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…

 

 

 

 

Game review: Fallout 4

Enough has been said about Fallout 4’s flaws by others and I will not repeat what has been said before ad nauseam other then to note that Bethesda has finally done away with the roleplay elements of the game, which isn’t really a surprise as we shall see shortly. In fact it is the goal Bethesda has been progressing towards.

I will concentrate on what for me simply breaks a game, which is the story. In this respect Bethesda has been very consistent in that none of their flag ship games, being the Elder scrolls series and the Fallout series, have anything resembling a good story. Take the story lines of both Oblivion and Skyrim, they are very similar and just bare bones enough to get you out into the world. The world is basically a sandbox where you can roam around doing repeat missions that have no consequences. Go and kill some elder dragons up on the mountain and return to town to find out that nothing has changed. In Skyrim Bethseda has made boring what in other games is the summon of tension: fighting dragons. Next we will see fights with demons, as boring as can be(compare this to Dragon Age III)

Fallout is now the same game as the Elder scroll series. It is a sandbox game that has a flimsy storyline to get you going. It is so inconsequential that the game spends less then 10 minutes on your background story, it might be longer if you take the time to extensively alter your look.The whole story in a nutshell: a short introduction to your family, after which you agree to a place in the nearby Vault. Then the alarms sound, you run to the Vault getting while the bombs drop. You get frozen in, wake up for unknown and unexplained reasons, to see your partner getting killed and your kid stolen. Some unknown time passes and you get out of your cryogenic module, to find everyone in the Vault dead. Except for the radroaches, that is. It ends when you escape to the surface to enter the world of Fallout.

Fallout fails as a story because there is nothing to make you go out there. There is no imminent danger, no sword of Damocles or time limit. There is no evil character to beat, a threat to thwart or a world to save. The kidnapped son is supposed to be the MacGuffin that ought to get you going, but there is no pressure and, given that no time is spend on making him matter,  you basically don’t care what happens to him. In fact you know nothing will happen to him as the story won’t progress unless you talk to the next NPC in line. He is so unimportant that I even forgot his name until it popped up in my conversation options.

This game now has the option to build things, not that it matters to the world at large. It won’t get any safer or more advanced. In fact nothing happens. The same goes for the killing of all the monsters and raiders. What you get is empty looted places, not safe havens: the beginnings of a new civilization. You make a wasteland by killing everything and then that might be called peace.

Someone compared it to State of Decay and indeed even that game shows how soulless Fallout has become. In State of Decay you cared for your small group of survivors and building mattered for it made your base safer and for you especially when you had to find resources that were important and in short supply. It also had a story with a definite end and a heightened pressure when more deadly monsters appeared. There were many faults in State of Decay, but you felt that it what you did mattered, you had your favorite survivors you cared for and gave the best of your equipment.

And this then compared to the empty world of Fallout. No story to be had, no characters to care for, you don’t matter, the world doesn’t matter and nothing matters. It is a sandbox where you can roam around for ever for there are always randomly spawned monsters and raiders around the corner. It has no story and no soul. How utterly soulless it has become is shown by the fact that any humor is lacking. This game is as dry as a desert and devoid of life as a graveyard. Compare that to Fallout 1 and 2.

And this is what Bethesda wants. Offering a sandbox game without a story so they don’t have to spend time on writing, without roleplay elements so they can go on forever, and with just shooting and looting. What is next? Fallout online or Elder Scrolls online no doubt. Perhaps that already exist? Maybe. It is what a MMO is basically: sand box games with a flimsy story. Soulless worlds.

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.

Not a game review: Legions of Ashworld

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Don’t you like these dubious post titles?

I deny to do what I seem to be doing.. writing a review about a game.. And in all honestly.. it isn’t. A game review touches on the game as game and should take most aspect of a game into account.  Or at least.. attempt to. The reason I don’t make game reviews is that I do not look at all aspects.. but only at a few ones.. I cherry pick. so to speak. I usually only look at the use of graphics and story telling.
An example is the game the cat lady.. which I have written about it before. As a game it is probably not that good, the puzzles must be fairly easy to solve for an experienced puzzle gamer as I found them easy to resolve and I am not an experienced puzzle gamer. However I like the game because in a way it is unusual and new. It tells a story and uses graphics and style to support the story. It is sometimes gruesome perhaps.. but it is never too shocking.
Now I like to take a look at the game Legions of Ashworld(LOA of short) because it is inspired by the game Lords of Midnight(LOM for short). If you have never heard of Lords of Midnight I would not be surprised. It is a game that was made in the eighties of the previous century and looks pretty awful by current standards. However it was an innovative game at the time because it was one of the first open game worlds in which you were allowed to roam around at will, you could look into the distance, it combined a wargame with a fantasy system and allowed you to win the game in two ways: either defeat the evil army or destroy an artifact that gave the evil lord his power(a third option was to do both.).
Legions of Ashworld is a game that is inspired by Lords of Midnight and those who, like me, have played it feel that similarity.  This similarity can best be seen in the below screenshot.

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This is an ingame screenshot of the world. You are actually looking through the eyes of the Lord Taraz towards fortress. Currently you are looking towards the north(the north pointer is highlighted)
You can look all around by clicking on the pointers. When an object is nearby, it  is big and when it is far off it gets smaller. The pictures are thus layered over each to create a feeling of depth. This is very similar to Lords of Midnight.
Like in LOM you start with a small group of people when the war breaks out and you have to recruit the lords of the land, the wizards and even invoke the help of giants.
The initial phase of the game see you gathering your forces while the enemy makes inroads into your country with overwhelming forces. And you will find you won’t be able to battle your enemy until well into the game because you simply lack the troops to do so.
For most of the time you need to keep track of things by consulting the map. Below you see a map from the tutorial that gives you an impression of various symbols.
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And with that the similarities with Lords of Midnight end.
Lord of Midnight was an epic game that mimicked the essentials of Lord of the Rings. The game came with  a short story that introduced us to the three main characters: Luxor the Moonprince, Morkin and Rothrn the Wise. Thus the characters got a kind of presence. There was a feel and mood created.
Anything like it is lacking in Legions of Ashworld. LOA has no epic feel. It feels as a basic wargame. This lack of epic feel is also caused by the visual style. The makers of LOA have chose for a neat visual style in yellow and earth tone colors and set the tale in a desert environment. The characters have a similarity in look and name and coupled with the lack of background this makes them unremarkable and interchangeable and thus dull.

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This lack of sense or authentic feeling  coupled with the fact that it is simplistic wargame makes the game interesting for one or two play troughs.. It is a pity for the art style shows promise.. especially when you look at image in the picture above.

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Perhaps the maker of this game might try to make another inspired game that captures more of the epic feel that made LOM so great. I certainly would recommend to consider another color scheme and make the visual less..uniform. More colors perhaps or different colors..

Of course a game doesn’t simply get better changing the visuals, but visuals help.

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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.

A game: The cat lady

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Starting a post by writing  that I like a game counts probably as a spoiler and it certainly would be -I think-  if this post was meant as a game review, but this isn’t mean as such. The reason I write about the game the cat lady is because it is one of those small little games that linger in the dark recesses of steam(the online game shop) and  is likable, even though it might not be  a good game according to many standards.

So doesn’t that mean the game isn’t worth the money you pay for it?

Not at all.

First off, the game isn’t that expensive, I bought it for just a  few euros so based on the cost you don’t need to set your expectations high.  But  the most important reason is that it combines pictures, music and voice acting very nicely into a neat story.

So what is the story about?

The cat lady is a story of Susan Ashworth, a 40 year old single woman, who is called the cat lady because  she feeds the neighborhood cats,  who has had some pretty nasty experiences in her past and who commits suicide, she then gets send back by a rather strange(and creepy) lady  to take care of the ‘parasites’; people who prey on other people up to the point of killing them  So that is basically what you are expected to do: stop the parasites. The story will see you move between realities, between death and live and back and forth between then and now. And your most powerful tool? You can’t be killed. Well, you can be killed, only you come back to live in a short while.

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Death is just the start of the tale and will be one of the ways to solve the mysteries.

The story is  a bit morbid, and certainly gruesome at times. Most of the scenes are set fixed scenes that you look at from one side. There is a little bit of animation to the scenes, but not much. At various points sounds are used and music. It is all used sparingly, but properly and to the point.

So instead of seeing this game as a game, you might also see it as a kind of interactive narrative. Sometimes you are allowed to make different choices, although I don’t think the choices will ultimately result in a dramatic different story. I didn’t explore alternatives, but considering the price and the smallness of the game, I doubt they would have spent a lot of time and effort on exploring alternative story lines.

What I most like about this game was the imagery and therefore I took some screenshots, killed about sixteen of my darlings and show you the remains below.

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The cat lady and the strange old lady

 

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So guess who has to do something about it?
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So what else can you do?
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The cat lady’s apartment. The mood is gloomy.
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The chapters are all headed by gloomy colors. Not an atmosphere that will make you happy, but then again, some people might feel better because of it.

 

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The story often depicts the state of mind of the cat lady and goes back in time, like in this scene in which a traumatic experience in the cat lady’s past is explored.

 

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Some scenes are probably a bit gruesome to some and I was hesitant in posting this one, but I thought it should be posted because there are gruesome moments in this game/story.

 

Screenshot - 5_22_2014 , 10_20_13 PM
There are some beautiful depictions in the game. The atmosphere painted with images as this. While they might be cliche to some they still invoked a powerful feeling.

 

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Susan Ashworth, the cat lady.

 

State of decay(for pc) 2: tips and tricks

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An introduction

Originally I had one long post that contained all, but I decided to split the post into separate items. This is the tip and tricks part.

Tips and tricks

So next follow some tips and remarks and if you are the kind that likes to suffer discover everything yourself then by all means: stop reading.

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Cars!

There are all kinds of cars in the game but  for durability the one in the two pictures above is the best one. The modern pickup, as the game calls it, is a big monster that can run down several hordes and show nothing for it.. ok.. a dent or two. All other cars break down far too soon.

When you leave the ranger station in the introduction game you will ride towards in  the Church of the Ascension and just before you enter the village Spencers Mill there is a car accident scene of two cars crashed into each other. To the left side you see a modern pickup parked.  Get it. Get all the modern pickups you can get your hands on! For you need a lot of them as you have one that you use and the rest will be repaired while you are squatting hordes.

Cars will be repaired slowly when you park them near your home base and you have at least a workshop. According to the rules only the car in the car space, but curiously enough any car parked nearby the Snyders trucking warehouse would end up repaired overtime.

Do not park too many cars near your home base.. I did once and one disappeared because someone took it out for spin and never returned it. At Snyders I got this event when I had eight cars parked around it.

The modern pickup has two disadvantages.. it is a big machine that can not move easily around in close spaces and it is not the fastest car,  although it is not the slowest car either.

Be aware that cars are zombie magnets. They will gather around your car while you are out doing missions or exploring a house.

Cars have a horn.. Press Q and it will make a loud noise. This is very useful during missions in which you have to lure away zombies or draw out zombies into the open.

(Update November 2013)
Be careful with driving cars cross country or over uneven terrain. The physics in the game are somewhat unpredictable and it could mean your car will end up belly up.. and you will be ejected and find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere.

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The first modern pickup you encounter is to the left in the picture. There is a catch because when you get close zombies will spawn. No worries though.. you have three people to deal with them: Marcus, Maya and Ed.. oh and Ed might look in a bad shape,  but he still can swing a bat around quite well.

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Outposts(and resource gathering)

When you acquire the first home base(the Church of  the Ascension) you still can not do everything you need to do. Noticeably you can not establish an outpost.  This option comes available after doing the first survey mission Lily gives you and before the Mission: Survivors. And you can establish an outpost via the Radio Assistance which is called using the LEFT ALT button.

Outpost also create resources. They work as follows. They will create 3 resources of the kind you see displayed on the map and only the first one. Even if more resources are shown it will just create three of the one that is shown on the map. To do this it needs 1 material.  When there are no resources left an outpost creates 3 ammo. You can also have 3 materials created in an place that has materials, which also cost 1 material for a net result of 2 materials. For the Trucking warehouse the cost of eight outposts is eight materials.. with which you can produce 24 resources so you gain 16 resources. It is one of the reasons I prefer the Trucking warehouse.

Note that turning a place into an outpost makes all items and resources in that place unavailable for gathering. So remove as much items as you can before you turn them into outposts. (Update: October 2013) a recent test shows them to be available.. which might have been due to a patch or a bug so now you can move items from the store you turned into an outpost into the store.
(Update November 2013)
In some blog posts it was suggested that resources re-spawn. The idea was not take all the items inside a container. Eventually new items will show up. I have run a few test games leaving items behind(mostly things like fire-crackers and  dolls.) I have yet to experience any regeneration of items. In fact items will simply disappear and buildings will be marked with nothing left and there will be no containers.
IMPORTANT: containers that have resources inside them will only disappear when you empty them of their resources. So these resources will not disappear during the game like items will. But mark this: buildings will be marked with nothing left even when they still contain resources. Thus the marking on the map that there is nothing left is about items.. and not about resources.

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Homebases

(change)

Homebases are the places where your group of survivors hide out, where you can stash supplies and equipment and repair weapons and cars. Most home bases have slots available to create a workshop, garden, watch tower and the like. Some of these can be upgraded. Some of these repair your cars, others you can use to make medicines and yet others allow you to make ammo.

There are several potential home bases available. The State of Decay wiki neatly lists them so you can select the one you like to have. I have played twice now and choose the Snyders trucking warehouse both as it is the biggest available early in the game, has a lot of space to store goods, can have up to eight outposts and can be easily defended by four outposts or even three. The other you can use around the map to create safe havens.

The option to relocate a home base appears only after your get the Mission: Home Away From Home. This mission will appear as part of the first quests but the real trigger is not clear to me.

A relocation does not cost the materials that are mentioned, it just requires you to have that many. So when you need 50 materials to have a home base relocated it will not use them.

Update(november 2013)

After some testing I observed the following in the game in regard to home bases..

In the game there are seven potential home bases. However the options are much more limited than this might suggest.

Choosing which home bases seems to have no impact on the resource needs. It does not matter if you choose a big home base or a small base.. they cost the same.. What makes a base more expensive is that daily resource costs seems influenced by what you build, your equipment, the amount of survivors and cars you have. Since a bigger home base has more slots to build it eats up more resources when you use them.

The Trumbull valley fairgrounds is  not a great option as it is only available later in the game after you have progressed on the army story line. This progress is somewhat unpredictable but in any event it is only available later in the game. The fairgrounds are actually not even a much better option then the trucking warehouse as it has hardly more building options. In addition because it is late in the game you either have to hold back on building and reserve materials for when you move towards the Fairgrounds or you have to waste resources on builds that you have to redo at the fairgrounds. Also the one time I moved to the fairgrounds I lost 50 materials.. so it is not true that moving does not cost materials. But there might be a reason as my move was from the Church of Ascension to Savini towards Fairgrounds.. it might be that either having to many resources caused this loss of materials or that a second move might have caused this.
There are even more disadvantages to the Fairgrounds. It is pretty distant from most places.. so gathering resources mean you have to travel a lot and considering that both bridges have obstacles(and one on both sides!) it is a hassle to get around fast. Also the town near the Fairgrounds lacks resources and items to boot. In fact  the entire office block at one side if the town is empty.

The Alamo is a small home base in the center of Marshall and it is almost no improvement on the Church of Ascension in regards to space and building options. It might be a base of someone who wants to play a hard game as it is basically open to all sides and you probably need all the four outposts it allows to cover the approaches to the base or see it constantly invaded by zombies..  It is therefore only an option for someone who likes a challenge.

Kirkman and Savini are on the same level and can be seen as the next step after the Church of Ascension and the Alamo respectively.  However Savini is probably the better option because it is located at Marshall while Kirkman is located at Spencer’s Mill. Since your game starts in Spencer’s Mill, it is likely that by the time you can relocate a home base you will have exhausted most of the resources in that village.  In addition most the middle game story-lines take place in Marshall and thus you would be required to travel a lot.  Next to that, the Savini place can be protected by just three outposts.. allowing you to use the other three as moving bases, while Kirkman is open to all sides and thus needs more outposts to protect it.

The McReady Farmhouse is the next step after Kirkman and Savini but has two big disadvantages.. the first is that you can not protect it with outposts like you can with the others and the other is that it is in the middle of nowhere with only a few roads.. Thus you will be travelling a lot.

The Trucking warehouse is probably  the best option overall. However there are a few issues to be aware of.  First.. the zombies are in the final release more dangerous than they were in the pre-release.. Hence it is imperative to make an outpost in the storage shed at it’s backside.. otherwise be prepared to see a lot of zombies filtering in from the back. Also it is probably wise to cover the whole front with outposts. I estimate that about four would be enough to protect the whole and this includes the one at the back. I you turn the petrol station near the bridge into another outpost you probably have a pretty save place. This still leaves you with three outposts that you can put anywhere you want.
There are even more reasons for the Trucking Warehouse and one is that it comes with an upgraded workshop. This can not be upgraded again or changed into a weapons workshop, but the fact that you do not have to spend 25(or was it 40)  materials on an upgrade means you save a lot. Because it has many slots you can build almost everything except for one thing. I usually do not build a training area(see below picture).

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Snyders Trucking Warehouse, personally my favorite.
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McReady Farmhouse is smaller then the Warehouse and more vulnerable as you have just one building near that you can turn into an outpost. 

Influence and fame

Influence is simply the currency of the game. You gain influence by doing missions or getting resources and items.

Influence will be limited by fame. You can have more influence than fame though, but that influence will drain away slowly. And remember the game keeps on running even when you are not playing. So eventually your influence will be reduced to fame.

Fame itself can be increased by doing missions.

One trick to prevent influence from draining away is using some of your community members to store items. These can be turned into influence later on.

Another way to manage your in influence is to stick to companions you get via missions and not recruit a special companion..Usually there are enough missions to go provide you with one, or even two, companions..

Missions

Missions come in two kinds: plot based missions and random missions. The first are fixed missions that you get when certain conditions are met and usually one follows the next.

Random missions are almost all aimed at killing of zombies or saving or protecting someone’s butt from zombies. There are only a limited set, so you will see them being repeated a lot during the game.

Random missions are on a timer, meaning that they will expire after a while. Plot missions are often not on a timer, except for one involving The Law. When a mission expires it usually has a negative effect on moral and might cause one of your members to disappear. Might, because I have never had this experience, but then I let missions involving community member seldom expire.

Be aware that when you team up with someone as part of a mission (of both types) that someone might leave you to hang out to dry the moment the mission is over regardless of what condition you are in or how many zombies are around. This can leave you to face a bunch of zombies alone without a car near. So  make sure that you always got a backup plan to get out. I always make sure a trusty modern pickup is parked nearby, but remember: they attract zombies so you might have to fight some to get to it.

It is wise to listen to Lily(the girl that speaks to you over the radio) for she sometimes give you advice that you better follow. So when she says to gear up.. gear up!

Companions

After a while you will be able to recruit other people to head out with you for 100 influence. This is a good investment because you can easily get them back by scavenging. Since you can switch between your companions when they are friends, as long as they are not tired or hurt, you can use them to store more equipment.

There are a few things to take note of.

When you accept missions of others companions might leave. Especially in all plot missions they leave the moment you accept and they can even leave the moment you just clicked the mission area on the map. Also survey quests makes them often leave you.
(update November 2013)
In some occasions the companion you recruited will leave when accepting a mission in, some case they do not. I have not find a predictable pattern.

Many missions give you a companion for the duration of that mission. Since most missions end after reaching a certain area(returning home for example) or killing a certain group of creatures you can take these companions along until that condition is met. While you can not do other missions with this companion or switch characters, you can take  these free companions with you to protect you while you scavenge, establish outposts and relocate bases.
(update November 2013)
In quests where you are ask to hunt a certain special zombie or to clear away an infestation the companion you get during that mission will leave you at once when the goal has been reached. This might leave you suddenly without any help. This can be annoying and dangerous.

There seems to be a catch in the game in that the more companions you have with you, the more zombies are generated around you. So having a companion around can be a bit of a mixed blessing.

(Update November 2013)
When you have to go home quick or find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere, you can deal with the situation by switching to another character. Your old character will walk home, but there is no worry about him or her being hurt. Those characters are invulnerable.

Freak zombies

Freak zombie are special zombies. There are five types: armored zombies, rotter zombies, big uns, ferals and screamers.

Armored zombies are basic zombies but armored. Guns have little effect on them unless you shoot them in the face. Otherwise they just take longer to die.

Rotter Zombies are the type of zombies that explode in a cloud of toxic gas. Keep your distance from them and shoot them in the belly. Do not drive a car into them as you will get thrown from the car and the car is unusable as long as the cloud is in it.

Big Uns. Big and slow. although it can charge for a shot distance. A big un or juggernaut is very tough and very strong. The easiest way to kill it is to throw molotov cocktails at it. Four is usually enough to soften them up to be killed. Probably a grenade launcher might work as well,  but I have not tried that.

Ferals. Nasty, tough and fast, They might be mistaken for normal zombies. They jump around quickly and pounce on you. Once they have you in a hold it is hard to break it. They can take a lot of punishment.. perhaps as much as an armored zombie. However they are prone to be bashed to the ground with blunt weapons. Just keep bashing them.

Funny enough they have a predictable pattern of jumping. When you drive at them with a car they jump to the side and when you immediately swivel the car into the direction they jumped the car usually will intercept the feral in mid jump as it tries to go for your car door. It is surprisingly easy to kill with a car.

I also noticed that shooting it in the head from a distance will work too as it just seems to ignore you pumping it with lead until it is dead.

Screamers are by far the most annoying zombies. Screamers are often the center of an infestation and usually come in pairs. They scream to stun you and attract other zombies(hordes even). Usually they are protected by a large group of zombies.  The tactic is to lure the protecting zombies away and then shoot the screamers in the head. If you are handy with molotov cocktails that will work too. A grenade launcher worked also in once case. Cleared them out in no time.

Guns

Want a party? Bring a gun.

Guns come in all sizes, but break down in four categories: pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns.

Pistols and rifles can be silenced, revolvers and shotguns can not.

There are also grenade launchers in the game.

Making loud noises attracts zombies, hence firing un-silenced guns will get you their attention.

Interestingly the revolvers and shotguns usually make the most noise. On the other hand, they do usually more damage.

Getting automatic or specials weapons is hard task. There are only a few places where you stand a chance to find something special, which is the police station in Marshall, where I found automatic shotguns and grenade launchers, and the military camp up north that gave me a machine gun and a military grade grenade launcher. The loot seems to be random so you might find nothing much and the military camp is only available late in the game and swarming with freak zombies.

Later on in the game you can buy a few guns from others, but they are a basic selection probably to make sure you at least have the option to get them.

My experience with guns is that they only useful in special cases, but not as an option to replace hand to hand combat. For one; guns make loud noises that attract nearby zombies and in fact the game seems to generate zombies when you make a lot of noise(and a lot of them to boot, especially later in the game).

In addition there are no magazines in the game. Bullets are stored in your inventory as separate items and you can have 30 bullets per backpack slot. This means that even if you find enough bullets you can not really go on a killing spree unless you keep close to an outpost. In addition a gun can only be reloaded when you stand still and I found that when you need to reload you never get around doing that unless you can have something that keeps the zombies at bay, like standing on a platform or behind a barricaded window.

Next to that: zombies can take a lot of bullets unless you aim at the head. I found that at time a pistol with seventeen rounds could be as effective as a machine-gun with a hundred rounds. Just head shot them.

Shotguns are good weapons for rubbing out a horde if you keep your calm. You need to have them really close and then unload it at head level. What remains can be killed off by hand. Shotguns are especially handy when zombies are forced to use a narrow opening to get at you, like a window or a door.

Grenades, grenade launchers and Molotov cocktails

Thrown grenades and other incendiary weapons are handy to kill groups of zombies. Throwing needs to be trained though. The aim in the game makes you overthrow your target so you need to get a good feel of how to throw.  Molotov cocktails are somewhat better than grenades because grenades make a lot of noise.

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Grenade launcher in action
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Grenade launcher in action
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Grenade launcher in action

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Gathering and using resources and items

There are many places where you can find resources and items. Mostly they are inside buildings, but sometimes you can find them in fields and thickets.  There is a certain pattern to them. Sheds and construction sites will have resources and fuel, stores will have food, guns shops and the like will have ammo. Normal houses can have anything, but tend to lean to medicines and food. Fields have food.

Searching resources takes time. And usually it generates zombies nearby. They might not always find you though. The search time is reduced when your wits level increases.

When you search a house you can find two types of things: resources.. which is usually called a stash,  and items like weapons or bottles of pills.

Resources can be taken with you. You do that by pressing E and hold it down. Be aware that if you remove all the resources, the place will only generate ammo if you turn it into an outpost. You can only take one resource with you at a time and it makes you encumbered and you need to deliver it to your homebase. Items can however be dumped in outposts.

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I do not know if items become available again after you remove the outpost.Another unknown thing is if a house that is not researched in total will keep on generating items. I got the feeling that certain houses I searched, but not in total were searchable again.

A very important thing to be aware of is that when you leave items to be collected later that they might disappear. This is actually pretty logical. Some other group of survivors might have taken them.

Note also that you can not put items from your backpack into the containers you search. It is one way only.

Game pace

The game is relentless and it keeps on going even if you are not playing. During a play session, the only way to pause the action is by going in to the menu, but even if you do that a long time I noticed that you will find things have changed the moment you return to the game. So going into the map to get your bearings will not stop the game and therefore make sure you are at a place where you are not suddenly attacked by zombies.

Game saves

Normally there is just one save and with each event or mission the results are immediately saved into the save game. Hence you can not normally reload to a previous state after having your favorite character killed.

However on the pc you can locate the save game and copy it to another place. So if your favorite character is killed, you can copy the old save back to the original folder. This can also be used when you play the next day and you find the results to unfavorable. Just close the game, copy the backup again and see what the result is.

Not that you must be either in the main menu or have closed down the whole game before copying the old files.. otherwise the game will just write over these old files.

The save game is located here:

On a 32 bit windows computer:

<drive you installed the game>:\Program Files\Steam\userdata\108132632\241540\local

On a 64 bit windows computer:

<drive you installed the game>:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\userdata\108132632\241540\local

Night, day, dawn, dusk, noon.

Night is the nastiest time. There are more zombies roaming around and they are much harder to spot. Since light seems to attract them as much as noise, having your lights on will alert nearby zombies. Especially inside buildings you have a hard time to see what you are fighting. Zombies do have distinct glowing eyes, but who is counting those when you are busy clubbing them. The day and night cycle in the game in based on an one hour real time scheme. These represent in game days. The daily resource need as shown in the game for the needs of your home base are real time need. That is what one real day will require.

During the dark it is hard to see zombies.. the radar will not always reveal them until they are on you…so it is not 100% reliable. Which is a good thing really
During daylight you can see the zombies by eyesight.. the radar does not always show them. Wrecks blocking the road are also not shown on the radar.

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During the day the streets can look devoid of zombies. Do not be fooled though: linger at a place and you soon find more an abundance of zombies spawning around you.

Neighbors & Other survivors(Update November 2013)

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Neighbors.. this lot is lives at The Grange
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The Wilkersons… never mind about them.

One activity to do in the game is to gather survivors and deal with those that do not join your group.  Gathering survivors to join your group is a double edge activity. More people means you have more player characters to play with, but they also are more mouths to feed and more beds to fill. More player characters are nice as usually a few of your group will be tired, hurt or sick.

There are basically three groups of survivors. Those that are plot related like the Wilkersons, The Army, The Law and The Grange.  There are a few survivors from the Law that will join you after a certain plot related event, but the others will never join you. I have heard that the Wilkerson might join you if you pursue a certain route in the plot line.. but I have never tested this as I simply do not like them and they are way out in a zombie-horde infested place. In all it is too much bother to try and curb their favor.

The second groups are those that will join you.. these usually come available as missions like a group of survivors asks to join you, or a stranger located or survivor activity reported. These will join you at the end of the mission.

The third group never seems to join you.. These are invariably announced as neighbors, have their own base(called enclave) and  they are random groups that suddenly appear. I have never been able to have them join me. I even tried with one that had complete trust, but they did not want to join. Usually these enclaves of survivors disappear. They seem to get assaulted the whole time until they eventually die.  Sometimes they give you barricade missions and sometimes the dead survivors leave rucksacks behind you can take home.