I don’t usually like to start my reviews with a disclaimer, but I feel like I have to: this time around; I wasn’t a fan of the first State of Decay. There, I said it. State of Decay was rough around the edges and had less polish than my 14 year old Honda Fit. Going into State of Decay 2, I was optimistic that Undead Labs would have learned from their mistakes. Unfortunately, it seems that they didn’t.
Once again, we are dropped into an open world in which to survive a zombie apocalypse. I wish I could go into more detail about the story, but the truth is that just like the original, State of Decay 2 has a story that doesn’t really matter at all. The main thing you need to know is that, again, you get to choose from a few pairs of survivors with a cut-and-paste backstory to start the game with. The only real effect that has on the game is where you will start in the world, and with which sorry bunch of misfits – I mean preliminary survivors – you’ll start your adventure with as you attempt to stave off the dreaded Blood Plague.
And such is the beginning of what will soon become a mundane stroll through a repetitive open-ended story. Some may argue that I shouldn’t expect so much from a game that centres around a zombie apocalypse and gives you a massive open world to continue conquering and killing zombies until your sweet bloodthirsty heart is full to bursting, but I would argue that it feels like a mobile game port, and that’s just not ok. I half expected ads to pop-up part way through the game and offer me the chance to download the full version – for a modest fee, of course.
OK, I haven’t really said much about what to expect in terms of gameplay and missions. Well, it’s pretty simple; your mission, should you choose to endure it, is to stop the Blood Plague by destroying Plague hearts. Along the way, you will set up new settlements for your survivors and, of course, kill a whole bunch of zombies. That, my dear readers, is what you can expect throughout your entire experience. You’ll find more variety on a Nickelback album than you will in State of Decay 2.
I will give State of Decay 2 one thing, though; the crafting system is actually pretty decent… when it works. Finding and crafting resources is absolutely essential in order to build your post-apocalyptic utopia, as well as destroy zombies and blood hearts. Just be prepared for plenty of bugs as you go about your rinse and repeat goals. One such example was finding resources to craft the cure for the Blood Plague for one of my lovely community members who decided it was a good ideas to turn themselves into zombie bait. After finding all the required resources and crafting the cure, it didn’t appear in the inventory or in the resource chests. I thought maybe I’d been an idiot and missed a step, or that it placed by the lab, or some other mysterious position. After half an hour, I decided to quit the game and reboot and what’d’ya know? There is the cure sitting right there in my resource chest!
Keep this in mind as you play through State of Decay 2, because those sorts of bugs are common, and even more annoying considering you only have a finite time with which to give your plague infested friends the cure before they too turn into your not-so-friendly neighbourhood zombie.
“But this is a game about surviving a zombie apocalypse”, I hear you say. “Surely surviving a zombie apocalypse is going to be all about making the best use of your resources, overcoming adversity and building up a strong community in order to survive”. You’re probably right but this is a video-game, and you can’t very well soft-reboot a real zombie apocalypse, can you? If I wanted repetition over and over again, I’d just listen to a Nickelback album. Look I get that this is about surviving a zombie plague, but if this is what it’s going to be like in a zombie apocalypse then I’ll wager that half of the survivors went out to be turned into zombies just to get some excitement in their lives.
For all the negatives, though, I will say that State of Decay 2 does a pretty good job at mixing up enemy types and providing a decent combat system with which to kill them. Bloaters are much like me after a massive feed at McDonald’s; super bloated and ready to explode without warning. Ferals are quick and agile bastards, and the Juggernauts are… well they’re the Juggernauts, b*tch!
While characters have certain traits, none of that is really prevalent when it comes to combat. Each character is pretty capable of disposing of zombies with a single button press. The way in which you do it will differ depending on whether you’ve gone for a blunt weapon, guns, or explosives, and if you go for a heavier weapon then look forward to some very satisfying gory ground kills. The ground kills are one of the few highlights.
OK enough about gameplay, let’s move on to the graphics. Afterall, State of Decay 2 is capable of 4K HDR gaming on the Xbox One X, and I am well set up for 4K gaming with my Xbox One X and 4K curved TV. Yeah, State of Decay 2 looks pretty damn good at times, but this is how it reminds me of the first State of Decay; it still manages to show plenty of flaws, like zombies magically clipping through the environment, falling from the heavens because you’re going to fast for the game to render zombies on the ground in time, or motion blur that will make you feel like you’re Superman because the slightest turn will blur like crazy.
I wish I could get into State of Decay 2, but I just can’t. It’s a buggy mess that didn’t learn from its predecessor’s mistakes. I will give it this though, the name sums the franchise up perfectly; it is very much in a State of Decay.