When the original State of Decay game launched in 2013, it broke Xbox Live Arcade sales records. Although it had some obvious technical shortcomings, it still provided an addicting and unique open-world zombie survival experience.
State of Decay 2, for better or worse, feels like more of the same. It does feel like a more polished experience than the first game, despite still featuring a ton of bugs, and 4 player online co-op is a welcome addition however it still doesn’t quite realise the potential the series has.
State of Decay 2 is all about survival. You take control of a group of survivors and try to survive the zombie apocalypse. The gameplay loop involves going out and scavenging for resources then returning the resources to your base. This at times does get tiresome and there will be times where you feel that you are just going in circles without making any progress. The grind for resources can be very addicting and it certainly will result in some heart pounding moments.
What progress there is in the game comes from upgrading or moving your base. On each of the game’s three maps, there are a several potential base locations you can set up at. Each base has its own advantages and disadvantages such as pre-built facilities and natural defenses.
The bases each have a different combination of slots where you can build various facilities to assist your survivor group. Despite the base upgrade system feeling deeper than the original, I still felt it was generally lacking. Upgrading is limited to the facilities you build, either increasing the facilities level or adding a modification. I would have liked to see the option to improve, customise or expand parts of your base outside of these facility slots, particularly when it comes to defences.
I found the maps to be generally just lacking in character. They are well laid out and there are countless buildings to explore so you won’t be short on things to do. The world just doesn’t feel particularly interesting. More exciting landmarks throughout the world would have gone a long way.
The game doesn’t have much of a narrative around it. Your survivors can have individual missions and other survivor groups can provide you with missions however these won’t really engage you. Completing missions for other survivor groups improves your relationship which over time may result in them providing a benefit to you.
One of the defining features of the game is perma-death. When you take a survivor out, there is a very real chance that they could die. Taking on one or two zombies are generally a walk in the park. Against a whole swarm though, things can much trickier. Once they die, there is no reloading or way to undo what has happened, I tried, death is permanent. This keeps you on your toes and forces you to learn when to run and when to fight.
The main threat in this game, other than the climbing down ladder mechanic not engaging, is the zombies. In addition to your regular zombies, there are a few special types of zombies. While these special types of zombies are more difficult, I found it quite easy to avoid having to face them by simply running away then coming back after they despawn.
Despite having much potential, the new blood plague threat turns out to be a letdown. The way it works is certain type of zombies have the blood plague infection. As they attack you, you begin to contract the blood plague. Contracting the blood plague is only a minor annoyance. You learn how to craft the cure as a part of the tutorial and from there you will find yourself of no shortage of required resources to produce more cures.
Combat in the game is basic but fun. You will commonly relying on melee weapons which breakdown over time which can lead to some exhilarating moments mid-fight.
Probably my favourite addition to State of Decay 2 is the online co-op. This isn’t to say co-op is particularly well implemented, rather co-op is just such a natural fit into the game and generally enhances the experience.
The most discussed shortcoming of the co-op is the tethering. When you enter your friend’s world, you have to stay within a certain radius of them. For the most part this isn’t that big of a deal. The radius is quite large and the way the game works, you will be generally sticking close together anyway. The only time you will notice it is if you decide to undertake different tasks in separate areas of the map.
For me the biggest shortcoming of the co-op is the way it is implemented.
The way it works is you bring one of your survivors into your friend’s world. You are a visitor and as such what you can do in the world is restricted. Due to the perma-death system, you will therefore be putting your survivor’s life on the line as an outsider for very little reward. While your survivor is there, your world is paused. They will still however accumulate fatigue and lose health. Because of this, after playing for an extended time you will began to create a backlog of survivors who are out of action due to your world being paused, they aren’t recovering.
State of Decay 2 isn’t a bad game, it is just abit disappointing. With a bigger budget, a new engine and a new console, I had expected the game to feature bigger improvements than it has. At it’s core though it is still State of Decay and it is still zombie killing fun.
Released: May 2018
Platforms: Xbox One, PC (Windows 10)
Genre: Action, Survival
Developer: Undead Labs