I’ve been anticipating State of Decay 2 since its reveal in 2016. As a massive fan of the original Xbox 360 game (and the Xbox One re-release), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. After fourteen hours with State of Decay 2, I’m feeling optimistic.
For those who don’t know, State of Decay 2 is a game that falls in a wide-variety of genres. It features third-person action, open-world exploration, stealth, base building, and community management. There’s something for everyone to enjoy. When I’m not killing zeds (zombies), my primary goal is to survive, by any means necessary. The primary goal is State of Decay 2 is survival, but that task is not easy at all. In fact, my first five hours with the game proved so disastrous, that I formed a new community and started it all over again.
State of Decay 2 requires constant attention. If you’re not on top of the community’s needs, their morale might drop, and problems can occur between people in your settlement. Resources are a top priority. You’ll need to make sure that there is enough gas, food, medicine, and crafting materials to maintain daily life. Additionally, resources are required to build and upgrade structures in the settlement. When running low on supplies, people become restless, depressed, and eventually, they can even threaten to leave the community due to dissatisfaction.
In addition to your people, there are other survivors throughout the world that often ask for your help. While not usually timed, these missions will test your patience and management skills. Most of the time, random survivors will have an affinity towards your settlement. Ignore them, and they may turn hostile. Help with their request, and you can either enlist them to join your community or even develop a relationship that will result in new items to trade for.
State of Decay 2 takes place during the zombie apocalypse, but that doesn’t mean that the game is truly about Zeds. In fact, most of the experience is more about the human element. Your characters are flawed, and most of the people you interact with have baggage that they’ve carried into this nightmare scenario. My (randomly generated) characters are two on-again-off-again lovers that seem to bicker a lot. I love that State of Decay 2 features unique backstories for each pair of characters you can choose. In addition to their narrative, all characters are more efficient in particular skills. Some characters may excel in fighting while others will tend to your gardens with ease. Learning what the members of your community are better at can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
Speaking of death, State of Decay 2 features permadeath, a mechanic that feels like every moment counts. If a Zed kills your character, they are gone forever. This reverts you to another character from your community. I haven’t died yet, but there have been plenty of close calls. If you’re out for an extended period of time without resting, your maximum stamina will deplete. This means that simple tasks will wear you out quickly, and you’ll be Zed fodder. Zombies aren’t particularly difficult, but if you’re not prepared, death is imminent. There are regular zeds, but there are also bloaters, fat zombies that will explode on impact, releasing toxic gas into the area. There are also ferals, vicious zombies that will charge and pounce on your character. Zeds with blood plague are more common but equally as dangerous. After enough hits from these creatures, your character will be infected with the blood plague. Making a cure for blood plague is essential, but you’re required to kill infected zeds to do so. It’s a double-edged sword, but the risk is usually worth it.
Combat feels wonky and times and not always responsive. I purposely focused on stealth because it felt not only satisfying but also efficient. Attacking zeds with melee weapons can occasionally cause a sound that will attract others in the area. If an infestation or horde happen to be in the area, things can turn dire rather quickly. While traveling on foot is probably going to be how you navigate for a majority of your playtime, cars are fantastic exploration tools. Tapping the X button allows you to open your door and smack a zeds in the face. Running them over is quick and effective. Unfortunately, some of the car physics are troubling. One time, my favorite car got stuck on a ridge, and while playing in cooperative mode, my partner had to use his car to nudge mine off the rock formation. The problem is that his car also became stuck. When cars work, they are fantastic but issues like this mar the experience from time to time.
There are some bugs, but unlike the first game, I didn’t encounter as many issues. I did find it humorous seeing zombies fall from the sky while driving through the environment, and watching zombies enter my settlement only to close the door behind them made me laugh out loud. I did have a few issues while playing cooperatively with a fellow enthusiast writer. You can’t “walk through” other players. I was scavenging materials from a cupboard, and since he was doing the same thing near me, I couldn’t move past his character until he was done. This causes problems when a horde of zombies confined us in a small space, and it became difficult to move. Also, while trying to play cooperatively (via cross-play), my Xbox One X sent me to the dashboard four times in a row. Once we got into the game, we were able to play for two hours straight with no server issues.
So far, I’m having a blast with State of Decay 2, save for a few issues that are causing problems in my playthrough. I’m looking forward to putting more hours into the game. Stay tuned to Xbox Enthusiast for more State of Decay 2 coverage. It launches on May 22nd on Xbox One and PC for $29.99. There’s also an ultimate edition for $49.99. For Xbox Game Pass owners, State of Decay 2 will be added to the program on launch date. While you’re at it, check out a discussion video from fellow Enthusiasts, Andrew B, and Brett.