Dead State has gone a bit under the radar of most people, and that is a shame, because even though I got wind of it too late to Kickstarter-back it, I bought it the moment it was fully released and I haven't regretted it for one minute, except for the fact that it's eating up virtually all of my free time.
Simply put, Dead State is an amazing game. Granted, it's not bug-free (though no real game-breaking bugs so far) and the interface can be a chore (as well as an enigma at times), but once you're used to its quirks, Dead State becomes an incredibly addictive and involving experience.
Yes, we're all tired of zombie games, but I will gladly make an exception for Dead State, and I promise, so will you. If I describe it as an interesting cross between Fallout, State of Decay and X-Com: Enemy Unknown, then it should probably be enough to make the hairs of any serious gamer stand on end. And rightly so, because the game pulls off all its aspects perfectly. And it even has a well implemented 'timer' mechanism: you're pressed for time since morale decays and food supplies dwindle daily, but on the other hand, you don't feel like you're being rushed all the time. There's no clock counting down, no constant reminders. You set your own pace, and as long as you don't waste your days doing nothing, you should usually be fine. I scavenged every day, trying to take on at least two locations per run, which is as far as you can stretch your daytime (and your characters' backpacks!), but I am currently sitting on a comfortable stockpile, so there's no need to micromanage and fuss over every single hour of every single day. But you know damn well that you can't sit still either.
During your travels, you'll meet other survivors. Some you'll just stumble across, others will even knock on your door of their own accord. While you can turn them away, it's ill-advised to do so. Sure, every survivor you take in means another mouth to feed, but they pay off their food consumption by working for you. You can give them jobs yourself, like putting them in the scavenger party, making them construct shelter upgrades, guard the fence, and all other kinds of work. And as the days go on, the needs of your shelter grow as well, making it critical to recruit every survivor you can find. Every survivor has his or her own backstory, dialogue, demands and specializations, making for a diverse and lifelike feel of the shelter, where you have to assign jobs based on their capabilities.
The shelter itself can be upgraded, X-COM: EU style, to provide benefits and make new things possible. You can construct facilities like a workshop, a garage, a rooftop garden and even a chicken coop and a recreation room. All of these upgrades, however, take time and parts, and you'll find yourself strapped for the latter very often, so don't think you'll be able to just build everything from the get-go, it requires careful decision making, especially since unexpected events will also require manpower and parts, so you need to keep some in reserve. This makes for a paced game experience, where you'll constantly have things to strive for, instead of falling into the "build-everything-then-be-stuck-with-idle-workers-and-no-real-goal"-trap many similar games have perished in.
The scavenging party, which is always led by your characters, consists of up to four people, and their exploits will be the bulk of the game experience. You lead your team out there, in the lands around the shelter, and collect everything you can, ranging from food over luxury items, to weapons and shelter upgrade parts. Every scavenging run is a shot in the dark, since you'll never know what, or who, you'll come across, and while the zombies are dangerous enough in their own right, human enemies are so much more so. Sometimes you'll have no choice but to pass by a location because you know you're simply not strong enough (yet) to take its residents on. Which of course makes it all the more satisfying when you then come back to give them a good walloping.
If you do decide to do battle, you'll do it in classic isometric turn-based style. This gives you more tactical possibilities than you'd expect, since every weapon has its own range, requirements, and statistics. The battle system is most reminiscent of the 'real' Fallout Games (the Interplay ones), except, sadly, no groin shots. In battle, the first and most important decision to make is whether or not to break out the guns. They're powerful, but come with one massive drawback, and I don't mean ammo consumption (although that certainly counts too). Because guns, as you probably know, are loud. And loud things, as you probably know, bring all sorts of nasty things. But whether or not you'll resort to the powder burners, combat means tactical decision making, and some faith in the random number god. Which is exactly how a turn-based RPG battle should go.
There are a few minor flaws. It's not an entirely bug-free experience, but most bugs range from aesthetical (sometimes characters moonwalk), to only mildly frustrating (enemies clipping into each other, characters not following the leader correctly). Some are even kinda beneficial (being able to access the car trunk if you haven't brought the car, for instance). I have not encountered any game-breaking or truly frustrating bug yet. The interface can be a bit irritating at first, but once you get the hang of its quirks and unwieldy design, this becomes nothing but a minor inconvenience.
All in all, Dead State offers an interesting, involving, and even downright addictive role-playing experience with base-building elements. Like the Civ games make you go "just... one... more... turn!", Dead State will make you go "just... one... more... day!". This game, like Divinity: Original Sin and Shadowrun Returns, is proof that Kickstarter can, and does, produce absolute jewels, and in turn, proof that game makers make the best games when they make what they want to make.
Final verdict: if you like Role-Playing Games, Turn-Based Strategy and/or base building, you owe it to yourself to get this game. It's easily one of the best games of the year. Buy it, even if it's not on sale.