned of them has been made, but by the look of things, it isn't good no matter what kind of ending is achieved....
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Kicks off the main plot of Lifeline's campaign. Dr. Horn blows out his own brains after being bitten, assuming that he's become a Zombie Infectee. However, the main game establishes that, unlike most zombie fiction, being bitten isn't necessarily a death sentence provided you receive competent medical care. And this guy was supposed to be the world's greatest expert on the virus. One of your squadmates even lampshades this after several missions.