Back in May, Undead Labs released their follow up to the cult hit State of Decay, bringing with it a new multiplayer component that lets friends tackle the zombie apocalypse alongside their friends.
Schedules were a little hectic at the time, but now that things have settled down, I’ve jumped back into State of Decay 2 and it’s time to post our review!
In SoD2, you take on the role of an entire group of survivors trying to make it in the zombie apocalypse. After a brief tutorial, you’ll end up at your first base. From there, you learn the basics about base building and the loose story regarding the Plague Hearts, Plague Zombies, and the Blood Plague virus that your survivors can fall victim to if you’re not careful.
Base building lies at the heart of State of Decay 2. Your base allows your characters to rest, heal, grow food, create weapons, ammunition, and other helpful items; it’s an important part of your survival in this world. You start off small, in a small house with not much room to build and expand. The type of base you have depends on you and your standing with the local community of survivors. Moving into a bigger base will cost you influence points, which you can earn by taking out zombie hordes, specialized zombies such as the Juggernaut, or by helping your fellow man retrieve their favorite antique gun from their former home. When making the move into a new base, you have multiple choices on the map with usually a range of costs, acting almost as a sort of tier system, with the more expensive bases offering more room to build additional facilities. Some bases already have built-in facilities. You might find, for example, find a base that has a large amount of bedding, or you might find a base that has a kitchen. Some bases, like a small baseball diamond, have fortified bleachers that serve as lookouts, and an ability that lets you use the speaker system to either attract or detract the nearby undead.
The other important part of State of Decay 2 is the characters. Each character has their own HP and stats. Some of these stats, such as cardio and shooting, can be upgraded the more you run or fire your guns. After maxing them out, you can upgrade them into a second and final tier, allowing further uniqueness on each of your survivors. The most important part about characters, however, is that they can have a fifth stat attributed to them which you can either find them starting with, or you can make them learn with the help of a text book item you find while scavenging. This last slot allows your survivors to learn important skills like gardening or medicine, which can have a huge impact on what facilities you can build in your base and what they can do. If you have a gardening skill, for example, your gardens and farms will be able to produce more food every day.
If base building is the heart of State of Decay 2, then the tediousness of scavenging would probably be the various veins that connect to that heart. Each facility in your base has a resource cost every day. Your survivors need to eat a certain amount of food every day. In order to make sure you have enough resources, you need to either have an amazing base set up and have great outposts, or you need to scavenge nearby buildings for resources and items.
Scavenging is what you will spend most of your time doing in State of Decay 2, just as in the first game, and unless you have the patience for it, it can make the game incredibly boring. You’ll go to a building you haven’t visited before, visit all the rooms, and then you’ll come across various shelves, containers, etc, that you can scavenge from. This is a slow process, because if you search too fast (which is an option, and can be improved by leveling up certain stats on a character) there’s a chance you might make noise and attract the nearby zombies. Each building may have anywhere from two-to-five things to loot from, which may or may not give you the items or resources you were looking for. Luckily, if you’re looking for a specific thing, such as food, the map will give you an idea of what main resources you can find at most buildings, making it easier to plan your trips outside of your base.
Now, after your base is built up and you have resources to sustain your group of survivors, you need to make sure you have a good arsenal built up to tackle the actual objective of this game. In each of the three maps in the game, there are entities known as Plague Hearts, which are connected to those fun red zombies that can get your characters infected with a plague if you’re not careful. There are ten of these on the map, and it’s your job to take them out. The problem, however, is that each time you take one out, the others become stronger. They also summon the nearby zombies once you begin attacking them, so it’s important to equip yourself with some solid damage dealing weapons before taking them on. Once you take out the Plague Hearts on your map, it’s time to relocate to one of the other areas in the game and…do it again!
The biggest change for SoD2 is that now there’s a multiplayer component. You can shoot up a signal flare and have other survivors join your game to help you out, or you can search to see if there are any players that sent up a flare of their own and join their games. The more you help another player out in their game, the game will give you rewards upon exiting the session and returning to your game. Multiplayer is the most fun you can have with the game and it’s definitely a great addition.
While we probably won’t see changes to the core concepts of the game, the game is now definitely better off than it was at launch. At launch you would have companions mysteriously vanish, the UI could vanish, doors that would appear open were actually closed, and zombies would literally fall from the sky as you drove around the map. While most of these problems have been fixed, the game still feels like it has a fair amount of bugs or glitches which can easily detract from the experience. The game’s saving grace right now is that it’s only $29.99 and it’s also a part of the Xbox Game Pass, which means there’s not as big of an investment required to give the game a try.
What it really comes down to for State of Decay 2 is that unless you like games with slow resource gathering grinds, and don’t mind an odd bug here or there, this game isn’t going to be for you. The multiplayer can be enjoyable with friends, but at the end of the day, it just barely sets itself above the previous game in the series. That having been said, State of Decay is still my favorite take on the zombie apocalypse, and I hope that Undead Labs continues to improve on this formula in the future.
~ Final Score: 7/10 ~
Review copy provided by Microsoft for PC. Screenshots taken from the Developer’s website.