Release Date: May 22, 2018Platform: XBO (reviewed), PCDeveloper: Undead LabsPublisher: Microsoft StudiosGenre: Open-world Survival RPG
Just as my outpost is struggling to survive against the undead hordes, I remember a police chief who used to live nearby. As night falls, I decide to head to his abandoned home on foot. I see a horde of a half-dozen zombies in the distance but stay on the main road to avoid them. My first stop on the chief’s property is a tool shed that I search for supplies. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, my actions alerted the horde I was trying to avoid. The shambling corpses shuffle into the confined space to feast on me. All seems lost until I remember the uzi I picked up earlier. I quickly dispatch the rotters, head to the main house to take what I can carry from the chief’s belongings, and head home before morning.
State of Decay 2 is full of organic moments like this. The game might give you goals to complete, but everything from that point on, from how you get there to the enemies you’ll face, is up to you.
The game doesn’t begin like this, however. You initially choose from four very different couples. After a brief tutorial featuring your couple of choice, you pick one of three maps to begin the campaign. From there, the survivors you meet are random. Don’t get too attached to your starting characters either, because one bad decision can mean their permanent deaths, with no opportunity to reload a previous save.
Anyone who played the first State of Decay will be familiar with the basic gameplay here. Combat, driving, and looting haven’t changed dramatically. Of note is how rare it is to encounter more than 3-4 zombies at once compared to the larger crowds of the first game. This is more like a (good) episode of The Walking Dead in terms of tone than a zombie slaughter-fest like Dead Rising 4.
There’s not much to complain about graphics-wise on the Xbox One X, but State of Decay 2 isn’t going to wow gamers quite like Gears of War 4, and it doesn’t really have any especially impressive effects like the waves of Sea of Thieves. Character models, in particular, are much improved from the first game’s Xbox One port, but aside from better lighting, environments aren’t exactly a giant leap forward.
Compared to the first game, there are many more opportunities for upgrading your outposts and characters. New facilities, mods, and storage have to be carefully monitored to ensure the right mix of food, medicine, and ammo to survive. Keeping your survivors happy with the right supplies is key to preventing them from fighting with each other and losing even more supplies, but I never really noticed huge differences when upgrading individual character stats.
Eventually, you’ll want to promote one of your citizens to either a warlord, builder, sheriff, or trader, and complete their associated missions to eliminate all of your territory’s plague hearts. That should take most gamers around 20 hours, and once they’ve mostly cleared out one area, it’s time to move on to a new settlement with some especially powerful survivors from your previous campaign.
One of the big selling points of State of Decay 2 is four player co-op. I didn’t have three other friends with a copy of the game to try it out with, though. You can send out a flare in tough situations with the hope that a random player will join your game, but just like in real life, sometimes you’ll get an answer and sometimes you won’t. No one ever came to my aid the few times that I fired one off.
As we’ve all come to expect with an open-world game this size, there are a few bugs. While I’ve seen some early impressions that mention game-breaking bugs, I didn’t personally run into any of them during my playthrough. I did, however, encounter many little annoyances. Vehicles get stuck on rocks sometimes and it’s impossible to free them. There were a few instances when I couldn’t position my character correctly to talk to other survivors, and zombies just pop into the screen out of nowhere sometimes. At one point, I entered an empty garage only to be ambushed by four zombies that seemed to come out of the walls every time I turned around.
But despite these flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with State of Decay 2. I want to keep playing, collecting more supplies, and building my base. This might not be the killer app exclusive that the Xbox One so desperately needs right now, but it’s still a rock solid survival RPG that most gamers will enjoy.