When was the last time you played a post-apocalyptic open-world zombie action game where you have to manage your little community of survivors while also playing hunter/gatherer? Games like the Dead Rising and Dead Island/Dying Light series do not count because they embody the power fantasy of being a multi-skilled lone saviour in an undead-filled landscape.

If you want to play as a real human being with just enough skills to get by while working alongside other people to survive in such a hellish life, you have the State of Decay games for that. Is the second game any different from the first? Apart from the new four-player co-op mode and a bigger number of states and mechanics to play around in and with, not much.

But does it need to be radically different to set itself apart from its predecessor? No, because what it’s already doing is special in itself. Most of the first game’s critiques have been addressed to make a more expansive sequel.

Much like the first State of Decay, you control and maintain a band of survivors as you jump from outpost to outpost trying to get by the zombie wasteland. Despite the fact that we’re still halfway in the game (we’re 20 hours in) its issues, we still recommend this title wholeheartedly.

Here’s why.

#1. Because You Want The Challenge Of Managing Your Own Walking Dead Community

State of Decay 2 puts you through a short tutorial involving a survivor pair of your choosing and some tips on base-building. After that, you’re on your own. You have to figure out a lot of things through your own experiences, like:

  • Repairing weapons, which isn’t as obvious even after you build your first workshop in your first-ever base.
  • Learning to curb zombie infestations nearby your area. Otherwise, your base will be frequently attacked.
  • Figuring out who should join your merry group of survivors. The more people who gather within the same outpost, the more susceptible it is to attracting zombies due to the area’s noise level.
  • Learning that you have to go out at night to hunt for resources to keep your survivors happy. We’ll talk more about State of Decay 2’s nighttime events.
  • Realizing the fact that time will not stop for you, even when you’re on the menu screen or on the base-slash-outpost-management screen as you still figure out the nuances of the game.

This game does not hold your hand. Sure, you can look up the hints and tips section on how to deal with plague zombies and plague hearts (more on that later too), but you need to be sharp about things.

Not only do you need to be out there in the wild and in the dark to search for supplies, you also need to manage and figure out what outpost structures are necessary at that point in time. Don’t get too attached to your surroundings if it’s too much of a hassle to maintain and keep.

#2. The Plague Mechanic Makes Things Messy

State of Decay 2 features a plague mechanic, where your survivors can contract a disease named the blood plague. Whoever gets it will eventually die off and turn into a plague zombie, which are powered-up versions of the undead with distinct red bloodied glowing eyes. They can be cured, but you need to kill a bunch of plague zombies to collect plague samples to fashion a cure.

Plague zombies all stem from a source in an area called a plague heart; there’s a ton of these on the game’s large map. Destroying these will cull the plague zombie numbers, but the more you destroy, the tougher and more well-guarded the next plague heart will be.

The first few plague hearts might be easy to burn down; yes you need to prepare Molotovs & grenades for these extermination missions. But subsequent hearts will be guarded by stronger, faster, and sturdier zombie types like the Ferals and the Juggernauts.

And then there are the nighttime sections, where plague zombies and tougher zombie types roam around the area in hordes. Sure, killing more zombies means more influence, but that puts you more at risk because your survivors can get tired and ill, and may even contract the blood plague.

State of Decay 2 gets more and more challenging, to the point where you need to make resource sacrifices or even kick out a guy or two from the community to stabilize your survival situation.

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#3. There’s A Bigger Post-Apocalyptic Playground To Muck About In

State of Decay 2 expands upon the first game in terms of scope and magnitude. Not only do you have 3 huge open world states to explore in, you also have more things to do like more survivor missions, more plague heart-eradication missions, the random survivor drop-in and drop-out moments, and random infestations. The game also features story missions and character-specific missions that help net you more stars (for trading and claiming outposts) and more experience for skill specialization.

After you max out a survivor’s particular skill, you can specialize that skill so that you can get more benefits. If your Cardio skill is maxed out, you can specialize to either dodge better and do a flying knee attack (Acrobatics), or have the capacity to carry more supplies without the stamina penalty (Backpacking).

You also get cars to drive around in. Not only do you get around better since the map is much bigger, you get to run down zombies accompanied with that satisfying “THUMP” sound. You will need to get ready a few gas cans and repair kits, since the cars you find are in less-ideal conditions.

This sense of progression helps power up your survivors, but not to the point of making them overpowered. This just gives you a fighting chance against the escalating difficulty of the game.

#4. The Game Throws Curveballs At You, Making You Have To Adapt

Every mission from a simple peace offering between neighbour survivor groups to aforementioned extermination missions can end up going south or produce different outcomes. Whether you want to stay inclusive within your group or help out your neighbours, the later hours of the game may have you dealing with either more hostile human groups or random folks wanting to join your base and help out.

There are many outcomes to your Community, so much so that you might end up with a different group of people to control by the game’s final few hours (story-wise), or even a dire end to said Community.

The game’s narrative is handled a little different here. Each survivor has their personal stories which you can complete. Eventually, you’ll get to the game’s overarching narrative which involves a militia group and the extreme measures they’re going through to rid the state of its zombie problem.

While you don’t need to rush to that narrative goal, it’s good to know that gamers looking for their State of Decay story fix are not left out of the lurch. Heck, sometimes these story points don’t turn out the way you want to because of the behaviour of your survivors, or even a random zombie horde barging in to wreak havoc.

You will have to constantly watch your back; that’s part of the fun of State of Decay 2. You’ll have your own water cooler undead-killing/survivor nail-biting saving moments to share with others.

#5. There’s Four-Player Co-Op Mode

You can play State of Decay 2 by yourself, but the game gets a little more bearable with two to four people watching your back. Since the game is focused on co-operative survival, there is no friendly fire option.

Of course, being in a big group means more noise from your end, meaning you will attract hordes and any nearby infestation to your side. Hope you have survivors with good fighting skills and excellent cardio because you’ll be doing a lot of zombie-bashing and running. Best of all? You can radio your pals into your game (via the in-game option) for no cost at any time.

Some Kinks To Take Note Of

Despite the above highlights, State of Decay 2 is not perfect. Inventory management between survivors is a pain in the ass. Rather than having the one-button yap convenience of amassing some spendable resources into one pool in the base, the game still requires your survivors to individually hold them to repair items and perform other resource-intensive tasks.

Your survivor tag team cannot trade items for some reason, which means you have to switch between them to carry excess items after putting them down on the floor. So far this has been the most annoying thing in the game, and it’s very prevalent since resource-hunting is part and parcel of the State of Decay 2 experience.

There’s also the bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Doors that are closed but looked like they’re opened. Teleporting undead. Cars that get stuck onto seemingly-low barriers. Wonky camera angles when inside enclosed spaces, made far worse when you’re aiming. I’m also hearing some game-breaking bugs that require a Community restart, but thankfully I’m not one of them (so far).

I could go on, but for a game that’s exclusive to a console, I expected more polish.

In Closing

Unless you swear fealty to the first game, State of Decay 2 is definitely a must-play for fans of survival games and action adventure games featuring reanimated cadavers & post-apocalyptic settings. You can make up your own Walking Dead-esque community, shape their tales, beef them up so that they get awesome skills, and try to keep them alive until the eventual site unrest & infestation kicks in and chaos ensues.

Regardless, your zombie tales will always differ with each new community you build and start. And that is what makes State of Decay 2 enjoyable to an extent. Even with the rough edges and the eventual grind for influence/stars, we’ll still take this over whatever the hell Dead Rising 4 ended up being.

At least State of Decay 2 attempts to cultivate its unique gameplay loop, and unabashedly so.

Pros

  • Tense and challenging open-world survival gameplay.
  • Multi-layered scenarios and unpredictable outcomes = replayability.
  • The four-player addition makes it all the more fun…and hectic.

Cons

  • Might get a sense of deja vu if you played the first game religiously.
  • Inventory-managing and user interface needs a lot of work.
  • Bugs, and lack of polish.

FINAL SCORE: 70/100

State of Decay 2 will be out this May 22 for Xbox One and PC (via Windows 10).

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