Developer: Undead Labs
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), Windows 10 PC
Released: May 22, 2018
Copy supplied by publisher
The original State of Decay was released for the Xbox 360 and PC in 2013 and re-released as the Year One Survival Edition in 2015 for the Xbox One. The game was a little rough around the edges and was met with mixed reviews from critics, though still managed to attract a sizable fanbase. State of Decay 2 still features some of the same technical issues that plagued the first game but overall, is a much more refined experience this time around. State of Decay 2 is a post-apocalyptic zombie survival game with a central focus on resource management and base building. This time around, developer Undead Labs have added a highly requested multiplayer component which allows up to four players to work together to build a thriving community.
State of Decay 2 doesn’t contain much of an overarching story aside from the general zombie apocalypse premise, as most of the narrative elements emerge out of small contained quests. The first 10-15 minutes set up the story and relationship between the two starting characters you choose, but from there on out the story takes a backseat to the game’s intense time and resource management mechanics. State of Decay 2 also gives players the option of choosing between three different starting points including the foothills, plateau, and valley, which adds to the replayability of the game. Aside from the team of characters you choose to begin your community with, the survivors you encounter are procedurally generated and you are unable to edit their name or appearance in any way. This feels like a missed opportunity on Undead Labs’ part, as how cool would it have been to model your community after a popular film or TV series, or even your own family? I could finally exile my mother-in-law and see how long she could last on the outside!
The three pillars of the gameplay loop involve scavenging, combat, and base building, with an emphasis on time and community management. State of Decay 2 ramps up the intensity by making time the game’s most limited resource, in that you never feel like you have enough of it. There is always someone who needs a favor, a resource that is running low, or a horde of zombies threatening the compound. Scavenging for food, fuel, medicine, building materials, and ammunition is of central importance and you’ll want to make sure that you’re well equipped before you step outside your compound. Traveling through town and searching the various buildings is a dangerous game of cat and mouse. As you approach a building, you can get a good idea of the resources that will be found inside. Gas stations will contain fuel, grocery stores will contain food, pharmacies will contain medicine, and so on. While scavenging you’re given the opportunity to “fast search” containers or quickly open doors with a shoulder check, both of which run the risk of alerting a gang of zombies. I enjoyed this added element of strategy and found that it added an interesting amount of risk vs. reward to the often routine task searching and clearing buildings.
As you set about town to scavenge for resources, you will inevitably run into hoards of zombies and oftentimes, combat is unavoidable. The combat in State of Decay 2 is completely competent but don’t expect a God of War level of control. The weapons are fairly standard, featuring the usual melee lineup of bats, pipes, and machetes, and an arsenal of guns that include pistols, rifles, shotguns, SMGs, and grenade launchers. The weapons feel great, with each class of guns having appropriate weight and punch. State of Decay 2 is a challenging game and leaving the compound unprepared or under-equipped will often result in not just death, but permadeath. The one downside is that I found the weapon management system to be a little cumbersome and at times was overwhelmed by zombies while trying to equip weapons or heal my character.
State of Decay 2 really starts to shine in its base building and community management systems. There is an immense number of options for customization of your compound, including building slots for gun towers, gardens, medical centers, and sleeping quarters for your growing community of survivors. The survivors in your compound will level up their skills as they’re used throughout the game and you’ll begin to become attached to your core roster. The game features an extensive RPG player progression system where you’ll be able to upgrade your character roster in ways that suits your play style. As you encounter new survivors in the world ,you’ll be faced with tough decisions on who you will allow being a part of your community as well as who you will need to say goodbye to. Making these tough decisions that will determine the future of your community is what State of Decay 2 is all about.
Playing the game with up to three friends is loads of fun and adds an extra level of strategy that was missing from the first game. The ability to work together to gather resources, stomp out a zombie infestation, build up your base, or progress your research of the Blood Plague with a group of real-life survivors makes for exceptional multiplayer experience. Being able to hop in a vehicle with three friends, head to a location, and coordinate our attack on a gang of zombies is one of the more memorable moments I have had on an Xbox One this year. State of Decay 2 improves upon the first game in every aspect and if you can look past the technical issues there is a challenging and intense game of co-op strategy to be had.
State of Decay 2 takes the foundation laid by the first game and improves on the formula in every way. If you can look past the technical issues and underwhelming visuals you’ll be rewarded with deep strategy game and a fun co-op experience.
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