Rise of the Tomb Raider:A quick guide.

Edited version: 28-2-2016: cleaned up some text, added more.

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Index

  • Intro
  • Flow of the game
  • Do resources respawn?
  • Can I go back to an area I already visited before to explore more?
  • Are there enough Byzantine coins in the game?
  • Do I need to buy equipment?
  • Do you have any thoughts on the weapons?
  • How about skills?
  • Your thoughts on equipment?
  • Things to watch out for while underway
  • You thoughts on gear?
  • Are optional tombs profitable?
  • Pointers on combat and enemies
  • Hunting
  • Places to stock up
  • Extra fun

 

 

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Intro
Rise of the Tomb raider is the second installment of the reboot of the Lara Croft series. It is a neat game that impresses by visuals and most of all, by Lara Croft herself. When I played Rise of the Tomb Raider I had questions and many of these  were answered on the internet when I went looking for them(and some where not), but often I had to sit through lengthy YouTube movies or walk-troughs before I got the answer I was looking for. Some of these questions were so basic that I was amazed that answers were so hard to find. But perhaps this is just my ineptitude.
So I figured I make a kind of quick guide, say a kind of Q&A in which I answer my own questions and hope that this will help you to answer yours.

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Before I start I need to tell you some things, such as that this post is  aimed at the (experienced) casual player. The casual player is someone who will play through the main story line, with some digressions, can handle a weapon, but isn’t a pro( a pro is someone who can pull off head shots while jumping about) , and  will not aim at a 100% completion of the game, although he or she might.  The casual player isn’t someone who will power build, but might welcome some pointers on what to do and not to do and who will probably play the game on a standard level, in this game called tomb raider.
Also I will tell you that I think this game is well done. It smartly  combines a well told story with with an open world to explore. It makes possible to follow your own way, either by following the main story only or by exploring the world. How well this is done is for instance by the fact that almost all dungeons are optional. Yet each come with a reward. A reward not necessary for the main story line, but something that makes things easier, specifically for exploring the world.
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Perhaps the greatest aspect of this game is Lara herself. The animations are so well done that is feels like a movie. And the game smartly ties her in with a few persons, like Jonah, Ana, Sofia and Jacob, thus making her more convincing.

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Lara and her friend Jonah,

I also would have applaud the makers of the game for listening to the players by elimination all Quick Time Events. Yes, they got rid of these pains: the ones where you have to smash an arbitrary set of buttons.  Well.. almost. Two are still in there. One early into the game and another at the end. I can hear them laughing. And it is forgiven because it is funny.

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Flow of the game
The game changes during progression. So when you return to an area you will notice it has changed. An example is the first play area, the Siberian wilderness, which will change overtime as day turns into night and the otherwise peaceful area gets more dangerous because after a while enemies will make an appearance.

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Do resources respawn?
Yes they do, but this is dependent on the progress of the game. Initially the respawn is very slow and you will feel the lack of resources as make your first few arrows and first few kills. Which is a good thing as it make the tension all the greater the rewards all the bigger. When the game progresses you will find that eventually that you have more than enough resources to do most of the things and when you lack them, you can always get more.

Can I go back to an area I already visited before to explore more?
All areas that are important will remain accessible throughout the game. In fact this is almost required as some places will only become available after you have gotten special gear such as the explosive arrows and some things  you can only  get after you read a monolith, which is dependent on your language skill, or when you find a map or a satchel.  In other words: don’t worry about having skipped something, you can always return later.

Are there enough Byzantine coins in the game?
Byzantine coins are used to buy equipment at the supply shack. There are more than enough coins in the game to buy everything. I ended with 138 coins more than I needed after I had bought everything in the shack. However, these coins have to be found and to find all the coins you have to explore the world far and wide and areas, hence coin stacks, open up only gradually during the game.
I did a second run through the game on the hardest mode survivor, skipping a lot of areas and only picking coins that were withing easy reach. It allowed me to buy the grenade launcher (120 coins) and some the pistol silencer(25). I had about 80 spare after that. So you follow only the main story line, be prepared to have far less. But read on for more advise about equipment.

Do I need to buy equipment?
The answer is no. None of the equipment you can buy at the supply shack is essential for the game although it makes life easier. The more you buy, the easier things get, but only marginally so for each piece of equipment, so don’t expect anything shocking. In fact buying things partly means you to get some things earlier in the game. An example is the shotgun. I ended the game with the full auto shotgun that I found, because I preferred that one above the one I bought. The most important reason was rate of fire and reload time.
Here are my observations:

Laser Sight
A laser sight is pretty superfluous if you are a decent shot as you already get a reticle. There is no sniper sight in the game. People seem to recommend this, I don’t see why.

Pistol silencer
I find the pistol class the weakest in the game, especially on survivor mode, and rarely use one. So why waste money buying a silencer for it? You bow is silent and a much a better weapon. And for speedy damage the silence assault rifle or smg works much better.

Combat Shotgun
Unless you want a shotgun early into the game the combat gun seems mostly pointless at isn’t much of an improvement on the full auto shotgun. Also the basic pump action shotgun, which is story given, is a decent weapon when you upgrade it.

Assault Rifle
This is a slightly improved version on the SMG. Again it is only a slight improvement.

Grenade Launcher
I prefer this one as it allows your rifle to lob grenades. While your bow will be able to do the same eventually, this is in addition too it. You get it earlier in the game and this will help you with a certain threat in the story line. Overal I find grenades in this game under powered. Lobbing one among a group doesn’t what you expected. You need to actually target an enemy and then it will take usually only that one out. Exploding barrels don’t require a grenade.

The refinement tool
This one is needed to unlock 4th level upgrades for all your weapons. While that makes it a worthwhile thing to buy, it is also the most expensive in the game. The upgrades aren’t very spectacular and require a lot of salvaging and hunting to upgrade the things so it has its drawbacks. Probably for someone who just wants to follow the main story this might be too expensive and too much salvaging effort

Combat gear: nothing useful here. It just looks cool.

My views is that the only worthwhile buys in the game are the grenade launcher and the refinement tool unless you are a shotgun buff. If you like shotguns then buy it so you don’t have to wait until you get one later.

Do you have any thoughts on the weapons?

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The game has five weapon types. Bows, pistols,rifles, shotguns and the climbing-axe..
Five weapons are a given as part of the story-line. The climbing-axe you get from the start and is the only weapon of its type. The makehift longbow you get when the game really starts in the Siberian Wilderness and will be replaced by the recurve bow.  The revolver, the assault rifle and the pump-action shotgun you get as part of the storyline. The other weapons you need to find/
This finding is done by finding strong boxes that will give you 1 out of 4 parts of a specific gun. I have seen sites telling you where to get what part, but when I redid the game, I found that this didn’t fit. Either the parts are more or less random or dependent on your difficulty setting. As an example: on tomb-raider level I managed to get the bolt rifle early into the game while in survivor mode I got the required part much later into the game.

Bow
My experience is that the bow is the one that gets the most benefits in the game and gives you the most varied options, from a fast weak shooter to a very powerful slow one. Eventually you can use it to launch fire arrows, explosive arrows and poison cloud arrows and even those can be upgraded.  The disadvantages of the bow are that you need to draw it, that the arrow needs to travel the distance and that is doesn’t have upclose stopping power. This sounds like it’s the worst of the weapons, but it isn’t. In fact it is probably one of the best weapons in the game and I wager you can win most battles with it.

It just depends on how you use it. You find different types of bows during the game.Specifically I found the poison cloud to be the most deadly in the game. When you aim it right and have the cloud upgrade you can take out groups of enemies in one go and they count as stealthy so they give extra points.

My favorite bow is the compound bow, which does a lot of damage per shot, but at a low rate of fire. I like my arrows to score hard when they hit.

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Pistol
Personally I found the pistol type the most useless and I used it mostly as a stopgap until I got a decent rifle. You might consider to equip it with a silencer that can be bought from the supply shack for a small amount to extend its usefulness. As remarked above, why spent money to silence a weapon that you rarely use? After I got a decent rifle I hardly used it, especially after you get a silencer for the rifle.

Rifle
The rifle is a category that holds the SMG, a  weapon that compensates weak damage with a high rate of fire, the Assault Rifle,  more damage, less rate of fire, which you get as part of the story line. I  prefer the Assault Gun to the SMG because it deals out more damage at a lower rate of fire, thus saving you bullets. The bolt action rifle is in a class of it’s own, coupled with the silencer it is an awesome weapon to kill animals and small groups of enemies, but is too slow in full scale battles and if you like single shotting people you might as well use the bow.

Shotgun
Shotguns are awesome because nothing satisfies more than seeing the charge of a fully armored warrior stopped in his tracks by a shotgun blow or two. It is an mightily effective weapon up to about 10 meter(30 feet).  It couples a lot of damage in a short amount of time, but only in close quarters. Hence it is the weapon of choice for any enemy trying to close combat you. It’s main drawback is the lack of enough shells to win every battle with it.

If you don’t want to spend time and resources on upgrading all the weapons then you probably need to concentrate on two, one if which is the bow and the other I would suggest to be either a rifle, which you then probably need to buy the grenade launcher for, or the shotgun, in which case you might consider buying it early on.

My preferred weapon on the hardest level is combining a bow with a shotgun. The bow for distant work and taking out groups of enemies with poison cloud and the shotgun for anyone trying to come close.

Ice-axe
The ice axe is an awesome weapon if you upgrade it and sink points in close combat. Lara can eventually kill even fully armored enemies with just the axe, if you know how to counter and hit at the right time. The disadvantage of the ice axe is that it comes with a finisher animation that might look cool but isn’t really handy when fighting multiple enemies.

How about skills?

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Lara has no less than 54 skills to choose from. That sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Actually almost all skills only marginally improve her performance. This is well considered as no skill will suddenly make her superhuman, but a series of successive skills will.  There are many opinions about skills on the internet, but for a normal person most of the skills will not be very useful.
Also, even with a casual attitude you will be able get at least half of all the available skills so don’t worry about it.
Some skill you certainly should  consider to take are:
Avid Learner: gets you extra experience when reading things.
Lightfoot: falling distances are greatly increased: saves the annoyance of reloading.
Arrow Retrieval: get arrows back from you victims.
Naturalist: allows you get more natural resources.
Survivalist: even more important than Naturalist as non natural resources are harder to find.
Thick-Skinned & Heart of Stone & Iron Hide makes you less vulnerable to gunfire, fire, explosions and melee attacks. Some people do not see the point of this, but it helps when you are being swarmed by enemies.
Breath Control & Nerves of Steel: allows you to have a more steady aim with the bow.
Crafting Mastery: allows for larger ammo and resource pouches and increases ammo created.
Death Cloud Arrows: increases the poison cloud effect. A certain way to wipe out large groups of enemies and animals. Also buy the upgrade:
Grenadier: when you buy the grenade launcher, you have to get this one too otherwise you have to find grenades.
Scavenger: this isn’t of much use on normal level, but on survivor level might be.

Dubious skills(in my opinion)
Any skill enhancing close combat such as dodge counter, deadly force and dodge kill.You don’t want the waste points on this unless you are going for close combat or have points to burn. These are pro skills, who can use them effectively because you need to be a pro to pull these dodge counters off in a full scale battle.
Incidendary Bombs & Demolitions Expert. This sounds really cool until you realize that you can create bombs from the start without it and this skill just adds to it to allow you to make bombs from fuel cans and phones and gain extra expertise when you use them to kill people. If you are lucky you might even do it once a battle. Far better is using the phone to toss it someplace which will attract all enemy soldiers and the poison cloud them. This counts as a stealth attack and earns you the same amount of experience without buying the skill and spending precious resources. Even more: the fuel can will explode anyway when you shoot it.
Animal Instincts and Master of the Land: unless you really need to serious help to find wildlife to hunt you really don’t need this one. Mostly you will know where they are, even if you need to die for it once:P
Hollow Points and Dragonfire shells.
Hollow points are a special bullet that can be added to the pistol. I used them a few times, but didn’t find them worth the trouble.

Errata:

Cluster bomb arrows
An upgrade of your explosive arrows that is as underwhelming as the explosive arrows. It looks and sounds impressive and  seems ideal for crowd control but doesn’t seem to do anything at all but to the one you aim the arrow at. Most of the time the addition explosions miss. The poison cloud arrow is much better and even the napalm arrows make your enemies flap about this forgetting to fire at you.
Update: later in the game they do get effective just like the dragonshell shells.

Dragonfire shells Originally I found that these didn’t improve my shotgun as it looked like armored enemies seemed not to stagger when shot by these but did with the normal shells. However on a second play through later in the game, they apparently do. So I revised my review accordingly. It might be that enemies crouching behing their shield don’t stagger at all.

Your thoughts on equipment?

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Equipment can be very helpful and you need to spend resources on. I personally priotorize the satchel and the rucksack as it allows you to carry more resources which you will need for upgrades and creating ammo, bombs and the like.  A small and large oil sack might also be interesting.

Things to watch out for while underway
Danger!
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Whenever Lara is closing with hostiles, her stance changes  to a crouch and the music changes to an alarming drum. You know that enemies are near. Unfortunately for the more experienced player who doesn’t need or want those warning signs. It can’t be switched off.

Glow on the ground usually indicates a survival cache. Get it.

Your thoughts on gear?
During the game you collect a lot of  clothes. Almost all are just for changing Lara’s looks. However tow I deem to be special, which is the Sacra Umbra and the Siberian Ranger. These outfit increases your special ammo types for all weapons dramatically. The poison cloud arrows go from 3 to 7. Fire arrows go from 8 to 17. Grenade arrows go from 5 to 14. And so on.
The Sacra Umbra is a reward for finishing all 9 optional tombs, and this not only awards you all the extra skills that you get from these tombs, but also an extra amount of byzantine coins and the sacra umbra. But then: you need to finish all 9 tombs, talk to the lady below in the geothermal valley and cash it in with here.
I don’t know where I got the Siberian Ranger. When I found out I post it here.

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Gold can buy you equipment

Are optional tombs profitable?

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Optional tombs give special skill: nothing superpower full, but handy at times.

Almost all of the optional tombs give you a skill as reward. None of these skills are earth shattering, but they might change your game play a little bit for the better. Some are easy to solve, others are harder. All optional tombs give you additional byzantine coins when you cash them in with the lady at the geothermal valley. If you cash them all in you get a great outfit: the sacra umbra.

Pointers on combat and enemies
Lara will only encounter mundane enemies such as humans and animals. Early in the game humans are unarmored, as the game progresses people get to be more armored which prevents especially the bow from instant killing enemies with head shots as they start wearing helmets.  Later on you run in full armored enemies which makes it more work to kill them, but then you also get better arrows to compensate.
All enemies, except one type, can be instantly killed with poison cloud arrows, so stock up on that. The only exception is a guy who wears a fully armored suit that has it’s own oxygen supply apparently. He also comes equipped with a flamethrower. And is impervious to arrows and bullets. Just so you know.

Combat
Enemies almost all come in groups running from 3 to  6 individuals. In special cases it might be even more. Some battles feed more enemies into it as you kill them to keep the pressure on.
Enemies tactics follow a certain pattern. There are three types. There are the close combatants who will close with you.  They might even shoot at you  but their purpose is to kill you up close and personal. The second type is the one who hangs in the back and fires at you. Usually the first and the second are mixed.
The third type resembles type 2, but he doesn’t hang back but instead tries to flank you.
This is no sitting behind cover and taking out enemies game. From the start the enemy will throw grenades and molotov cocktails at you, flank you and send in close assaulter. It is also not much of a stealth game in my opinion as a lot of encounters shove you right in. Perhaps an expert at sneaking can do it stealthy, I found it isn’t easy or actually virtually impossible at times.

Hunting
You hunt animals for their skin to upgrade your  equipment and your weapons or just to gain experience or complete missions and challenges. Dear, razorbacks and the like will run away the moment they spot you and are often hard to find once they do.
Wolves, bears and tigers will attack you the moment you fire at them and non of them can be taken out with one shot(except for wolves later in the game). They close with you very fast and especially wolves are dangerous as they come in packs.
Wolves do not attack you directly but flank you.
A bear barrels into you and swipes at you with its paws. I wonder if anyone has every been able to kill it using the ice-axe.

Places to hunt
The Siberian Wilderness will have 1 to 3 dear often when you return. If you return too fast there might be non.  The bear in the cave will re-spawn after a time and is probably the easiest bear to kill in the game, which doesn’t say a lot as  even this one is extremely dangerous. The seem to be highly resistant to bullets as I tried to kill one with an assault gun and it took a lot of bullets. Thus poison cloud it and fire arrows at it.
Lucky you can get bear hides just by finding survival caches.There are also bunnies.. if you like to kill them.
The Soviet Installation has two places where wolves hang out. Both to either side of the saw mill in the middle. There is a kind of plain next to it with dear remains scattered about where often three wolves linger. You can poison cloud them from the saw mill. And climb up if you miss and they attack you. If you kill one wolf they also might bolt for a cave.
The other group of wolves are always two and they are in front of a cave across a bridge from the saw mill. When you shoot one, the other one runs away. If you approach they might attack you or run. Poison cloud might be an option.
Geothermal valley has a few places that might be profitable. One is near the sea where razorbacks abide. They come in groups of three or even four. The won’t attack you if you shoot at them, which I found interesting as I thought that a razorback might charge you. There is a tiger in one edge of the map. When it is there it is up in a tree and you can shoot at it from the house near the river.. but it will come at you as even shooting with a gun won’t kill it. If you retreat into the house it will run away.

Places to stock up
Some places re spawn resources at times. For ammunition I either visit the gulag once it is open. Usually there is a group of soldiers surrounded by ammo caches.  The soldiers themselves give you addition resource to improve your equipment with. Another place is the Siberian Wilderness which is also a good hunting place. The Siberian Wilderness has usually 4 soldiers later in the game which re spawn most of the time.
I tried the remnant bazaar at times, but I found it yielded nothing as often as it did.

Extra fun

One of the charming aspects of the game is that it isn’t just about shooting stuff, but one of the fun part is the collection of items. Each ‘relic’  or document gives you some extra experience points, I just collected them because I found the stories behind them nice.
So I bore you with some fun examples in another post.

 

 

 

More to follow…

 

 

 

 

The worst moment in Dragon Age Inquisition

I am planning to write a series of posts on Dragon Age Inquisition, a game I played for over 130 hours. I like the game, but that doesn’t mean I am impressed by the story(telling). The game is an enigma to me as it has good things and bad things, both in abundance.

Probably the most remarkable thing about the game is the mediocre story(telling). And when I write that, I have to give proof of such. And so I give you my first piece of evidence: the worst moment in the game, with an explanation why I consider the following the worst moment in Dragon Age Inquisition.

Flemeth in Dragon Age I.

In Dragon Age Origins(DA I), the first game, the hero is asked by Morrigan(that is the darkhaired woman in this movie clip) to kill her mother Flemeth(the older lady in the movieclip). Morrigan explains that Flemeth is an evil witch who rears children to use their bodies to perpetuate her own life. In other words, she is a truly evil being. It is never hinted at in DA I that Morrigan has it wrong and in fact the game goes as far as suggesting that Morrigan wants to do the same  as her mother, which seems to be the reason why she asks you to kill Flemeth and then help her get her pregnant. In fact, if you do not help her in becoming pregnant she leaves your party. Which was basically a disaster to me as at that time I played the game on nightmare level and it was centered around my three magic users party. In other words I was forced in the game to support a dubious and potential evil being to retain her assistance. And I consider this a good piece of writing because it forced me to make a moral choice. If I  had done the right thing I probably should have denied her request, thus losing a magic user.

When the hero in DA I confronts Flemeth with Morrigan’s accusations the hero has but two options. Either attack Flemeth or leave her be.There is no  way to check that Morrigan is lying or has it wrong. You either attack Flemeth or not. It is up to you. In my opinion the writers at that point never considered Flemeth to be anything more than an part of the background of Morrigan and the choices you made had nothing to do with Flemeth, but with Morrigan and gave the hero an boss battle in the bargain as Flemeth turns into a dragon.

Flemeth in Dragon Age II

In Dragon Age II Flemeth appears at the start of the game for a brief span to rescue the hero, named Hawke, from the Darkspawn, explaining that she survived the killing in the first DA through some magical means.  After that Flemeth has  no role in the game except that she asks Hawke to do her a favor in return for saving Hawke’s life. However, considering how Flemeth turns out in DA II, even in the brief moments she appears, it might well be that the writers thought of making more of her. One can’t deny she has a certain interesting quality.

Flemeth in Dragon Age III

In Dragon Age Inquisition(DA III) Flemeth appears only in the below scene and her role is totally at odds to the first DA for now she seems to be the embodiment of the good Elven god of justice Mythal.
This sudden change of events makes no sense at all. It is never hinted at in DA I or II. It is not even hinted at in DA III until this scene gets inserted and it doesn’t follow from what is told before nor does it fit in the story line nor does it fit with the character of Flemeth. It is just too much awkward writing to tie up loose ends from the previous games and turn Flemeth from an evil witch who kills children into some kind of good celestial being and for all purposes even an Elven god.

Flemeth is also talking about justice and we have no clue what she is on about. We get some mystical claptrap to make all her confusing lines interesting and we end with a total nonsensical series of delivered lines.

Vital tips for playing “This war of mine” and surviving till the war ends.

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Contents
Introduction
Part one: Starting tips
Part two: mild spoilers
Part three: spoilers
Part four: big spoilers(cheating?)

 

Introduction

(1-12-2014 :Important update in the mildy spoiler section!)

“This war of mine” is a game that was released on 14 th of November 2014. It is a survival game which gives control over a group of civilians trapped in a derelict house in the war-torn city of Pogoren. It is up to you see to it that they survive the war. There are similarities with games like Dead State and State of Decay in that these two also allow you to run a group of survivors in apocalyptic settings, but the feel is different. The first two mentioned games have a very important fighting component in them and in the end your heroes eventually become very good fighters and able to deal with most of the threats, including those from the military. Not so in This war of Mine. The game is no doubt inspired by the situation of Grozny during the Chechen wars and has a very realistic feel. Everything that happens in this game probably has happened and will happen in future wars. You are vulnerable civilian and it is wise to avoid combat, not only because of the lack of (good) weapons, but also because the enemies -thugs, rebels, looters and soldiers- are usually better armed and have the numbers on their side. But avoiding combat is also important because any injury vitally impacts the survivability of the group as whole. In this game there is no instant healing and even slight wounds can cause a character’s health to deteriorate to the point that he or she gets so sick that the whole group suffers and even lose moral.
This post give some is not a review, I will make one in due time, but made to give a few vital tips to get people started. In vital I mean that the game would otherwise be a very frustrating experience. There is no manual at the time of this writing, although there are two wikis being worked upon. Thus basic knowledge is lacking and this game needs this basic knowledge.
The post give below tips which will range from minor, but essential tips, up to tips that some might consider spoilers and cheats. I marked each section,  so if you don’t want to read more than you need to get started then just read the parts you like. I will mark them as best as I can.
Note that there are also two wikis that you can consult:
http://this-war-of-mine.wikia.com/wiki/This_War_of_Mine_Wiki
http://thiswarofmine.gamepedia.com/This_War_of_Mine_Wiki

 

 

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Part one: Starting tips
Scavenge the house
(This part has changed after an update of the game after the first of December 2014)

When scavenging the house, try to scavenge what you need. This is a bit of a trick and requires you to consult the creation manuals. Therefore it is of vital importance to take a look at the creation guides that you can find in the wikis(See links above).

Don’t sit around but have your companions clear the house, even if it means using hands to remove dirt. Get the stuff together to make the things you need.

Make a bed or even better: make two beds
Beds are vitally important in the game. Beds will allow your companions to sleep during the day so you can have them guard or scavenge during the night. There are four states of tiredness: normal, tired, very tired and exhausted. Each state takes about 4 to 5 hours to change to a better state, so during the day you can get a character from very tired to normal provided you put the character to bed at once in the morning. I think this does not work for the night. It seems only to improve the condition one step.Beds are also good for curing and recovering from wounds. Companions that are slightly sick or slightly wounded have a good chance to recover when put into a bed. Worse health have a good chance of improving when you combine medicines and bandages with a bed.

Make a crowbar
The house provides enough materials to make a metal workshop and that allows you to make a crowbar. You need it to open the doors and cupboards in the house.

Make a radio
When you can spare the electrical parts make a radio. A radio gives vital information(it really does!) and even might raise moral.

Priority number one: food(and water)
Food(and water) are vital to the game. There are three ways to get them. You can scavenge for them, you can trade for them and you can make them yourself. Basically you want to do the latter, but until you can make them yourself you have to survive on what your scavenge. Trading is the last option to do as food is hugely expensive and should only be traded for as a last resort.It follows from above that your main strategy must be to make your own food and water. Since how to go about it is possibly a spoiler it will be listed lower down the list. You companions will get hungrier during the game and you need to have them eat. You can get away with skipping a day, which is very important at the start of the game.

Look at your character’s abilities and desires
Most characters have a special ability which could be very important. I like the combination of Bruno and Katia. Bruno is a good cook which allows him to create food and moonshine with reduced ingredients and Katia has good bargaining skills, which allows her to sell things against better prices. By using them both you can actually make a reasonable profit. Another character with a very good ability is Marin, who is a handyman and he is able to create things for the house for less. Especially when you have to make very expensive upgrades this can be a lifesaver as some components are very hard to get a hold of, such as electrical parts.Also, almost all characters have a desire, such as smoking or drinking coffee. Be aware of that so you might provide them when you have some to spare.

Avoid combat
It gets you killed.

Do good deeds
Don’t hesitate to help out other people, you raise moral and sometimes they give you something in return.

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Don’t steal
Well, maybe you like to, but stealing generally doesn’t sit well with your fellow companions, lowers moral and might make enemies.

Talk to them
When companions get depressed they are in need of a talk and therefore a chat bubble will appear above their head. Have one character of yours talk to them by selecting him or her and then pressing the other’s chat bubble. Note that this might take the better part of the day. One character has a ability that helps with this.

Be frugal with rare items
Some items are rare in the game and yet vital, such as parts and electrical parts. Especially electrical parts are very hard to get, so never sell them. Normal parts usually can be traded for. Books are also rare and you shouldn’t use them all for fuel. Books can raise moral with characters that like reading.

Put people on guard during the night if you can
One is okay. Two is better. Give them weapons. Knives seems to be enough. Guns are only effective when you have ammo.

During the night make a careful study of the locations you can visit.
When it says dangerous.. it is!

Priority number two: safety
This might be a personal choice, but I generally concentrate on boarding up and getting a reinforced door and making weapons. There might be other viable strategies.

Scavenge thoughtfully
You can only send one person to scavenge and he or she got a limited backpack. When you scavenge note that one slot of your backpack can contain a certain amount of things. To optimize your scavenging try and fill these slots as best as possible. In other words, don’t just grab the first things: collect them in groups of two(wood, books, etc), of four(materials, parts, electrical parts, etc) or ten (water, sugar, etc). Also make note of what you might need to make the next thing you plan to build and plan accordingly.

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Part two: mild spoilers

The trader
The trader comes every three days. He usually starts at day three but sometimes he starts at day two. Sometimes he might skip a day further into the game, but usually he sticks to this three day visit routine. You can use this pattern to get ready for a trade.

Raiders
It is my experience that the first day there will be never a raid on your house. Thus you can put everyone to sleep.

Hospital
There is a hospital in the game that will be available at some point. You can have your wounded and sick characters treated at the hospital for free. In general that will fix the character. It cost you a night of scavenging though.

Some items created have to be picked up
Some items that you create such as a meal, moonshine, alcohol, raw food and vegetables are left on the upgrades that you use to make them. They need to be picked up. One advantage: they can’t be stolen by raids as long as you don’t collect them.

Make or get a hatchet
Part of the furniture in your house can be turned into wood and fuel provided you have a hatchet. You can get a lot of fuel and wood that way.(Warning: pick these items up before the night, otherwise they are lost!)

Trade locations
There are some locations on the map where you can trade. Some of these places have lower prices for certain products, others sell things that are hard to get. More on this in the spoiler section.

When creating a stove.. try to go for the improved stove
It saves on resources in the long run.

Don’t waste resources on a shovel
At the start of the game every resource counts because you have to concentrate on making upgrades that provide food. A shovel is handy, but not vital, not even in locations where you need to clear debris. Clearing debris without a shovel cost around two hours, not one location has more than two debris blocking the way. Maybe when you got a working food system you can make a shovel.

Keep a cupboard in your house
(Important: this feature has been blocked since the 1st of December 2014. You no longer can stash your stuff in a cupboard in the house.)

I am not sure if this is a cheat or a spoiler, but it is so very important for the game. To avoid being robbed of your things during a raid you can maintain one cupboard in the house. As long as you don’t empty the cupboard you can put everything in there before the night begins and it won’t get stolen during a raid. I use one of the metal ones in the corner of the house as the wooden can be cut up for wood.

 

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Part three: spoilers

Warfare
During the course of the game fighting in the city will intensify and thus make some areas unavailable for a while. Usually these are not the two first area’s you start out with. Note that both the start of this period and the end will be announced on the radio.

Winter
Unless you start out in the winter you will be inflicted with winter during the game. This means two things. One: the rain water collector will no longer function and you have to make water by collecting snow and melting it on the stove. Two: you need a heater and fuel to keep warm. It is an extra burden. The start of this period and the end will be announced on the radio.

End of the war
The end of the war will be announced on the radio.

Crime wave
Sometimes a wave of crime will burden the city. It basically means an increased amount of raids during the night. Boarding up, weapons, a reinforced door and guards help, but you never get to the point that you are completely free of raids.  The start of this period and the end will be announced on the radio.

Food and water
There is one foremost priority in the game: make a self perpetuating food cycle. To do this you need to make two animal traps, at least two rain collectors and a vegetable garden. The vegetable garden is hugely expensive to make as it requires you to make a herbal garden first, then upgrade that to a vegetable garden. The vegetable garden will allow you to create four vegetables every three days, the trap creates two meat every one or two days. However you need to reinvest a vegetable into the garden to create the next four vegetable and the traps requires one meat to work again. Note that the garden also requires ten water. On average if you set this up right and cook right you can feed four persons.

Trading
Prices are set against what the trader, who visits you every three days, is asking.
The garage. Materials and shovels are dirt cheap, Katia general can fill all the slots with material bought here. Sometimes you can buy a hatchet here. Wood, parts and such are also cheaper. Weapon parts are okay. Special note: don’t use the saw-blade to open the door above the garage as it seems to trigger a bug that makes the garage owner hostile later on in to the game(to Roman foremost I think) and eventually everyone in other locations too.
The church. The church might be a hostile location depending on the scenario. If it is not, then a priest resides here and you can trade with him. Materials are cheap. The rest are standard prices.
The hotel. The hotel might be a residence for some armed thugs. They are willing to trade. Watch out where you click though as the trade icon is usually close to some of their private things. Materials, parts and wood are cheap.
Military outpost. Nothing is especially cheap here as far as I can tell. You can get weapon parts in abundance, weapons templates and weapons, so that might be the reason to buy here. Personally I avoid the place as the soldiers turn hostile at the drop of a hat.
Central square. Could be considered a place to trade because you can get almost everything. Only no cheap deals, as far as I know.
The brothel. Another place to trade. No cheap deals, nothing special. Probably only useful when in dire need.


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Part four: big spoilers(cheating?)

How long does the war last?
The war last around forty days, give and take. Pay attention to the radio,

Restarting the day
When the night passes a day will start and generate certain events like a raid. Some raids can cause serious wounds to your companions. You might want to restart the day by exiting the game session and then press continue. A new random series of events will be created.

 

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Game flow
The game starts with a few areas and then more areas open up gradually. The first lootable area will always be either one of these: abandoned cottage, shelled cottage or ruined flats. They will never be together on the map. There is no danger. Take a crowbar with you when it is a cottage. The ruined flats require sawblades, which you don’t have at the start of the game, nor can make that easily so might have to return later. The next area might be the decrepit squat of shelled school. If the shelled school appears next to the decrepit squat it will be filled with armed thugs. The supermarket will usually open up soon too.
You will get a winter somewhere in the third week and this last perhaps one or two weeks.
During that time fighting will make areas unavailable thus you must be ready before that happens. You need to set up a food cycle, stack a lot of water and fuel. The water you make by using a rain collector, and that requires five hours for four parts of water. Since it is almost undoable to do it twice a day, you need at least two, three is better. You also need a lot of materials to make water filters.
If you have Katia and Bruno you might want to make one or two moonshine stills. Bruno makes moonshine with less ingredients and Katia sells it against better prices.

Getting on the good side of people
During the game some people will come by and ask for help or resources. Also some places ask for specific donations. Here is what I found.
Hospital:Bringing medicines, bandages and such to the hospital raises moral, especially for the one that brings it. This is a one time bonus, I think. Curiously enough, this did not affect Emilia.
Decrepit Squat:Bringing raw food to the squatter in the decepit squat gets you a moonshine and a valuable and raises moral. You also help the guy to survive.
Garage: Bringing bandages or moonshine to the garage owner raises moral. He also gives you a lot for them.
Sniper Junction: Take a crowbar with you as there will be a guy wounded by the sniper and he asks you to help him. You need the crowbar to open a door. He gives you a few valuables(I got 2 or 3). Keep track of the time though as he is wounded and he takes a long time to get home and give you the valuables.
The supermarket: depending on the scenario you might run into the soldier that is about to rape a girl. I have had a hard time killing him, until I got boris using a crowbar on him, which wasted the scumbag in three blows without a wound to boris. So bring a crowbar with you. You need one even if the soldier isn’t there as there are some locked cupboards with valuables.

Setting up the food cycle(an example)
During night scavenge for materials mostly, but keep your food supply in mind(water and food) also pick up valuables for selling to the trader. Do not forget you need wood.
Day one
Make a metal workshop, make a crowbar, make a bed. If katia and bruno: make a moonshine still. Loot the cottage. Maybe get some raw food and vegetables. You need them for day three. If enough time left and resources.: make moonshine. Make a second bed.

Day two
You might make a stove for day three. If enough materials make an improved stove or upgrade the workshop to an improved workshop. Make moonshine with Bruno, if possible: two moonshine. If  the trader arrives on this day: trade for parts if possible. Materials next. Fuel is a also a good option. Usually you get raided the second night, so prepare.

Day three
Make an improved stove if you did not do so the day before.. Make food for at least two of your companions. Make moonshine. If the trader arrives: trade for parts or materials or fuel. Depending on parts either make a rainwater collector. If enough parts: make trap for small animals.

Day four
If you have enough parts try to make either another rainwater collector or make another trap(requires 10). Priority is on the traps.

Day five and onward

Collect materials, wood, parts and electrical parts for making a vegetable garden. This requires 120 materials, 60 wood, 10 parts, 13 electrical parts(advanced workshop > herbal garden > thermal lamp > vegetable garden.) Don’t forget the radio. You also need fertilizer and 10 water.

Is the game random?
Yes and no. The groups that you can select are randomly offered, but they seem to be taken from a pool of set combinations. They range from two to four. Both two and four are rare. For instance: A two group is Anton and Cveta. I never got another two group. There is a group which consists of Katia, Bruno and Pavle. There is group that consists of Marin, Boris and Emilia. A group made up out of Pavle, Marko and Bruno. A winter group made out of Marin, Katia and Arica. Another group is Cveta, Anton, Pavle and Zlata. You never get an all women group for instance, nor is there a group that combines Marin and Bruno. Or Marko and Boris.
From keeping track of resources I noticed that crucial resources that you can scavenge are a given. Materials, wood, parts and electrical parts all seem fixed. There are items that have a slight variance, like sometimes you find moonshine instead of valuables. Food might vary in amount but often less raw food might mean more vegetables and vice versa.
The maps seem fixed up to a point and tied in with the groups. Some locations will not appear in the game together such as sniper junction and central square.
The game seems to offer new companions every two weeks. It seems that the max is seven according to the wiki,  although I have my doubts as it seems to me that the game stops offering newcomers when you have four in your house.. But then I might be wrong.

Doing other things
I tried various other things like making a herbal garden for making medicines or selling off alcohol.. Considering the amount of resources you need the investment hardly pays off. Just making a pair of bandages requires that you to make a moonshine still, a distillery and an improved herbal workshop. Then you have to go through a long production cycle of: making moonshine, making alcohol and then using that with materials to create a handful of bandages. Considering the scarceness of materials this hardly is worth the effort as you can for instance get healed at the hospital for free.
In addition some items require certain ingredients that you can’t make or buy. Medecins for instance require medicinal ingredients. You can find a few at the supermarket and perhaps buy some at the central square perhaps, if that is available.

 

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Some locations. What to expect and what to bring.
Supermarket.
Bring a crowbar. If there are looters you have to make a run for the resources. Another option is to leave the location at once as that stops them from looting and they will not appear the next time you visit. Another option might be that the soldier is there, that is about to rape the girl. If you feel heroic you might go for him with the crowbar. Attack him from the rear when he is still talking to the girl. The supermarket has a mixture of items, food, ingredients and such. The assault rifle you get from the soldier after killing him is a pretty worthless trading item for some reason.

Construction Site
Bring a crowbar. If there are sounds of shots being fired at regular intervals there are armed people at the top. Avoid them for they shoot you on sight. Only scavenge the lower part of the building. Next time you return the place will be deserted. Sometimes you start out without any shot being fired, in that case there might be soldiers up on top and you might get caught in a struggle between looters and soldiers. You find mostly materials and wood. But if you can get to the top you can get canned food and better loot.

Sniper Junction
Bring a crowbar and a sawblade. A sniper shoots at you when you expose yourself. Move from cover to cover. Wait for his shot, then move. The first time he hits you, you get slightly wounded, the second time you get wounded. I assume you get a deep wound next and then next you are killed. Lot of materials, wood and other stuff.

Shelled School
The danger free version offers only squatters who leave you be if you leave them be. Lot of materials and wood. Parts and some electrical parts. Water and medicines. There is an area behind a grate that requires a sawblade. This could give you randomly broken rifles, guns and helmets. If you are lucky. Note that you have to clear dirt once to get over the top. There is also a dangerous one that has armed men. I ran when they started to threaten me so I can’t tell much about this version.
Decrepit Squat
Bring a crowbar, a saw blade and raw food. The raw food is for the squatter who gives you valuables in return. The crowbar is for the cupboard in the back and the saw-blade for the grate at the top. Lots of materials, woods, sugar, water and some (electrical) parts and some weapon parts.

Ruined Flats
Deserted. Bring two sawblades for two apartments. Materials, food, wood, weapon parts.

Garage
Bring bandages for trading. You might bring a saw-blade for opening the grate on top, but this might trigger a bug(?) that makes him hostile later on. At least that is my explanation. Since I avoid doing that I have never had any problem with the garage guy becoming hostile.

Shelled Cottage or Abandoned cottage
Bring crowbar for both and expect to dig dirt either once or twice. Deserted places, so there is no danger. Materials, wood, sugar, food, water, some (electrical) parts and some weapon parts.

Hospital
Bring a bandage to donate or trade. Some food and materials can be found here, including a vegetable. Pick up everything you scavenge because it seems to get lost the next time you return except for the part at find at the start of the map.

Church
Crowbar, a saw blade and maybe a shovel. When there are no armed men in the back you can trade with the priest. You will know when there are armed thugs because  when you need to get into the church using scaffolding there is no priest, but armed gunman in the last part of the map.. You can scavenge for materials, wood and such when the priest is here. When the thugs are here you can scavenge the church for things and find some broken rifle, or gun or helmet or vest. Stay away from the house at the back.

Hotel
Two versions. One has armed men willing to trade. Don’t steal their stuff and you are fine. You can loot the rest of the building. Other version has a harmless lunatic in which chase you might bring a crowbar as you either have to dig through two heaps of dirt or open a door with the crowbar and then dig through one heap. You need to open a few cupboards with the crowbar. Lots of materials and wood. Even some weapons parts and I found a shotgun with ammo here.

Brothel
Bring a saw-blade. You can loot the entry areas which gives you some vital parts and electrical parts. You can also trade here. The sawblade can open a grate at the top of the brothel so you can loot some more. However this is a dangerous place as the trader warns you not to get beyond a certain point, expect to be attacked when they find you did.

Military Outpost
Not much to loot before you run into the soldiers. You can trade here. The soldiers are a dangerous lot and will start shooting after perhaps one warning.
There are more locations, mostly listed as lived in, either by armed people who are unwilling to trade or harmless people equally unwilling to trade.There is a warehouse that is listed as very dangerous. It requires a crowbar to enter. Since there was no real need to explore it, I never returned there with a crowbar, but I got the feeling they shoot you on sight.

 

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That was about it. Maybe I add some more information and pictures later.
There are two wikis being worked upon and some guides that help you with things. I would suggest to go there if you want to know more.

Changelog:
Changed 1-12-2014(Update of post after change in the game. Also cleaned some of the text and added a index).

A game review: Dead State(a tale of errors, a chicken, a murderess and a ghost.. and lots of zombies too)

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(Note: This review is about the Early Access version and not about the full release. I have not had the opportunity to replay the full release game. )

Welcome to my review of the game Dead State,  which is about to hit the market on the Fourth of December, according to their press release. I have to excuse myself for making a rather long post, but I have to because I initially made a review based on wrong assumptions and now, after playing, this game for about 70+ hours I feel that I can make a better judgement of the game.

First an introduction:

You are in restaurant. The waiter asks what you would like to eat and offers you the opportunity to select the ingredients yourself. In fact, you are invited to visit the kitchen and point out what you would like to have, to tell how much of it you think is sufficient and to describe how you like it to be prepared. After doing so you return to your table to await what must be a memorable eating experience.
Some time later the waiter enters the room holding aloft three plates.  He walks over to you, puts one plate in front of you and then tosses the ingredients of the other two on top of the first plate and then shuffles the heap of food. He leaves Then wishing you a most enjoyable meal.

This then, is the condition of Dead State at the end of early access: full of things that would make for a memorable gaming experience, but the overall result is a mess.

But first let’s get you an idea about what kind of game this is.

Dead State is an isometric role play game set in the zombie apocalypse where you take charge of a group of survivors holed up in a school in Texas. The game has two parts: one part is managing your group of survivors, the other part is heading a party of up to four characters to scavenge for supplies, do quests and deal with the various enemies.

Those who are familiar with fallout 1 and fallout 2 should be at home with the mechanics of this game.The game has two map modes that each come with a different way of movement. There is a strategic map that you use to travel from one location to another in which time progress as you move. This movement can be done in three ways: on foot, on horseback or with a car. Each mode has advantages and disadvantages: foot is slow, but cost nothing; travelling on horseback gets you there faster, but requires food for the horses and the car is the fastest of them all, but costs fuel; a resource that is scarce.

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The strategic map…early game(left) and late game(right)

The other map is the local map. Local map movement occurs on a tactical map and is real time until combat is imminent. In combat mode you move turn based. As far as I can tell there is no progression of time on the local map.

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Local map movement: real time(big picture) and turn based in combat mode(insert)

During combat mode actions cost action points. Walking cost one point for instance, fighting with a small weapon three, shooting a handgun perhaps four, up till complex attack movements which cost perhaps eight points. Therefore, the more action points you have, the more you can do in one turn and the more powerful you become, provided you have other good fighting statistics as well.

Characters have varied attributes and varied skills. Your main character can be customized at the start and can be developed further during the game. Other characters also develop, but you can’t control that directly. They grow over time on their own, although it seems as if you can steer this progress by assigning them to do jobs that require a certain skill which they will thus improve.

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Character sheet

You can improve your base by building various upgrades like a wall, a watch tower, a science lab and a recreation room. These upgrades often enable other upgrades or give the ability to create new objects, like the science lab, which allows you  to create such things as improved armor, antibiotics and ammunition for guns.

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The job board where you assign jobs such as building upgrades for your shelter. To the right an overview of various upgrades you can build.

The game has a kind of flow.. At first even a single zombie is a challenge, but gradually as you and your companions get better equipment and advanced skills they become less of a threat and you deal with looters, gangs, rogue cops, militia and finally the military.  This shift in enemies means also a shift in weaponry. At the start you deal with you enemies with melee weapons, later on you start to depend more on ranged weapons.

I would like to special mention is that the game has implemented that people killed by zombies become zombies themselves. Which is a great idea. In addition the game also makes zombies appear when you make a lot of sound and especially gunfire, most notably shotgun fire  draws in zombies. This is also a nice aspect of the game.

One important aspect of the game is handling the community of survivors. You become the leader and thus you have to deal with various challenges, like recruiting more survivors, getting to know your fellow survivors, assigning them jobs, bolstering their spirits, handling conflicts, dealing with community politics and making decisions, including those concerning life and death. It is up to you to deal with the situation.

Now doesn’t this all sound great?

Well,  here is the other side of the game…

The game is beset with many issues. Just a list of random examples: a character dies, but her avatar stays on the map the rest of the game; doors return to undamaged state when you reload a game and you haven’t bashed them open; the fresh food you gathered on the day is not preserved when you restart the game;  some doors allow no entrance after being opened; locations are unfinished; you have to reassign jobs to your characters every day even if you just want them to prolong the job; your fishing rod is removed from your inventory and put in the storage every time you enter the shelter and thus has to retrieved again when you want to go fishing again; somehow the fourth party member is afflicted by bad pathing which could make him/her run the other way and right into enemies.

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My four avatars facing off a group of zombies . There are plenty of zombies on this map, but nothing else. Note that one of my party members is Fiona.. We will have a special part about her further down.

A rather annoying aspect of the game is that there is no log of conversations so you can’t find out what you have heard the other day: you have to write it down yourself. Sometimes a character tips you on a location, this location might or might not appear. There is no check if a location has already been found nor does the location offer new things..
And more: you can build a chicken coop, but that requires a chicken, when you bring a chicken, it is slaughtered automatically because there is no chicken coop. There is quest where someone offers you to trade medicines for food, but you can’t bring food from the shelter as any food that you take to your shelter disappears into an inaccessible storage. Some quests are broken: like one where you are asked by Aggro to pick up her friend Alan at the Dublin bar: he never shows up. There is one where I got a tip to go to Eden next to the Wicked Lily. Whatever Eden is remains unclear and I could not find it.

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The chicken and egg problem: to make a coop you need a chicken, to bring a chicken to the shelter you need a coop.

One of  broken story line is the story of  Fiona Parks. At some point during the game Davis, the wheelchair guy who is your sidekick, comes up and told me how sorry he is about what Fiona did. I was left to wonder what he was talking about, but I through she was killed or commited suicide. But whenever I checked Fiona, she was alright and could be assigned jobs and taken along with parties, just like all the other party members. From that moment onwards Davis kept telling me every morning the same thing: that he is sorry about what happened to Fiona or was she did.

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Davis telling me about Fiona.. the same story every morning.

Then one time I am told she has killed someone. A trial is organized and after the trial I had her expelled, and just after the trial has finished, I am told another murder has occurred: Fiona had killed again!. After a second trial Fiona is expelled again!Then the next morning Davis approaches me yet again to tell me how sorry he is about what happened to Fiona or what she did, and the morning after that one and the morning thereafter:basically every morning I have this same conversation.

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Oh… you did do what???
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Funny detail: Fiona is a supporter of Sandy, who votes to have her killed…

After a while it becomes clear that there is no progressing storyline and there seems to be no finish to the game. There is a conflict brewing between the militia and the military, but you can’t do anything with it.. They even have accessible headquarters, but I never get the ability to talk to their leaders and even killing them outright doesn’t seem to do much. It for instance doesn’t even make the rest of the militia angry when you shoot their fellows at the militia hq. It seems like this part still needs to be worked upon.Just like for instance the suggestive skill of Karen. She can fly a helicopter and at one point this is brought up in a conversation, which seems to imply that it is something important. but what it is, has still to be revealed.

Now all of this and much more needs to be looked at(just another bone: the dogs in the game can only be attacked from the front and the back) and fixed, but we are to believe that game has entered Beta in Augustus and should be in state that will allow it to be released to market on the 4th of december. It could be that all these issues will be solved around that time, but it is strange that they haven’t been solved in the current version and I have my doubts if all these issues can be fixed in that time.

The final straw that makes me give this game the thumb down is simply the price. The developers asked to be funded via kickstarter and got more than double the money they asked for. In addition they ask a whopping 27 euro for an early access indie game(compare that to state of decay: 18 euro’s). Yet the game is not finished and I wonder in what state the game will be released. There is a lot of fixing to do and we have to believe that all this fixing is done at the time of the official launch.

Some random  things that need to be looked at:

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Some errors: at Coleman(left side) you can walk right through this barricade. Items still need icons(top middle). The interior of that shop is on the move(top right). And sometimes you are blessed with a random 5th party member(lower right). The door is no obstacle for this soldier(bottom middle)
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The ghost that haunts the shelter: Elaine killed herself early in the game, but her presence lingers on. Even the sun won’t chase her away.

State of Decay ten tips for playing the DLC Lifeline.

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Some time ago the game State of Decay got a new addon called Lifeline and it has a few changes that are surprising interesting given that this is only a small addon. One of the changes even carries back into the game and the first addon Breakdown DLC and is certainly an improvement on playing the game. It basically saves you a lot of to and fro driving.  Now this post is not a review. I wrote a review that I published on another blog, which I might move to this one, but in the mean time you can find the link here. The purpose of this post is to give a few game playing tips that have worked very well for me and you can apply to. Note that this might make the game relatively easy to play and this might be considered a spoiler.

Now for those who like a puzzle you can look at the picture abive. It shows the basic ingredients for beating the game. The only thing for you to do is to apply it.

For those who hate to puzzle I have below a few tips for making the addon a bit more easier to play, provided you need to.

But fist a few lines about what is typical about this addon. I assume you already know the basic game, so I will not explain the game mechanics here. The game mechanics is the same in the addon.

First, most obvious, the map has changed. The map is that of the city of Danforth. But the map is for a large part inaccessible. In fact the map consists basically of the road around the city and a about seven  areas branching of the central road. There are therefore far less buildings to explore unlike the basic game, that had a lot of places to explore and to scavenge.

Second, the addon has only one base and thus there is no reason to try and look for another one. This base has only a few option to builds. Basically you have only four slots to build something.

Third, the addon story is interspersed with attacks on your base at set intervals. The attacks by zombies increase in ferocity. The first attacks will see normal zombies, more zombies and more special zombies will join in the attack as the game proceeds. To deal with attacks you will recruit soldiers, artillery support, mortar support , air strikes and static defense around the base. I never use them since I found another way to deal with the attacks.

Fourth, and very handy, change is that vehicles now can carry equipment and especially resources. This mean that you can now drive to a shack and transport the resources in that shack in your car instead of having you to drive back and forth between your base and the shack for each resource. This change also works in the basic game and in the other addon Breakdown.

Fifth, the cap for influence is 10.000. Which is different from the basic game and addon Breakdown, as there the cap very low and slowly rose throughout the game based on your performance.

Six, the price for hiring a soldier to come with you is twenty influence, which is very cheap as compared to the 100 you need in the basic game.

Seventh, you can summon supplies from your base.

Eight, munitions shop now make munitions.

Nine, you will be pressed for time as you have to do quests within a short time and there is little time left to do other things until the story lines have finished.

And lastly: this game revolves mostly around doing missions to either save people or to gather supplies.

Now we come to the tips.

Tip one: disobey the first order you get.

The first order you get is to head over to the base at one as it is under attack. Instead of going directly to the base you are better of to use the moment to establish some out posts and gather resources. The reason to do this is because at this moment in the game the zombie threat is the lowest and you have two companions with you. Also, unlike in the basic game, you can already establish outposts and you need to establish outposts to drop off the weapons that you find. Also you have ample time to scavenge as there is no deadline on the first quest.

Tip two: Build outposts, but build them to destroy hordes and make areas safe.

Hordes get to be a serious menace in the game as they are the cause of infestations and infestations will make quests harder to do as. The only way to effectively deal with them is having outposts destroy as many as you can get. To do that you need to place outposts at place where hordes pass and this is in contradiction with placing outposts at satellite uplinks, artillery and drone sites because these are almost all on the edges.

Tip three: forget about the latrine.

There is a latrine in the game and it is suggested that not having it will make your soldiers sick. Well, I have had times where half my soldiers were sick, but that is a rare occurrence.  The soldiers will still help defend your base. The disadvantage of having a latrine is that it uses up a slot that can be put to better use.

Tip four: take a soldier with you.

Asking a solder to come with you cost twenty influence, which is cheap as compared to the hundred influence in the basic game.  So take a soldier with you. In addition this is an important way to make them playable characters and you want to make them playable to equip them.

Tip five: don’t hesitate to use your car and Molotov to save people by driving into a group of zombies.

In the basic came driving a car into a horde of zombies attacking a refugee or survivor would cause you to loose influence. In this game you can do that unpunished and you need to as the zombies get tougher and can easily kill a refugee and survivor later in the game. So throw that Molotov cocktail and drive a car into them.

Tip six: don’t worry about supplies.

With the exception of materials you do not need to worry about supplies because you will get resource when you keep the gather supplies function on all the time.  Materials you need at the start of the game to build your facilities. Once they are build they aren’t so important. You can break down all other resources.

Now follows four more tips that can be seen as game spoilers.

Tip seven: gather rocket launchers.

In almost all the games there are around five rocket launchers These are your key weapons to use in your defense as outlined below.

Tip eight: build a munitions shop.

You need to build a munitions shop to make 40 mm grenades. It might even be advisable to use a second slot for making another munitions shop so you can spent building your ammo on making more 40 mm grenades.

Tip nine: Make as many 40 mm grenades as you can.

Make as many 40 mm grenades as you can. If you don’t have ammo for 40 mm grenades make either silencers or flame fougasse.

Tip ten: don’t recruit soldiers.

You have only about 5 rocket launchers. So you need to keep the amount of soldiers low. Preferably not more than you have rocket launchers, but this is hard as the game will give you just a bit more solders then you want. Around two more on average.

The tactics that you now can use is equipping your small crew of soldiers(best is around six or seven) with grenade launchers. Because your npc never use and run out of ammo you have made yourself free artillery. The 40 mm grenades you make are for your own use as during most of the addon Sasquatch will be at the north gate and you can’t equip him and you will need to use the grenade launcher. In addition your npc grenades do little damage to Big Ones so you need to take them out yourself. In addition you have no control over how the soldiers will be positioned and this it might be you need to fill in the gaps.

Now go out and play.

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Zombie slaughter.
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Taking out a Big Un.

State of Decay: Breakdown: ten tips for playing the dlc

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Updated 11 January 2014!
Removed some typo’s and errors added some new I am sure.
Added some things to tips.

 

Hey, welcome to my post about Breakdown, the downloadable content for the video game: State of Decay.

In this post I will experiment with fragmentary story telling. And who better then to have that taken care by my nekos!

First off it might be handy to give a general idea of what the post will contain.

1 Three differences as compared to the basic game.

2 Ten tips that might be useful to remember.

3 And something else I forgot. Oh yes.. a commentary of sorts…

But first let me introduce Krisp. She is in the picture at the top..Krisp is a neko. For those who do not know exactly what a neko is let me tell you.. neither do it. Literally Neko is Japanese for cat and in a certain context it is used for a hybrid of a human with cat. A human with cat features so to say.. like ears, or whiskers or a tail. However, being completely inaccurate as someone pointed out, a Neko is sometimes used me to mean any human animal hybrid.  So Krisp is a neko because Krisp has cat teeth, cat claws, cat shoes(sometimes) and a nice fluffy tail.

new-stuff

This picture shows the new things that make breakdown different from original game: heroes, levels and new goal(s).

While in the basic game survivors were also important, in Breakdown they are even more the focus of the game. When you begin the game you choose a random hero(the first time), start the game and run! For you are alone.  During the game you will be able to have more survivors join you and here in this there is a slight difference from the basic game. In the basic game most survivors came either via predefined quests or the occasional random quest. In Breakdown the most important source for companions are enclaves.  You will find that you are now actually able to gain their trust and recruit them after a while.

Secondly, Breakdown has levels. And I do not mean levels of the survivors, but levels of the game. Each level is slightly harder then the next. This is achieved by making the zombies slightly harder, spawn more, and spawn more special zombies, while at the same time, resources are harder to find and, especially, vehicles are harder to find. There are even levels where there are just a few vehicles to get. With each new level, you also start a new map. The only thing you will take with you from a previous game is a small group of survivors, their inventories and the supply.

Thirdly Breakdown has no story line.. hence the goal of the game is a simple one: find the recreational vehicle, repair it and then go next level. Sounds boring?
I thought so too.. but each and every level is slightly harder then the one before. And to make it more rewarding they threw in achievements, so that you have something to strife for.

So now the ten tips with their explanation below.

1 Bring a buddy.

2 Ready the RV.

3 Home, sweet home site.

4 Use your outposts!

5 Neighbors are your friends.

6 That vexing supply locker.

7 Take care of your cars.

8 Boom!

9 Guns guns guns.

10 Hand to hand.. choose your skills wisely.

————

1 Bring a buddy.

buddy-1 copy

Maybe you are a very exceptional fighter, but even the best fighters will tire eventually and it is a though job surviving on your own at higher levels.  Searching items in houses might be tedious task is you are continuously interrupted by zombies. Your survivor will break off the search to confront the zombie and you have to start the search again after it is killed. So bring a buddy to watch your back.

Buddies can be recruited in various ways. You can pay 100 influence to have on over your fellow survivors to tag alone. This has some disadvantages. It costs 100 influence and the survivor will leave the moment it is severely wounded, sick or  you accept a quest(the latter not always: sometimes they leave and sometimes they don’t).

Buddies can also be recruited as part of a quest. Most quests give you one buddy that stays until the quests is finished. The advantage is that it does not cost you influence and the survivor tags along even if severely hurt or sick. There are three disadvantages: the game does not save while your are on a quest,  you can not move a home site and you can not change to another avatar as long as you are on a quest.

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2 Ready the RV.

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Eventually you want to move to the next level. Readying the RV is a requirement.  
But first you have to find it! Unless you want to search the map for the RV you probably better of waiting for Lily to tell you where it is. She will do that within an hour of real time play. At the first level you only have to do one thing: fueling the RV.. but on higher levels there are more things needed. With each repair or preparation you need influence and materials. In all you will need 30 fuel, 30 materials and 10 medicine to prepare the RV on higher levels. Oh and some repairs require a lot of time and also some extra things that you are required to find.

The RV can only hold a small amount of survivors. In total eight, but there are two catches:. One of them is  that you have to take Lilya along(and Lily is not a playable character).  And when you take the full compliment of seven survivors along , one of them will get lost on the higher levels( this is changed now: on higher levels it seems the max characters you can recruit is six but you do not lose one anymore.). Who gets lost seems to be a bit random although my experience is that it is often one last one’s you assign to go with the RV. And the one you play will not be killed.

A word of advise. When you find the RV you do not need to get out of your car to have it added to your home site. Just driving along it is good enough. It is even advisable not to get out of a car as the RV seems to be a spawning point for zombies. Also be aware that when you are on a quest and you find the RV during this quest, it will not be added to the home site! And also, when you have a companion with you it will leave as if you accepted a quest.

breakdown - Copy copy

3 Home, sweet home site.

When you start on a new map, except for the first, you will be out in the open. So you have to find a home site sooner or later. Although there are seven home sites in the game, the choice is actually limited. The three biggest one’s(Fairgrounds, Trucking Warehouse and McReady) you can not get as you lack the materials and people to choose them. McReady Farm can only be picked from the start  at the first levels, but once you start to loose a survivor you will not have enough people to claim it. The two smallest are not really an option as they are too vulnerable. Unless of course you like that sort of thing. It comes down to either hold out in the open till you have enough people (McReady only needs one more survivor to the basic seven) or to either occupy Savini or Kirkman.  I prefer Savini as it is located in the town Marshall, where most supplies can be found, is protected from the rear and one side and comes with a watch tower. Also it requires only a few outposts to make it safe.

4 Use your outposts!

Outpost have a lot of useful functions. It creates a zone where no zombies will spawn, it will destroy a horde of zombies, it gives you access to your home site inventory and it generates materials for it. If you occupy one of the bigger home sites, you usually can have one or two spare outposts that you can move around when you explore further out, thus having a place where to stock up, fall back to, or put items you found.

5 Neighbors are your friends.

In Breakdown neighbors are even more important. They are a source for new survivors, quests, a way to get rid of excess items and  create a kind of  safe zone.  Especially handy will be their use to get rid of items that you can not or do not want to store in your own supply locker. In addition sometimes they even sell things you might have a shortage of, like bullets.

6 That vexing supply locker.

You will soon start to notice something annoying about your supply locker: it is limited in the amount of items it can contain. Since the supply locker travels with you from level to level. -that is from map to new map-, with it’s content intact, you will run into this problem again and again because you need to create influence by finding new items and storing them in the supply locker. This is where you neighbors come in. Their supply lockers are a way to get rid of excess items. However these supply lockers are limited as well so eventually they will be full too.

Now all of this would not be such a problem if the game did not automatically add items to your locker every once in a while. So even if you take out the cheap or worthless items out of your supply locker, the game will generate new items, some of which are cheap and worthless items. The only way is by taking them out and replacing with more expensive items..

On top of this the game will also top off certain items contained in your supply locker. Bullets, for instance, will be topped off at sixty. The same goes for snacks. It seems the game limits snacks to six. So stocking up on bullets and such is only possible for a short while otherwise you have to remove any excess and store it in the inventories of your survivors.

7 Take care of your cars.

Unless you like to leg it through fields full of zombies you probably value your car simply because you move around a lot faster. Cars are  vitally important and you will find less and less of them at higher levels. Since cars are also spread out over the map, retrieving the few ones that are on the map can be a tedious and dangerous task.  But you have to. This means that you might consider building a workshop(at least a basic one) or moving to the trucking warehouse, which is has a  full fledged workshop built-in.

Most cars are located in and around Marshall and I found that Marshall always seems to have at least one car.  I also found that when you do not have enough cars near your home site then the game sometimes gives you cars at your home site. How this exactly works is not known to me as it has only happened a few times.
14-01. When you move your home site the game will move the cars sometimes. I have moved my home site only twice during the games and in both cases the cars were moved the next day as well. Hence you do not need to get the cars you leave behind. However I think only the cars that are actually in the parking spots are moved. 
In addition the spawning of cars when you have none seems to spawn random new cars.. At first I thought it would a selection from the cars you drove past of occupied, but recently I tested this and non of the cars I actually drove past or sat into were moved. So they game seems to spawn new cars and not take the cars that are already in the game.

Big cars, like the modern pickup, are handy for using a cross country shortcut between Marshall and Spencer’s Mill.  This saves you a lot of driving over the road. This shortcut begins at the Tartan Mart that is located on the south-east side along the road leading to Marshall(see picture below).

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8 Boom!

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Gradually, when you go through the levels and discover it is getting harder and harder and resources decline, you start to appreciate the little things that did not really matter in the basic game.  Here are a few.

Gas-tanks are everywhere and they come in handy when a shed or another building is inhabited by a group of zombies. The blast kills everything except for the tougher freaks(Big Un and Feral) outright.. even through a wall. Watch out with cars though… they get destroyed too. The blast might attract nearby zombies, but not as much as firing a gun or an artillery barrage.  Funny detail..they reappear when you move away.

A nice weapon to have is a grenade launcher. They come in two versions: the one shot grenade launcher and six shot one. They both fire the same grenade. The great advantage of the grenade launcher is that you can actually fire a grenade inside a building. This makes them very handy for cleaning out infestations. Grenade launchers are rare finds. However the most likely place to find the six shot version is at the military camp in front of the fair grounds.
14-01: There are three stashes, one in the back near the fairgrounds and two near the entrance that is across the road where the crashed helicopter is. 

Of course the weapon of choice is the petrol bomb or Molotov cocktail. In state of decay there are a lot of them around and they are very effective too. You can wipe out a horde of zombies with one. Not only are there many to be found(some house have wine cabinets, that provide up to nine molotov cocktails) but also the game will generate them for you.
14-01: When you explore you will find fuel. Breaking down fuel will turn them into three of four Molotov cocktails. 

9 Guns guns guns.

You will find a lot of handguns like revolvers and pistols in the game. Equipped with a silencer most hand-guns are decent weapons. It is wise to equip you adventurers with different caliber guns so you will not run out of bullets because as said above: the game tops of the bullets at 60.  Revolvers and shotguns are weapons that can not be silenced and as a consequence they will attract zombies when fired. The exception seems to be the .22 caliber. which seems to attract less attention. .22 caliber gun are not very effective. I seldom use guns on ‘normal’ zombies but reserve them for the screamers and  bloaters, but considering that the game tops off your bullets you might use up bullets if you have too much.

To find the better types of guns or even military grade guns see the maps below.

10  Hand to hand.. choose your skills wisely.

Most of the time you will fight  the zombies with hand-weapons. During their use you will gain experience and once you gain a certain level you can choose a skill to enhance combat or be stealthy.  Most of these skills do not seem to do too much, but my preference is to use bladed weapons and pick the  skill that cuts of the legs of a zombie at random. The other option: decapitation offers up speed for a certain kill.. however in the higher levels you the delay usually results in a zombie grabbing you. If possible pick survivors with the power house skill as it increases their critical hits.

11 (Hey wait.. that is not ten?) Flow of the game.

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Perhaps a final tip is to pay attention to the flow of the game.  The game has moments that there are many zombies and hordes spawning and moments that there are non around.
Here are some observations:
– At night there are more zombies around than during the day.
– Around dusk, dawn and noon it seems there are far less zombies.
– Zombies have a tendency to spawn after you have arrived at a certain place. Sometimes there is a delay in the spawning that you can use  to quickly enter a place.. grab stuff and run before the game starts to spawn too much zombies. However this can also work to your disadvantage: sometimes a place seems to contain only a few zombies.. but a few minutes later more will spawn…a lot more.. An example of place where this is likely to happen is the Grange.
– When you are required to go to a place and it is crawling with freaks you can force the game to remove them by driving around a bit. When you are far enough away the game will remove spawns. However there will be new spawns.. so it might not solve your issue.

12 (Hey?) Quests and other assignments

Whenever you built a facility or repair a part of the RV there is a chance you have to find something to finish the job. Lily will tell you where to look on the map. I found that you are likely to find these items at any place you search. However it looks like that the places Lily designates have a higher chance to give you the object. But diligent searching at other places have almost always resulted in finding these objects.

Another interesting thing I found is that when you are assigned to hunt a particular freak you are instructed to locate it at certain place. I found that finding and killing a freak of the kind you are assigned to hunt at other places sometimes is enough to resolve the quest.
14-01: This seems to be the case for bloaters and ferals. The armored zombie quest is usually for a swat zombie and that seems almost only to be spawned for the quest. I do not know for big uns as I try to avoid them.

Be aware that with the hunt quest your companions will leave the moment the quest is resolved. This might mean that they leave you to face any remaining zombies. Sometimes they will help you fight, but as often as not they leave you to face the music alone.

Okies..

Now for some closing comments.

I like state of decay as it offers a combination of resource handling, character management, leveling and so on. The game does not compare to a big commercial game. This should also not be expected as the game is made with far less budget and market for about a third of what a main stream commercial game costs.  All in all Undead Labs, the maker of the game did a decent job.

Handy maps…

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Trumbull valley map.
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Trumbull Valley.. best places to find guns. Guns shops and police station in blue. Military camp sites in green.

trumbulll valley mapb-dangerous-places

The walking dead videogame: interactive storytelling.

(This movie shows three key scenes.. if you do not like spoilers you should not watch after the first scene has ended. There is a red walking dead sign dividing the first and second scene.)

I was fortunate that I did not buy the video-game the walking dead. I was somewhat suspicious about it actually being a game, so I decided to find out what kind of game it  before buying it. You see, the maker of the game, tell-tale games. made and makes click adventures. Click adventures are the kind of games where you have to click on objects in the game to combine them so they can be used to make the game proceed. It is not my kind of game. In fact ever since  I played Zork way back I stopped playing those kind. I vaguely recall that I had to do something with a piece of string and a clay brick to open some kind of doorway. I think the piece of wire was meant to go into the clay, then the clay was made into a brick and the brick with string attached had to be put in a wall to open a secret door.

The walking dead game was exactly the kind of ‘game’ I expected it to be. So based on that conclusion it would not be very interesting for me. However I became fascinated by the game movies that one guy called the rad brad had made. I followed him playing this game from start to finish.  And it was clearly not a game but rather an interactive movie. The whole story line did progress along the same path regardless of what options the player choose.  Most of the options available were more to give the story a slightly different feel then make for a dramatic different game or create an complete different conclusion.

The game might be disappointing for people who want to play a game that gave them the option to make decisions that had important repercussions. However as a story it captured me even though it had it’s weak moments.

I was wondering what actually made the story work for me and after some pondering I figured that the most  crucial thing in the game is the relation between the main character Lee and  the little girl Clementine. Lee acts as Clementine’s replacement dad. It is therefore that I made a small movie showing two crucial moments in the game…the one where Lee and Clementine meet and the one were they part.  In addition it also shows you how the game ends.. So that is three scenes.

In addition to the central relationship in the story I have to name the voice acting as a impressive. The fact that the game makers stick to a simple story line seems to work well and most of the characters are believable people that you can identify with, care about, understand, suffer or perhaps even hate.  Unlike many characters is other movies and games where nobody really cares about them because they are not believable people. Lee, for instance, is the kind of guy I liked from the start as being a former teacher. Clementine is a kind of kid that you like.

Because I like pictures above typed text, let me go through some of the movie scenes and comment on a few scenes that makes this video game/movie stand out.

The walking dead opens with the skyline of Atlanta

The walking dead opens with the skyline of Atlanta and it is a link between the television series, comic and the game. That way people will know the setting. In a later post I will comment further on the interaction of thoughts, feels and the use of language and imagery to invoke stories. Above the picture   somehow I thought it read “A brand new day.” Note the beautiful blue sky and the sunny setting.  Interestingly.. while this is the skyline of Atlanta we do no go to it.. the story takes us away from it. In this manner a possible conflict can be avoided. Bye bye Atlanta.

The conversation between Lee and the cop.

The conversation between Lee and the cop is done partly via the rear view mirror. This way we can follow their expressions. It also underscores the relation between the two and will aid in setting up the scene where they have the accident. Note that setting is still pleasant. There will be message on the radio and police cars driving towards Atlanta. We know what is going to happen.

After the police car hits a zombie, it slips, crashes through this rail and ends up at the bottom of this slope.

After the police car hits a roaming zombie, it slips, crashes through this rail and ends up at the bottom of this slope. While this is a very unlikely occurrence (those rails can stop trucks) this makes for a very engaging shot from above. Note the corpse of the cop in the right top corner and the trails of blood that runs from the car to him. The shades and dark lights create for an ominous scene. The sunny happy mood has been replaced by gloom and creepy shadows. It is a cool way to make a picture. The look from above to below zooms out give an overview and also makes everything remote. Note that the darkness is on the edges. It creeps in from all sides.

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A shot from the car through the cracked window.. the dead cop catches the attention. To make us focus he is in the light and the rest is dark, with the darkness being at the edge of the picture.

Again the above shot is almost like a painting.. which perhaps it is. The low quality of the graphics is used to the advantage by changing it all into a more comic kind of style. I suspect it was a way how the makers had to deal with a technical limitation, yet kept the whole in style and interesting. Incidentally.. the original comic is done in black and white which is probably a way to save cost on having to color the pictures

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When Lee gets out the car he looks around and reaches down.. this gives the maker the change to create this upward shot where the light of the sky turns Lee into a silhouette. The sky is a sickly yellow.
Lee finds out that the cop is dead but still moving. It lunges for Lee. Lee crawls backwards until his escape is blocked by the car. This is just prior to him picking up the shotgun and killing the now zombie-cop. The camera is set at an angle and we look down upon Lee. This supports the feeling of fear, strangeness and confusion.
Lee escapes zombies that have been alerted by the gun shot by climbing over a fence.

After escaping from the zombies Lee finds himseft on the grounds of this suburban home. The shot is zoomed out which show us he is completely alone.. his shouting made me cringe. This will be used several times during the game. Someone shouting in an otherwise silent place. Did you notice the eerie yellow sky and gloom? In the distance it almost looks like there are yellow vapors rising from the ground.

Lee enters the nearby home.

When Lee enters the nearby house he moves from out of the light into the darkness. Again creating an eerie atmosphere. This is the home where he meets Clementine. As you can see this whole setup is deliberately. In the previous pictures it is dark as if the evening has fallen. Then the scene is changed to an eerie sick yellow color. Here the color outside is almost golden, while inside darkness is hiding unknown dangers.

The central working element in the game is the relation between Lee and Clementine.

The central working element in the game is the relation between Lee and Clementine. While the art could be better and is not that original as some people claim – it resembles that of other games and movies(Borderlands spring to mind) – the use of expressions and the voice acting coupled to the images make the story work. In fact it works better than many movies with real people.

Screenshot - 11_13_2013 , 6_59_49 PM
Lee crouches down and talks to Clementine. His fatherly caring attitude towards the frail girl shows him to be a gentle person. We care for this person because he cares for Clementine.
This is perhaps one of the most telling shots.. Lee taking Clementine by the hand to brave the unknown dangers of this zombie plagued world.
Another classic scene.
At the beginning of the game Lee meets Kenny.. the relation between Lee and Kenny is another important one in the game. Kenny is the other dad.. and his relation to his wife and his son is a mirror of that which Lee and Clementine have. Note that we will never see a scene in which Kenny talks to Clementine. His looks is that from a country guy or mechanic. This is a working class man(as opposed to Lee, who is a teacher.)
Screenshot - 11_13_2013 , 7_03_19 PM
Kenny’s wife Katjaa and their son Duck. Duck is an obnoxious brawny kid and almost the opposite of Clementine. As such he functions as a kind of lightning rod.
This is Lilly who leads the group of survivors that Lee and Clementine join.

Lilly is the leader who continuously struggles with her role. I am not sure how other people feel about her, but I think she was wrongly treated in the story line. She was obviously put in a role she felt uncomfortable with and she tried to do her best in a bad situation. Nobody, not even Lee, actually volunteers to take over her leadership role, yet she is keenly aware of unvoiced (imagined?) criticisms towards her own short comings. She has to make though decisions and at one moment during the game she makes Lee, who is the main potential challenge to her leadership, even if he does not want to, choose whom to feed. The makers of the game do something harsh towards her halfway into the series although  it is not out of character. This act makes her flee the group and thus leave the story.. although there is possibility she might return in  future episodes.

Screenshot - 11_13_2013 , 7_08_24 PM
Lilly’s father is an overbearing bitter person. His appearance supports this very well. He has a broken nose and a jutting jaw like he is some kind of street fighter (bully?).. It is also hinted at that he is a racist which explains his hostility towards Lee. At some point he warns Lee off to keep his hand away from his daughter, thus adding a sexual undercurrent to his dislike for Lee,
Screenshot - 11_13_2013 , 7_15_42 PM
This is Ben, like other characters in the story he seems to be in the game to supply the story with someone who can be written off at some point during the tale so that we keep being aware of how dangerous this world is.
Screenshot - 11_13_2013 , 8_20_46 PM
Molly appears in the last episode of the game and she as fast in as she is out. Without her wanting to she almost causes the group of survivors to be overwhelmed by zombies. She is a resource full athletic girl and one of the few people that survive. It is almost in her nature to survive.
Chuck, another survivor that has a small role in the story. His role seems mostly to make Lee aware that the world has changed forever and he needs to learn Clementine some basic things like.. firing a handgun. Skill we in a normal society would not want to teach to our children. His is the wise guy… even though he is portrayed as a hobo.
This picture invokes a strange scene. The group sits near a abandoned train out in the open. Chuck is playing music. It is explained before that the place is secluded and protected, yet with all the roaming zombies around one wonders why there is not one single guard.. on the top of train for instance?

As a story element the above scene creates a placid scene. The sky is blue and it almost looks like they are sitting around a campfire as if on holiday. Not even someone on guard. Which might be a deliberate move. A guard would spoil this ideal camping picture.  Note that nobody seems to change clothes throughout the game, except for Kenny, who switches t-shirts..

Screenshot - 11_13_2013 , 8_10_15 PM
Another set of picture that show the interaction between Lee and Clementine. He explains her that she has to cut her hair because zombies could grab it. Later Lee learns her to shoot.

Screenshot - 11_13_2013 , 8_10_28 PM

The group enters the city of Savannah. The place of hope. Note the sunny colors..
While zombies are a constant threat in the background the game does not overdo it. It uses them appropriately. In this scene the previously empty streets of Savannah are suddenly filled with zombies because Molly uses bells to lure them away. She is however unaware of the group of survivors entering the town. As consequence she lures the zombies right towards them. From a technical angle this image shows the limits of the game as well. The avatars have been lightened but they do not match up to the surrounding lighting and they cast no shadows where other things do. As such they almost look like they have been cut out and pasted into the scene.

Another use of colors in the above two scenes. When the group enters the city of Savannah.. the scene is set as if it is a nice summers day.. when the zombies arrive.. the colors are turned to dark and threatening. It is one of the ways to underscore the mood…

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The game at various moments shows us empty streets that are suddenly filled with zombies. It is one of these weaker features in the story. Why would zombies linger in the houses to sudden erupt into the street? Because it is story wise more exciting and.. it is probably also a limitation of the game.

Note the sky above this scene.. bad things are about to happen….

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During one of the moments in the game a hunting party send out by the group finds three other survivors.

This scene is cast in an almost pleasant like forest view. In this case the dark threatening colors are no used.. because the sunray that shines into the clearing makes for a nice contrast with the next scene.. The light guides our view towards the center..

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One has been caught in a trap while zombies close with the group they frantically try to release the trapped survivor.

Zombies shamble towards the group…

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There are tough moments in the game like these where you have to choose whom to feed. Curiously enough the whole food issue is never mentioned again.
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More issues.. this girl is about to be overwhelmed by zombies.. your can choose to kill her or hope she makes it, but it is obvious from the situation that she has not a shadow of chance to get out alive.

The above scene with the dark clouds that seem threatening is the stage for this little drama.. you have to either see her killed by the zombies or you have kill her yourself. Watching this scene gives me a sad shocked feeling. I know what is going to happen.. You can see she must have been through a rough time with her being dirty… she almost looks like a zombie at this point, and you can see the desperation on her face. He looking as a zombie creates this feel that she has been in the pit.. tries to escape.. Lee and Kenny are near.. yet within sight of salvation they can not help her..and only kill her quickly to spare her an agonizing death…

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More tough choices. The camera is set low so that it show the kid in the middle and the gun in the foreground.

This camera is set low.. so we are at eye level with the kid.. the two grown-ups loom over the dead kid.. It is a classic scene of a vulnerable kid being at the mercy of two strong grown-ups.. The gun illustrates this to a point.. If we did not know from the story-line this might be even interpreted in another way. This is one of the things about a story.. like a house it is made up out of smaller parts that give it context and meaning.. Context and meaning that could be changed by changing the constituent parts of the story.

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Tough moments like these abound.. you can choose to rescue Ben or not. There is a reason you might want to drop him.. which is why the choice is not easy.

The camera shot is marvelous: the one hand holding Ben, the zombies roaming below and climbing the stairs. The darkness creeps in from all sides.. again.

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Almost at the very end we discover what happened to the Clementine’s parents.

This last scenes are done in a stark dark color. We are in the pit of darkness…

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Halfway during the story the group find this train blocking the road.
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The survivors get the train to work. It brings them to Savannah where they hope to escape by boat.

This is the scene of Savannah just before the group enters the town..They travel towards the sun.. the bringer of light, warmth and hope.

Yellow dust hangs over this scene and obscures the zombies.. suggesting there are a lot of them. If you look closer you will see that there are not that many there..
Lee hangs out of the train.. the group barely escaped this horde of zombies. You could swap the zombies for any other kind of pursuit.. it is the classic.. we got away! scene.
One of the final scenes…It could be dusk or dawn..but the landscape signifies a change of state. Considering it was dark before.. this must be dawn..