Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
State of Decay 2 is the sequel to 2013’s fantastic zombie survival game, State of Decay. True to the original formula, State of Decay 2 is focused on base-building, resource collection, relationship management (to a limited extent), and some good old fashioned zombie slaying. While I have long professed being burnt out on the oft-overused zombie trope, State of Decay 2’s focus on scavenging in a weary yet highly detailed world has brought new life to the zombie genre for me. Wonderfully colorful graphics, a draw distance that goes for miles, and some excellent zombie-crushing melee attacks are all packaged neatly together in a rather intense and thrilling adventure. State of Decay 2 is 2018’s zombie game to beat.
Admittedly, I have shown no real interest in anything zombie-related; in fact the only real game I play that involves zombies (outside of fantasy RPGs) would be Rebellion’s utterly excellent Zombie Army Trilogy. So when the opportunity arose to review State of Decay 2 I was a bit concerned that the theme would be a bit tired and I would find little enjoyment in it. Boy was I wrong. Prior to firing up State of Decay 2 though, I loaded State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition on Xbox One to try and get a feel for the franchise.
Though I was not super thrilled with the first title, I slogged through a dozen or so hours and found that while not strong enough to change my mind, it was an enjoyable experience. With that I then loaded up State of Decay 2 and was immediately thrilled with the tense combat and incredibly suspenseful moments that State of Decay 2 is chalk full of. While it is a sequel, playing the first State of Decay is not really a requirement, so new players can jump right in, though if you enjoyed the first game, you will most certainly enjoy State of Decay 2.
In rare form, I was enjoying a zombie game! Not only just a zombie game, but a zombie game that is focused heavily on stealth. That is, until you start getting swarmed, then all bets are off and the firearms will come into play (and the gunplay is a blast in State of Decay 2). Upon loading into the game and choosing your character you are thrust into a scenario where you are working towards escaping the mass of zombies and you will happen upon a handful of survivors.
From there you will be gradually introduced to new community members, features, and zombie types that can be found throughout the entire game. In fact I find the pacing in State of Decay 2 to be absolutely fantastic. From the very beginning there is a slow but inevitable increase in activity, both good and bad, as your small community and various outposts begin to grow. As you continue to perform various tasks your influence with the various NPCs will grow, allowing you to then assign them tasks or bring them along for some extra zombie-smashing goodness.
I do, at times, wish there was a little more variety to the gameplay as the core of it is simply “Forage for survival” and while it is certainly fun, it is not necessarily the deepest of gameplay styles. Repeatedly raiding nearby (or distant) buildings and coming in to the same small group of zombies, which then turn into a small wave of zombies, can get old after a while. Raiding at night time is significantly more tense, but in ways far, far safer. If you can sneak your way into a building and quietly dispatch the zombies, it makes it far, far easier to gather resources or take over outposts.
The downside is that it is extremely dark and the use of your flashlight will draw the zombies to you no different than a gunshot or a pile of fireworks and heaven forbid you stumble upon a screamer, which will attract a horde if you are seen, at night as it will be an absolute fight for your life. Scouting during the day is the likely way to go for many users, but I personally found that forays into the day brought more zombies that had a wider detection radius than those at night. Sure, you can see them further away, but they can see you too.
Crafting is simple, straightforward, and fun, assuming you have the correct outpost upgrades and that is where the real challenge comes in. Most larger settlements have 4 upgradable stations where you can build things like farms, water centers, infirmaries, etc. and some items you can only get/upgrade with workshops or infirmaries, or various other upgrades so choosing what to place where can be a tense decision all in its own right. With the limited upgrade capacities, State of Decay 2 forces players to go out and expand their community, thus making it more difficult to protect all of the NPCs in said community, not to mention you will then need to travel between outposts in order to gather required resources.
While it is a chore at times, it actually adds a bit of weight to the realism and certainly ups the ante with regard to navigating the world-weary travelers in State of Decay 2. It is also incentive to get out and truly explore, which is what I feel the State of Decay franchise is really about; get out and see the world, find new things, make new allies/enemies, and simply experience life after the zombie apocalypse, and in that, State of Decay 2 truly does excel.
State of Decay 2 excels as survival sim with zombies strewn about a decaying world and really does provide near endless hours of grinding zombies down, hunting and scavenging for more resource, destroying Plaguehearts in hopes of finding a cure, and managing communities. In more ways than one, State of Decay 2 is the pinnacle of zombie survival, successfully melding numerous genres into a dismal world nigh devoid of hope. Amidst the overwhelming tide of darkness lies a small ray of hope within your community.Score: 8.75 / 10