State of Decay was one of the best zombie games around, despite being riddled with bugs. It must come with the territory of designing a large open-world with procedurally-generating zombies, though, because State of Decay 2, while immensely better than its predecessor, is still is infested in more ways than one. Thankfully, these game bugs aren’t the biting pests that you should be worried about, because most of the glitches and rough edges are easy to overlook, leaving you with an incredibly fun and often challenging survival experience unlike any other.
Like the original, the sequel is all about choice and the player crafting their own experience rather than following a predetermined path. From the outset, there are three maps to choose from, giving players a fair bit of replay value with that in itself, and throws you into the world following a quick tutorial. While this into-the-frying-pan mentality can be overwhelming due to the lack of explanation at some of the game’s core mechanics, it also sets the stage for the player, making you realise that you’re going to have to learn fast, hesitate later, and get to grips with the hostile environment waiting for you.
Your playtime will be primarily made up of 4 key things: building your base; doing supply runs; pursuing the odd story mission for a character; and the carrot on the end of the stick: destroying Plague Hearts. Normal zombies are apparently so ‘last year’, so developer Undead Labs has upped the ante with some more aggressive, more dangerous zombies who suffer from the Blood Plague (because being a shambling, limbless corpse isn’t bad enough). You’ve got to kill the Plague Hearts, which essentially are their hives, in order to clear dangerous areas and make the region more hospitable for your survivors. They’re tough tasks that really emphasise your preparation and having a good base to fall back on.
Speaking of, base building is pretty important, because how you set up your community stronghold is pivotal to you and your fellow survivor’s chances in State of Decay 2. Picking the right location, choosing whether to install an infirmary (yields medicine) or a garden (produces food), for example, is crucial to how your community thrives. You can then use your base to attract other survivors, store weapons, and prepare yourself for taking on the Plague Hearts and missions at hand.
There are other randomised distractions in the world, but State of Decay 2 isn’t the game you venture off to do side-quests for hours on end – everything you do needs to be for the betterment of your community, and in this sense, State of Decay 2 does a great job at delivering a feeling of constant stress, alleviated during small victories when you finally install that generator in your base or find some medicine you’ve been desperately looking for. This is essentially the closest thing to The Walking Dead as you’re going to get, until they make a solid Walking Dead game, that is.
Despite a slight bit of monotony with regards to the gameplay loop throughout the playthrough, State of Decay 2 is a clever, entertaining, and often empowering experience when plans and preparation come together. If you love shooting shambling things in the face, while having some light management simulation tasks to catch your breath between exploding heads, State of Decay 2 is worth a look.
State of Decay 2 is available on Xbox One and PC. Note: State of Decay 2 is free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers.