I’ve never been a huge fan of the zombie craze. You know, the games and movies where human panic and try their best to escape the onslaught of dim-witted, reanimated creatures of the living dead. However, with the success of Valve’s Left 4 Dead series and more notably, State of Decay, I was inclined to see what the follow-up, State of Decay 2, would have in store for gamers.
I found zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.
Game Name: State of Decay 2
Platform(s): Windows 10 (reviewed), and Xbox One
Publisher(s): Microsoft Gaming Studios
Developer(s): Undead Labs
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Price: $29.99 for standard, $49.99 for ultimate edition
Before we dive in, I wanted to state that our review of State of Decay 2 was delayed due to the patch shenanigans. It was mentioned that a patch would be released shortly after the game was released. However, that patch didn’t arrive until just a few days ago on June 1st. This patch addressed several issues, including some that caused issues during single and multiplayer sessions. So I had to go back and revisit some of the issues that I noticed before the patch released and that takes time. That said, this review is based on the patched version of State of Decay 2.
For the most part, State of Decay 2 is exactly what the first game was. There’s not really much here that hasn’t been changed, but that’s not a bad thing as the first game was fairly decent, with the exception of lack of co-op, social interaction and leveling up. Here, not only is co-0p front in center, but there’s a bigger emphasis put on social interaction. Now NPCs will ask for help, tell you that they’re available for trades or randomly start talking about a personal part of their lives. Your gang of zombie killers will talk with you and among themselves as well. You’ll also come across other survivals that are trying to stay alive. You can choose to help them by proving your supplies, denying them or even recruiting some. Every decision carries either a positive outcome or consequence. Giving up your goods means there’s less for your encampment, but you gain new allies and abilities. While denying supplies can turn possible allies hostiles. Which in turn makes then attack you, forcing you to put them down. While it seems like these choices are optional, they really aren’t as you won’t be able to go one without making moral choices.
I really enjoyed the progression system this time around as well. With every character in your group, they each can progress via a number of skills. As you use these skills, such as fighting, running, carrying stuff, building things and so forth, they level up. Which they max out that skill, they can then access a perk that can help you on your zombie adventure. Every character has numerous different skills that can benefit you, so you’ll need to look at what everyone has to offer and even sometimes get rid of those that double up on the same skills. There’s also base building, as you need a home in the zombie apocalypse. Multiple locations can be acquired and will serve as your base of operations. Here you’ll be able to set up facilities such as gardens, workshops, field hospitals and more. These are important as each base has a number of slots that can be used and it’s here that you’ll arm yourself, keep your survivors safe, healed, all while trying to keep your morale up. It’s very heavy on the micromanagement, but it doesn’t bog down too much either.
The gameplay is fun. The gunplay and melee combat is enjoyable and there’s a huge selection of weapons to choose from. Swords, knives, axes and other pointy objects help keep the zombies at bay. While shotguns, handguns, assault rifles, rocket launchers and more help you do damage from afar. Like to get up and personal? Well, that’s ok as there are also vehicles you can climb in and mow down some zombie with as well. I’ve spent hours coming up with different ways to kill me some zombies. It’s just so satisfying to just take out your frustrations on those squishy zombies. That said, I have seen some complaints that the zombies are bullet sponges and that’s just not correct. A well-placed headshot from just about any ranged weapon will keep 90% of them. Outside of bigger enemies, every one of them can be one-shotted and fairly easily. You can also sneak up on them and stab them in the neck or head as well.
Permadeath is back and is still as huge of pain as it was before. Meaning that every character in your game will die if you let them and you can’t bring them back. Instead, they’ll just end up as another number into the increasing growing zombie population. This works as it pushes you to not take on so many risks, as one of those risks could be the end. This also forces you to use other characters, seeing how that anyone can bite the dust at any moment. Screamers, Bloaters, Feral Zombies, Armored Zombies and the Juggernauts, all make their return. With new zombies, the blood plague zombies, being introduced. These guys are particularly nasty as they will inflict your character with a sickness called the blood plague. Get hit enough by them and you’re given a time limit to give the inflicted a cure that can only be made from the remains of those zombies. Of course, should you choose not to heal them, you can let either exile them from your group or kill them off. There’s also the Blood Plague Hearth, the mama of those blood plague zombies. These are scattered across the maps and are hidden, waiting for you to find and destroy them. Fail to do that and you may get overrun.
Of course, these zombies just don’t walk completely walk aimless around the maps. No, instead they’ll hunt you down if they see or hear you. They’ll chase you down and surround you if you let them. Clawing and biting you, until you can’t move and force your characters to cry out, fearing for their death. And if that wasn’t enough, they’ll also charge your base, attacking you where you live. It’s a nice touch and helps to reinforce that nowhere is safe and that you need to stay on your toes.
While the Windows 10 and Xbox One versions are identical, those playing on the PC and with a decent setup will see better performance. However, the PC version is lacking in the options or settings department. For starters, the resolution selection only goes up to 1920×1080. There’s no option for 1440p or beyond, yet the game will scale to your desktop resolution if you select full-screen mode. This needs to be a manual option. You also aren’t able to disable the motion blur in-game, which makes the game look ugly at times. Outside of this, there’s a healthy amount of options you can tinker with to adjust the feel and graphics for the game.
I also had a fair bit of issues with the online play. While I was able to play alongside my friends on the Xbox One versions, I still couldn’t connect to them via Xbox party chat. Now, this isn’t an issue with the game but more with how Microsoft handles the service between the two platforms. What was a fault with the game is how it handles proximity. If you get too far away from the host, the game will violently pull you back to them. Without giving you a chance to get back in time; especially if they’re driving in a vehicle and you’re on foot. Some of my sessions were flawless, while others were laggy to the point where they were unplayable. An option to choose a connection threshold would help in that respect. But when multiplay did work, it was fun. Well, except for when you collect stuff and it all gets deposited into the host’s storage. I need my resources!
Sadly, even after patch 1.2 was released, the game is still riddled with bugs. I’ve encountered invisible walls in numerous locations, while my game randomly crashes. The game also hitches (pausing) during intensive moments or when I’m just chilling in my base. I’ve even fallen through the world several times, which is something that Undead Labs is keenly aware of. However, I’m still seeing the occasional zombie falling out of the sky, or my companions getting stuck on fences for no reason. But hey, at least my vehicles no longer get stuck by driving over a ditch or getting tossed into the air and blowing up, with me still inside of it. Damn, that was frustrating. The first patch was a solid effort to reduce the issues with the game. Undead Labs has already stated that the 1.2 patch that weighs in at 20GB was just the beginning.
State of Decay 2 is definitely a fun title, even if it is a bit repetitive. There’s only such much you can do outside of trying to survive, but it’s not boring at all. The zombies are constantly at your throat, while there’s more than stuff for you to do while you’re enjoying your time beating down, running over, shooting or even dropping missiles on top of the army of the undead. I just wish there was more to do as the game isn’t very long. Once you complete your main missions and wipe out all the plague hearts, the game is basically over. Sure you can start over again with some bonuses, but this cycle just keeps repeating. There’s no real end game. Thankfully there’s DLC planned, we just don’t know when it’s coming out. For those who like these sort of games, State of Decay 2 should be on your list for some zombie slaying.
Finally, there’s yet one more title in Microsoft’s first-party offering that will, hopefully, give the Xbox fanbase yet one more reason to cheer. That is if they enjoy some zombie slaying.
Review Disclosure Statement: This review was based on the retail copy of the game, purchased by The Outerhaven. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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State of Decay 2 basically takes everything that made the first game enjoyable, tosses in base building and more interesting NPCs. The combat is just as visceral and you’ll still fight to stay alive in this post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world. A tad repetitive at times but still has more than enjoy to keep you entertained.