In Loving Memory…
It was beyond dark the night Dwight died. We hadn’t known him very long, but losing a member of our small community took its toll. He was part of a different group of survivors when we convinced him to join us. We decided…I decided…to recruit Dwight. Not because of an overwhelmingly valuable skill set, but because he was an above average cook. It may sound petty, even insulting in the wake of his demise, but a good home cooked meal goes a long way once the world ends. Unfortunately, he never got to cook us that meal.
Since Dwight was the newest member of the group, he decided to earn his stripes by doing some supply runs. We gave him anything he needed. Weapons…meds…even one of our vehicles. The general rule of thumb in our community is: whatever you do, don’t go out at night alone. This is a rule that’s broken quite frequently by the more skilled, senior members of our team and I guess Dwight took it as more of a suggestion than a rule. He waited until nightfall, took one of our trucks parked down by the road and ventured to our medical outpost to the south of our home base.
Things were going smoothly at first. Sure, Dwight had to decapitate a number of dead heads en route but that’s par for the course in the zombie apocalypse. He radioed in to let us know he had found some useful things while raiding a group of office buildings just past the outpost and that he was going to scout ahead before heading home. There’s a billboard a couple hundred feet from the offices and from the top you have a good view of the mid-east valley. Our intrepid chef mapped out everything he could see for a quarter mile before calling it quits. That’s when tragedy struck.
We forget to tell Dwight our second rule. Not intentionally, it’s just the kind of thing that’s easy to overlook. Rule #2: take extra precaution around ladders. You see, when the world went to shit and our little band of survivors managed to get out of the city, we took some of the little things for granted. Who could have foreseen ladders being our biggest threat in zombieland? Several members of our group had been snakebitten by the ladder demon, but up until Dwight…everyone had lived.
On the way down from his perch on the billboard, Dwight went to descend the red iron ladder and airballed. The fall didn’t kill him, but the 20-foot drop broke his arm, severely injured his leg and crippled his movement. Flesh eaters began to gather when they heard his screams of agony. Thankfully, he had good aim and was able to one-shot several Zs…buying himself enough time and space to get back to the truck he’d already loaded with supplies. The sun was beginning to peek out over the western horizon and it appeared as though Dwight was going to be okay. That’s when he heard the sound of a Feral in the distance.
You usually hear them before you see them. A cacophonous bark, similar to that of a velociraptor and damn near as fast as one too. They’ve demonstrated the ability to dodge bullets with relative ease and you can forget about outrunning one of them. A human has at least one physical advantage against the rest of the dead, but not in this matchup. Of all the freaks (Juggernauts, Bloaters and Screamers being the others), Ferals are my least favorite. If you find yourself on foot against one of those things, you’d better be a damn good shot or you’re fucked.
Dwight should have just left it alone. He had already done enough. More than he should have, in fact. As soon as he made the decision to engage, he had already lost. Throwing the car into reverse and slamming on the gas, Dwight attempted to run the fucker over, but it was far too quick. These utility trucks aren’t known for their agility either and in the time it took to change directions and punch the gas, the damn Feral had managed to jump onto the truck. In a matter of moments it had taken the driver side door completely off and tossed Dwight from the moving vehicle like a dirty garment being thrown into the hamper.
Once the fight hit the ground, others Zeds began to join in on the fun. Dwight tried to fight back, but the Feral ragdolled him repeatedly. Any chance he got to fire off a few shots was met with bloody, grabbing hands from the flanks and a cloud of dust where the Feral used to be. He struggled to his feet and managed to down enough painkillers to get him moving. He tried to run, but the fall from that ladder was biting at him, just as much as any of those undead bastards. Our friend somehow got back to the truck and fired up the engine in one last desperate attempt to flee, but the lack of a driver side door didn’t do him any favors. A myriad of corpse hands yanked him from the vehicle once again and the Feral pounced, beating Dwight with the ferocious technique of a chimpanzee. Hammer fists, face ripping and groin tearing. In one final swing of desperation, he bashed it in the face with a tire iron and limped away…a defeated man who wasn’t ready to die. The Feral tackled him from behind, broke his back and the walkers quickly joined in on the feast.
I would like to believe it was quick and painless for him, but clearly that wasn’t the case. It would have been better had he just died from the fall off the billboard. Instead he died a slow and miserable death, but he went out fighting…fighting against the dying of the light. When he didn’t make it home at sunrise, we sent a search party to find Dwight. There wasn’t much left when we got there…an arm…a leg…a ravaged torso. We picked up his gear, loaded the truck, took a moment to mourn a man we hardly knew and headed home. He didn’t die in vain, reminding us of some very valuable lessons.
Rule #1: Don’t go out alone at night. Rule #2: Watch out for those ladders.
Occasionally I play videogames. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’m a “gamer” though. That’s a title reserved for a class of player which I am certainly not. However, when a game comes around that scratches that itch, I have a tendency to go all in. State of Decay 2 is that kind of game for me. A unique blend of openworld sandbox and resource management set in the zombie apocalypse.
I played the original to death five years ago, but after a certain point the challenge was gone. The sequel was in development for years, and delayed more than once, while Undead Labs tried to iron out the demand and mechanics for a fun and functional multiplayer experience. Unfortunately, that aspect of the game doesn’t really add much to the experience beyond playing with friends. It’s a nice addition at times, but the meat of the game is still the single player experience. It’s really about your decision making and skills as a leader. No amount of multiplayer action can replace that. This time around it’s even more robust and challenging than before. Resources are far more scarce, the differences in home base options are more drastic and there’s more zombies…way more. Safe-zone traps are gone, and fellow survivors aren’t guaranteed to be friendly. Figure Grand Theft Auto meets The Walking Dead…the good TWD, not these new seasons that continue to disappoint.
What makes SOD interesting as a franchise is the blending of styles paired with a perma-death system. If you die…that’s it. As the player, you run a community and have the ability to control the members of it. Those individuals have traits and upgradable skills tree, but they each can die. This design creates a level of importance in the life of each character. As an individual community member, your value increases as your skill set grows. Losing a character that’s evolved into a key member, maybe even leader, of your community is a stiff blow to the chest that can be the downfall of your entire civilization.
So far we’ve survived 15 days. I decided to move us all to an old distillery where we have running water and a burgeoning whiskey business. The garden is coming along nicely while the workshop and sniper tower come in handy. Morale is still hard to come by…so is food. We’re borderline starving more than half the time and my people are exhausted from sleep deprivation. We need spare parts and building materials if we want to upgrade. Keeping the neighbors happy builds goodwill so we can’t ignore them completely. The infirmary is in desperate need of supplies and it would be nice to have some electricity, but we’re already making a ton of noise as is. Zombies are constantly hanging around the outer perimeter, ready to come at us in waves and I haven’t even called in my pre-order bonuses yet. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Wish us luck!