Game Review: State of Decay 2 (Xbox One)

I want to tell you that State of Decay 2 is an instant classic. I want to tell you that it’s light years ahead of its predecessor. That every faucet of the game has been improved and it will go down in history as one of the ‘great’ zombie games. I want too but I can’t.

Sadly as good as State of Decay can be it is marred by repetitive and restrictive gameplay, poor graphics and frustrating bugs. To call this State of Decay 1.5 isn’t unfair.

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The first State of Decay was released in June 2013 and was a breath of fresh air within the tired zombie genre. An open-world survival simulator, it was exciting and new enough to hook players in. We loved it and you can read our full review here.

Almost five years later, developer Undead Labs are back with its sequel.

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The world has been ravaged by a zombie plague. Survivors are few and those that are trying to carry on must scavenge for supplies to keep going. These are the roles you take on with you being able to freely jump between characters at will provided they’re not mid-task.

Scavenge for supplies and build a community. Tasks that are made all the more difficult by the need to constantly look over your shoulder to make sure a zombie isn’t taking a bite out of it. Not only that but the larger your community gets the more supplies you need. Beds, medicine and ammo are commodities that you have to horde and trading with other communities that have sprung up is a necessity.

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It’s important to have a strong group of survivors though as each one will need to take a break from the wasteland every so often. As well as health, you also need to manage their stamina. It’s all too easy to push them too far and wind up killing them. They die, they stay dead taking all their skills with them, many of which you may have levelled up.

If you’re not careful, you can devastate your own community through bad planning or leaving your home vulnerable. These permanent deaths add much needed weight to the gameplay as over-confidence will be your downfall.

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There is nothing worse then a character who you’ve spent a lot of time upgrading and building up fall to a horde because you were not careful enough. It’s a pity there still isn’t the option to customise them though.

You’re going to want a strong community to deal with the many zombies that litter the map including the returning ‘special’ zombies like the dangerous feral and the poison-gas filled bloaters.

No only that, State of Decay introduces blood plague zombies, distinguishable by their bloody eyes. It’s these that make up the majority of the story as your aim is to wipe out the Blood Plague by destroying pulsating hearts that are dotted around the map. Be warned, these situations are very dangerous as being bitten by a blood zombie will see you get infected and have limited time to find a cure.

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However, once you’re through the early stage of the game you’ll have the cure and finding what you need is very easy. You will never really feel threatened by the plague and destroying the hearts gets very repetitive.

In fact that’s State of Decay 2 as whole. Doing the same things over and over again. The main quest line is lacking but some individual characters have their own more personal quest lines they can follow which adds a little bit of variety to the find, deliver, build and destroy gameplay.

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It’s very easy to spend hours just combing the landscape and providing your community with supplies. Building materials, fuel, medicine, food and ammunition are found in packs that your home base uses for upkeep. Smaller items are stored in an inventory which any character can take from. Items like guns, melee weapons, healing boosts and fuel for refuelling the few vehicles that are about. These are in abundance so you’ll quickly have a huge supply ready to go. The only thing to be aware of is weapon damage, something that happens quickly and often at the worst time!

You can repair these at your home base but you’ll need a machine shop for it. Deciding what facilities you build within the limited space is important. Do you focus on healing and food with an infirmary, garden and water supply? Or do you prepare for war with machine shops, generators and storage? It’s a tough balance as even the biggest of home bases doesn’t have enough room for everything. In fact the biggest frustration here often comes with beds! The more people you have, the more beds they need and they are very important to keeping morale high!

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It’s disappointing to see just how little has changed with the home base situation since the first game. That you’re not able to really make sweeping changes to the layout feels restrictive. As you progress you’ll get the opportunity to move to bigger locations provided you’ve unlocked the requirements but you can’t take over an entire neighbourhood or combine buildings which is really disappointing.

The best you can do is surround your base with outposts but these are just locations where you can restock/drop items in your inventory. They’re far more useful dotted around the map.

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While your base can get attacked by zombies depending on how much noise you’re making these rarely become a problem. As long as you keep your survivors stocked up with ammo they will defend it with ease.

The real threat in State of Decay 2 comes from rival humans. Most start off friendly but as their demands start to increase you’re going to have to make some difficult decisions. Getting into fights with fellow humans can be the death of your characters and you better be well prepared if you’re going to take on a group.

The only real noticeable change in State of Decay 2 is the 4-player co-op option. Once you’ve got the tutorial out of the way you can play through the entire game as a group. Those that join the hosts world will be able to take back their own spoils (not resources) and added bonuses to their own. Get a good group of friends and State of Decay 2’s fun levels massively increase! Provided you don’t get disconnected which is a constant threat.

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All sounding pretty good right? It is. It’s really good and if you’ve never played the first game you’ll love most of this. However, almost all the points mentioned above were present in the first game.

Repetitiveness aside, State of Decay 2 also comes with some bugs and some of them pretty unforgivable. The worst will see characters stuck in animations unable to move while zombies attack. Then there are the open doors that aren’t actually open meaning you run the risk of alerting zombies if you’re looking to run in. Characters can be unselectable because they are busy even though they’re literally sitting in a chair at the base and many of the fight/kill animations stutter. These are just a few of many.

It has barely had a graphical upgrade and the environment can look down-right ugly at times. Characters control ok, but cars are as bad as they were in the first game. They also run out of fuel far too quickly and hitting a lamppost can see the entire thing wrecked instantly!

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These are all issues that can be fixed with patches but it’s clear that State of Decay 2 needed more time in development. That doesn’t excuse the lack of real progression between this and the first game though.

It is a good game, it’s a lot of fun and it nails the survival aspects really well. It just should have and could have been so much better!

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  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!

State of Decay 2
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