State of Decay 2 is the sequel to 2013’s State of Decay. It was released on May 22, 2018. It was developed by Undead Labs. I played on the Xbox One S and Xbox one X.
State of Decay 2 improves on everything good that State of Decay created. It is a survival horror zombie game, with elements of brutality like permadeath. The game is a strategy mixed with action. Your activities range from base building to scavenging for materiels. The game can be challenging at times and the fear of permanent death is always in your mind.
State of Decay 2 doesn’t have too much of a story, rather an overall goal and setting. If you choose to play the tutorial, which I recommend only for the first playthrough, you get a little bit more story. Two survivors make their way to a refugee camp in the hopes of finding sanctuary, instead they find it has been overrun by these flesh eating creatures. One of the two survivors gets bitten by this new type of blood covered zombie never seen before. They meet a soldier and a nurse who explain that the virus has mutated and created a new disease, the Blood Plague, the main antagonist of the game. The group decides to stick together and heads to one of three counties, depending on player choice. Once they run out of gas, they decide to set up shop, they work to find a cure for the blood plague and remove the scourge from the county once and for all.
Your group of survivors will run into all sorts of problems throughout the game, mutated freak zombies like screamers, ferals, bloaters, and juggernauts. There are also human enemies to fight, which tend to be the deadliest foes. The game could use more variety of zombies to spice things up, because once you outwit each type of freak, they just become speedbumps. They have just recently added blood plague types of each zombie, but they really don’t add much besides extra damage. The game’s lack of story can feel a bit underwhelming sometimes, but it tries to make up for it with character arcs and leader arcs. Leader arcs are how you progress and eventually beat the game, while character ones are just side missions that involve following a survivors whim. One real problem is that the game has no real big story, but when you finish the leader arc, then the game locks you out of your community and you can’t play on it ever again. You get to keep the community’s survivors, but all the stashed weapons, money, food, and materials, are erased from existence. This is a frustrating part that only makes the game worse, when it would be so easy to keep it going for sandbox purposes.
The real enemy of the game is time, or decay. Over time, your survivors will eat, they will use ammo and gas. The zombies also get stronger over time, infestations will rise and grow if you don’t take care of them, and neglecting them means a higher spawn rate for zeds. New zombies will appear after a few days as well. You are the leader of the enclave, and you have to figure out how to ensure survival for your people. Your community’s goal is to destroy the blood plague, and you do so by destroying these plague hearts located randomly around the county. Exposing yourself to the plague has health risks as well, getting bitten or inhaling the toxic gas produced by plague hearts will eventually make you sick, and if you don’t make or find the cure, you will eventually turn into a plague zombie, or you can sacrifice yourself to save everyone the trouble.
The gameplay is fluid and a nice hack and slash experience. There is a mix of stealth, close combat, and shooting. All at the same time, you can equip three different weapon types, which leads to a well done control scheme that is unique and most importantly, it works. The base building and inventory management is simple, but also fun. The base building consists of choosing which facilities to place in designated spots, and making sure you are not running out of beds or any resource. Inventory management is just spots and weight, you can only have so many different items at once, and the more they weigh, the slower your stamina regenerates, making you sluggish if you are overweight.
In State of Decay 2, you don’t just control one person, you control your whole community, but one at a time. It is easy to switch between characters, everyone is playable. Each person is randomly generated and has certain traits which can make each one special. Some examples are rifle collector, which makes one good with guns, a cancer survivor, which makes one happier, and even respiratory problems, which makes stamina worse for some people. Some people are irritating or irritable, which leads them to start fights, which makes people unhappy, and if your people are unhappy they are not as effective at surviving. All of these small details and interesting traits are a really nice touch to the game and add a certain immersion to the end of the world. You also have to train your survivors to make them better at things like cardio, stealth, fighting, and shooting. You level these by doing it or building a training facility at your base. You, as the player are the absolute ruler, you decide everything about it and you can accept or decline missions based on your preference.
There are a lot of missions and activities you can do to keep you busy, paired with the constant need of resources, there is just enough to do in the game. The only problem is that the game is designed to be replayed multiple times, making need of some more things to do once you master the basic set. When you play the game, you elect someone to lead the community, there are four classes of leaders. Builder, trader, sheriff, and warlord. This choice changes the missions you get randomly throughout the game and severely changes the final mission strand. The leader choices are a nice addition, but if they had more missions, or the game was longer, it would make it more impactful. Also note that the leader can die, making you have to start a whole new leader’s journey, so be careful!
There is one big problem that drives one crazy in this game. Each character is random and is given a set personality, and all their dialogue is tied to that, for example, a Spanish person will use Spanish words, or someone who is quiet doesn’t talk much. This is alright, but it also means that all dialogue is very generic, and characters will never say each other's names’, making it so awkward. The dialogue is void of details, like someone will come over the radio and say, “I saw some materials here” to which you respond “on my way.” This is a less bad example but sometimes, especially in story conversations, the lack of detail is incredibly boring.
Overall, the game is pretty good. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t addicting, I purchased this game at release and I still play it to this day. I would also like if the game was a little more difficult, considering it is advertised as a brutal survival, and has some elements of hardcore, it still feels too simple after a few hours. They recently released two new difficulty modes which honestly make the game so much better, so I recommend a harder difficulty to really put you in the apocalypse mood. The game is still a fun time, and can be really fun with the 1-4 player co-op which blends seamlessly into the main campaign, but the game does not rely on multiplayer which makes the experience good no matter how many friends you have, even none! To wrap it up, play this game, you will probably enjoy it. It was made with care and you can tell.