The zombie survival genre is both well-known and extremely saturated, leaving little room for innovation and originality. When State of Decay released on PC and Xbox 360 it became something of a cult hit despite all its flaws. The unique resource management and survival element, coupled with permadeath, is what made it such a great game. It proved to be so successful that it spawned two great add-ons and even a remaster for the Xbox One. Now, after quite a long wait, the sequel has finally landed, but does it still have the same “it” factor?
Everything’s in shambles
If you thought you’d get a story out of this one, guess again. There’s over-arching story to be seen, however, Undead Labs have substituted the traditional idea of a narrative by allowing you to make your own story by being in charge of your own enclave. In a nutshell, you and your merry band of survivors form a community and together you need to survive the apocalypse. Think of it as your group if you lived in the world of The Walking Dead and what you would do to survive. To spice things up a little – because this is a sequel after all – a new enemy has been introduced: Plague Zombies.
These new zombies, created by a blood plague and weird nest things called plague hearts, is the main target of the game. It’s your goal to nurture your community, add more people to it, eradicate the plague hearts and leave a legacy. Once all that is done, your game is over and you can start anew with a new crew and some legacy bonuses.
I regularly traded resources with one enclave only to find out they’re cannibals.
Where’s your community spirit?
The heart of the game (pardon the pun) is within your community. You start off quite small, usually around four people, but it can grow to 10 – 12 people if you can get a big enough property. Each character that is recruited is playable and all feature their own talents, strengths, weaknesses and personalities. To add some depth to the game, quite a few micro stories have been injected to make life after the end of the world a little bit more interesting. I had a character who paid his respects to a friend and then stalked his friend’s (possibly dead) lover. It also extends to people outside your enclave. There are many survivors in the world, some of which can be hostile towards you and others who are friendly. You can choose who to help and who to ally with. However, sometimes helping them out is very time-consuming and tedious.
The payoff, however, is that some of the side stories are hectic. I regularly traded resources (there are five main resources needed to survive: Material, Ammo, Medicine, Fuel and Food) with one enclave only to find out they’re cannibals. It’s this microcosm of story-telling that I really enjoyed in the game. The only problem was, a lot of the rest kind of bored me. There’s a strong sense of community spirit which makes you want to explore and loot as many supplies as you can, but eventually it all becomes repetitive. Part of this is because State of Decay 2 too closely resembles the first game. Aside from the plague zombies, which are basically the standard zombies covered in blood, all other zombies are from the first: Armoured, Feral, Bloater, Shrieker and the godawful Juggernaut.
Even some buildings look like they’ve been ripped from the first game and the controls are almost identical too.
Roaches aren’t the only bugs that will survive the apocalypse
While there is a significant graphical upgrade, the sheer amount of bugginess is an eyesore. Seriously, I had a character who was supposed to have white hair, as shown by her portrait, but the hair colour was always brown or black. Another bug removed my HUD which forced me to shut the game down. One bug had my character stuck between two shelves when switching characters, and another bug where I had to open gates/doors that were already clearly open. There are so many issues with the game that there’s an actual option in your radio menu to help ‘unjam’ you if you’re stuck. It’s a little disconcerting that instead of fixing the problems, the developers chose to circumvent them.
Another aspect of the game that I thought was a little wishy-washy was the co-op. Across every single trailer I’ve seen for this game, there was a massive push towards multiplayer and co-op action. Suffice to say, you can pretty much play the game solo and not miss a beat. It’s also far from seamless. You can fire off a flare to request help or volunteer to assist someone else. In my mind, I had a bit of an MMO idea of how this flare co-op thing would work, but no, it’s just like any other co-op, you jump into their game. It’s as fun as you’d expect it to be, but with so few people playing prior to release, I didn’t get that much enjoyment out of it. It could change once more people are playing, but I don’t think it’s for me.
What I did enjoy was the sheer scope of the game. There are three main locations which you can choose at the start of your adventure. Each one is massive and will take hours upon hours to explore. I spent the majority of my 20 hour game time playing the plateau section and I still haven’t uncovered everything. There really is a lot to see and explore, the only issue, once again, is that many of the assets and buildings look like upgraded versions of the same things in the first game. It’s too deja vu-ish for my taste, and I loved the hell out of the first game.
My final thoughts
I had great hopes for State of Decay 2. It’s one of the few zombie survival games that make you feel really bad when your favourite characters die due to your actions (I will always remember you Lt. Whitehead, you fought valiantly, but I underestimated that Juggernaut). I enjoyed the graphical update, the community building and mini-stories that add a bit of intrigue to the rather depressing landscape, but it’s bogged down by bugs, boring chores and a mediocre co-op mode. Given the low price, I can be a little more forgiving, but I expect a lot more polish for a sequel. I can only hope the next few updates will add more content and fix a lot of issues.