State of Decay 2 is a survival-based zombie game with a focus on micromanagement. It is an Xbox One (and PC) exclusive, available for free with the Xbox Game Pass, and developed by Undead Labs. What sets this game apart from other zombie games is the focus on the minutiae one would have to do to have a thriving community after the zombie outbreak. It’s not your typical “punching trees” survival games. Instead the game focuses on special resources you need to find by scouring abandoned buildings for food, meds, building materials, and other necessary survival stuff. Although not really a system seller, the game is a very competent and well-designed game. It’ll either have you shut it off after an hour out of frustration or having you going through the gameplay loop for 3-5 hours straight.
HDR and Xbox One X Enhancements are available for this first party title. But the game’s overall graphics quality really isn’t affected by which console you run it on other than performance. It is competently made with just a set of “good” assets. There’s nothing you can really pick apart from this title other than the fact that nothing spectacular stands out. The textures are very high quality, but the rest of the FX could still be better. Shadows look good enough, anti-aliasing is just okay, models could use some work. With the random generation, there’s only so much quality you can squeeze out of people who will be cooked up in seconds with a bunch of sliders. There is also an obvious lack of variety, as many houses in the game are just the same building copied and pasted a bunch of times. Which, isn’t too bad but if you go on a marathon it may irk you.
The greatest thing that this sequel did was ditching the plot altogether. In the YOSE version of the game for XB1, you had 3 modes, the campaign, an endless mode, and an expansion pack. Playing the campaign was exhausting because the conditions of the game’s challenge really got in the way of you being prepared to actually partake in the missions. You get a clear goal ahead of you, but the woes of your survivor group took precedence. The endless mode streamlined the experience so you can focus on making your community great again. That’s a lot in and of itself. So, I was actually pleased to find that State of Decay 2 embraced the endless mode. All you get in the way of a plot is an introductory tutorial featuring one of 4 different pairs of people you can choose at the start. But once that’s done with, if you start another community, you can randomly generate NPCs as many times as you want before launching the game.
If you put all of your eggs into one basket and build up one character, you’ll find yourself struggling when you give that character some rest and switch to somebody else.
The game tells its own story with the environment and interactions mostly. You can meet up with different groups that all have their individual quirks. Same goes for the survivors, as most of them will have any one of many different personalities. These personality traits actually affect your community, as someone who’s hotheaded may frustrate others, or if one character snores it bothers everyone and is even a risk of attracting zombies. Seriously, one of the personality is snoring. Either way, as much as you want to work hard to provide help to your team, don’t get too attached. Permadeath is the other major factor of this game. If you put all of your eggs into one basket and build up one character, you’ll find yourself struggling when you give that character some rest and switch to somebody else. That’s right, your player character gets tired if they do too much work and lose stamina, so you have to make sure everyone gets their exercise.
This game doesn’t have much in the way of an OST. But that’s not too important in a game like this. There’s a lot of stuff going on and the game has a good grip on spatial awareness. You could be digging through some trash in a house. Then you hear the grunt of a zombie coming from somewhere else in the house. Also, one of the primary mechanics of searching is how quickly you do it and whether or not you make noise. Make a loud noise like a gunshot and you’ll attract local zombies. Searching through containers for the resources you need is slow. You can speed that up by holding another button while searching. But, doing so also risks making a loud noise by being careless and again endangers you of some surrounding zombies. A lot of craftsmanship went into making sure the sound FX are accurate and effective.
Buggy in some places, but overall not too bad. The combat is considerably visceral, so if you like getting up close and personal. Killing zombies and by beating their skull in with a lead pipe is particularly enthralling. The gameplay loop is to simply survive. You find a base and accrue followers. THen, you have to take care of your base by getting materials to help with the upkeep. You need to manage every inch of your base, making sure people have food and water, they’re happy, they aren’t arguing, etc. Then you gotta head out of the base and go collect whatever resources you needed to get. After you have enough stuff, you bring it back to the base. This is difficult because the game is very time-consuming.
Like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, only extremely violent.
Whenever you’re in the middle of doing a supply run, you’ll get a call from one of the neighboring survivors asking for help. But then you’ll also hear from your base that they found out the ammo you got were duds. Or stuff just plain expires because you don’t have proper storage. The whole game is a struggle through and though. It keeps you going by dangling a carrot on a stick, but whether or not you enjoy doing it depends on your tolerance for other games that do this. Like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, only extremely violent. Eventually, once you do enough stuff as one character and promote them to a leader of the pack, that’ll unlock a sort of main quest line.
Fun is going to be a hit or miss with this game. I personally found myself giving up, going back to the game, swearing off it, then going back on it again and so on. This is very subjective. I don’t like a lot of games of this type but it’s a novelty experience for sure. Its no console seller, but it is a pretty damn simulation of small towns fighting off zombies.
State of Decay 2 has sucked me into long playtimes, from 2-5hr sessions, yet when I stop playing, I really don’t feel like I accomplished all that much. I got everyone to stop being so damn miserable. But now everyone is sick and I don’t have enough meds to treat them all. This game just has a lot of buzzkills.
Oh wait nevermind, I started playing the game for 15 minutes after writing this review. I got the meds but all 3 of the settlers that were talking to me just abandoned us. But now my community has a high morale rating all of a sudden. What… what?