Zombies with friends.
Five years after the release of the original State of Decay, Undead Labs are back with a sequel.
State of Decay 2 may seem at first glance like a zombie game, but there is so much more to it than that. Taking place shortly after the commencement of the apocalypse, you are among a few humans left alive, fighting for survival and resources in an unforgiving land. The game relies heavily on base building and resource management, so if you’re handy in those areas you’ll have a blast with SoD2.
Thankfully, even if the sound of that fills you with dread, and all you want to do is bust zombies’ heads in, the game guides you through the entire process quite nicely. The opening is a kind of movement and attack tutorial, easing you into how to navigate the environment and how best to take down the freaks without getting killed in the process. There’s a stamina bar for sprinting, and you’ll find you can usually climb over/onto most objects you come across in the world.
You start off with a melee weapon – and these can break, so be careful – and you can pick up firearms along the way. Guns take different types of ammunition, so you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools for the job lest you get caught out with a gun and no bullets. There’s also your staple stuff like grenades, firecrackers, and med kits.
Being a zombie apocalypse, it’s ideal to have somewhere to live that means you won’t be rudely awoken by a decomposed hand pulling aside the covers in the middle of the night. Your home is your base of operations, where you can build everything from an infirmary to a garden in order to stay alive. It might seem overwhelming at first, but the game drip-feeds you only the information you need at the time, so you needn’t worry about forgetting anything important. You’ll eventually learn how to build all the components in your stronghold up to scratch to keep your community of survivors well fed and well rested.
Which brings us to the community itself. You’ll notice that you’re not alone in the wide open world of State of Decay 2, and it’s in your best interest to befriend those asking for help as they may be of benefit to you later. Or, of course, you could kill them and their friends and take all their stuff and claim their lodgings as an outpost. It’s up to you.
You don’t play SoD2 as any single ‘character’. Your community consists of a group of playable characters that you can switch between, especially if the one you’re playing as gets injured or sick. Some camp counsellors even have specialisations that can help in certain areas around the camp. Honestly, it’s generally more beneficial to befriend your neighbours or others in need rather than slaughter them, as you never know what special skills they may possess. It’s also worth noting that permadeath is back in SoD2, so anyone that you manage to get killed will definitely stay dead (keep that in mind for any campers you aren’t too fond of).
Of course, there are also zombies to deal with. State of Decay 2 has more than you can shake a rusty crowbar at, and they come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got your normal, trudging, slow, walking dead types that don’t pose much of a threat, but as you get higher up the pecking order there’s a lot more danger to be found. You’ll run into the likes of juggernauts – that will take more than a couple hits to knock down for good – as well as screamers that (you guessed it) make a tonne of noise and draw other zombies to your location. One or two is a walk in the park, but five or six and you might find yourself outnumbered.
On top of that, you have your plague zombies. These things have menacing red eyes and can usually be found nestled around plague hearts; giant, throbbing obscenities that don’t do well against fire. If one of these zombies attacks you, there’s a chance you can contract blood plague, which is often fatal if you don’t have a cure. You can craft a cure, but you’ll need plague samples from those dastardly infected to make one up.
Zombies scattered around the map can mostly be avoided using stealth, and are often more of a hindrance on your path to somewhere else rather than something you set out to take on – usually. Sometimes clearing them from a location will yield more containers to search, and occasionally even open up a new outpost opportunity. Of course, there’s also the fact that it’s super satisfying to run them over with your car. Zombie killing is a great stress reliever.
However – the best part about State of Decay 2? You don’t have to go it alone. Studio head Jeff Strain told us that multiplayer co-op was the single most-requested feature from the first game, so the team took great pains to ensure it was incorporated into the sequel. The four player co-op is a wonderful addition, and lets your mates – or others, dependant on your settings – to simply drop in and out of your game session if you need a hand, or if you feel like doing something particularly outlandish. If Left 4 Dead is anything to go by, zombie slaying with your mates is just that little bit more fun.
It’s nice to see that, in a market saturated with zombie games, Undead Labs have come up with a creative way to set their title aside from the rest. By employing base building and community management as the driving force behind gameplay, and having the zombies merely as a distraction or an obstruction towards finding more food or rescuing another survivor, State of Decay 2 is able to appeal to multiple branches of gaming interests, and succeed in every area. The game requires concentration and attention to detail, no doubt about that, but those who oblige are treated to a well-rounded survival experience that most people will find at least some enjoyment in.