It was after dark and I was scavenging for supplies in an abandoned home with a few other survivors, I was low on medical supplies and my bag was almost full. I could hear the horde of zombies closing in on the house after I had decided to scavenge the house quickly instead of taking time to clean the house of all its valuables. At night, things get frantic and the darkness encompasses everything, things are hard to see, and zombies are out in full force. The dread you feel during the beginning hours of State of Decay 2 are some the best hours you’ll get with this game.
Taking place a few years after the original State of Decay, the game asks you to pick two survivors, who are paired together and with them, you’ll learn the basics of the game, including scavenging, crafting, and survival. After finishing the confusing tutorial (which I completed during a live stream, you could hear my confusion at some mechanics of learning the ropes) you’re let loose to take on your first mission, as you head towards finding your first base to operate out of. A big component of State of Decay 2 is resource management as those who you bring into your base will consume food, materials, and ammo, not to mention medicine, your job is to scavenge as much as you can hold and bring it back to base to help the community.
As your community grows, so do the inhabitants which all come with their own strengths and weaknesses. You can level up your characters by taking them out into the world, the more you use them, the better their skills get to be. Another factor to take into consideration is dealing with hunger, health, and overall fatigue. I was running missions with someone online before noticing my player not operating at peak capacity, often slowing the pack down and it wasn’t until I returned to base and slept that I was made aware of this. These conditions are not something that is just there, but real things you need to make sure are taken care of before moving into another mission, otherwise, you’ll never see your character again as in this game, death means you are dead and you aren’t coming back.
After so many games like to put emphasis on absurd weaponry (looking at your Dead Rising!) it’s nice to see State of Decay 2 focus on keeping things grounded within reason here. This includes how you deal with leaving camp, finding survivors, and all ground getting back to camp alive. There’s a lot to micromanage within the game but these systems help teach you to keep focus and check in the needs of everyone, and if you decide not to do that, you’ll soon see how bad your situation can be.
State of Decay 2 is light on story but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the game. There’s a large enough world to explore, so you’ll soon be creating your own narrative as you scavenge for supplies and take on zombies. The missions and objectives you’ll be doing to build your community put enough story while ensuring your survival. Your focus is building a place to live, ensuring everyone is healthy and fed and defending your home from zombies, the Blood Plague, and other humans. The humans, in particular, come looking to trade and ask for favors, but things changes when you deny them the items they need and will soon begin to attack your camp to get what they need.
With the added inclusion of four-player co-op, playing with others feels like the definitive way to play State of Decay 2, and after completing the tutorial, the game can be played entirely as a co-op title and even works cross-platform with both Xbox One and PC. There is one issue though, and I wasn’t all too impressed with it, but you can’t scavenge resources for your own game, however, everything else can come back with you to your game. So, while you can keep your loot, those precious bandages, gas and even medical supplies stay with the host. This game is meant to be played with others at your side and holds its own.
Zombies in State of Decay 2 are plentiful and are everywhere you look, more times than not, in a moment of silence, if you think you’re alone while scavenging for supplies, you aren’t and making any sound will tip them off to your presence and cause you to either engage them or flee to live another day. Many times, during my playthrough I was caught in the middle of a zombie horde and it took me and one other player to survive the encounter and by the end of it, I was infected by a Plague Zombie, a new enemy-type that infect you when they attack as the meter fills up. Curing the plague is done by synthesizing medicine made with samples of the plague, and those samples are hard to find as it is. I had a few of my survivors end up turning because I couldn’t save them in time.
While an improvement over the original State of Decay with more variety, this doesn’t feel like the sequel we deserve, as the repetitiveness of combat and cumbersome glitches prove to detract away from the experience. I played on a retail copy provided by Microsoft on the Xbox One X and the game still felt like it belonged on the Xbox 360, not the most-advanced console on the market, add in the awful pop-in as the world loads around you. State of Decay 2 is a game of patience, of wit, and of survival, and if you’re someone who can multitask in your day-to-day life, you’ll find you can survive the zombie apocalypse, glitches and all.
[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]