When I first played the original State of Decay from Undead Labs, I was immediately hooked on its amazingly clever fusion of zombie slaying action and base building survival. Plenty of other games feature these same mechanics, but not quite in the same way. Controlling a full group of survivors instead of the lone-wolf made for quite a refreshing and engaging experience.
Though I enjoyed my time with the original State of Decay, something was missing. This was an experience that cried out to be shared. As I grew my base and explored the undead laden wasteland, I desperately wanted to play with a friend.
State of Decay 2 looks to have answered that plea by allowing up to four friends to work together to survive the apocalypse. The original formula remains largely unchanged, albeit with a stronger focus on your community, but the addition of co-op is everything I hoped it would be.
In State of Decay 2, you will take on the task of ensuring the well-being of a group of ragtag survivors of the zombie plague. The job won’t be easy as the Zeds are everywhere. Thankfully, so are supplies. Much like the original game, most of your time will be spent exploring homes and buildings scavenging for what is left behind and fending off the hordes of undead standing between you and the goods.
Combat is much the same as in the original, however, this is a case of more of the same being a good thing. Swinging a melee weapon is mostly a one-button affair but there is a visceral, satisfying feel to each blow. Using firearms works how one would expect with the added fear of drawing unwanted attention from nearby zombies, making you question whether each trigger pull is worth it.
As you progress you will again control a group of survivors and not a single character. The swapping between members of your enclave to balance the need for rest and injuries makes for some fun choices when deciding who to take into the field. Survivors also level up their skills which is another factor when deciding who gets in the action, as skills only increase when they are used.
New to the game is the addition of the blood plague. One of the main drives for your enclave of survivors will be to seek out plague hearts and destroy them. They are tough to take down and defended by plague zombies. Getting damaged by these red-tinted creatures will drive up your plague meter, which is a bad thing. Thankfully though you can craft a cure that will prevent any nastiness from affecting your favorite survivor, provided you have the right resources.
When not slaying your way across the map you will be doing some looting, and by some, I mean a lot. You need everything from food, to ammunition. You will need building materials to upgrade your base, luxury items like an Xbox to keep your community happy, and of course gas to run the generators to power it all. State of Decay 2 takes the same base building core from the first game and really expands upon it. Keeping your group of survivors happy and ready to fight turns into an engaging task in its own right and keeps you scavenging the wasteland for the next shiny trinket to boost morale.
While it is easy to get attached to your band of happy zombie hunters, and for their part, the AI controlled characters do a serviceable job when tagging along with you on a scavenger hunt, sometimes you need some extra help, and this is where State of Decay 2 really comes into its own for me. Grabbing some friends and having a buddy watch your back as you loot a restaurant makes for some fun and engaging moments.
The mechanics of base building and community management are put on hold for the players that join a friends game, but you receive your own specially marked loot within the game world allowing you to still gain some goodies for your own enclave while you are away from home. Plus, the sheer joy of zombie slaying and looting with a friend is worth putting your own efforts on hold for the moment.
There are some downsides to the game that I feel need to be mentioned. At times State of Decay 2 can feel a bit buggy, even more so during co-op play. Car doors suddenly stop working, invisible doors will stop you from entering until being opened again. None of the issues I experienced was game breaking, but there were a few sour moments amongst all the fun.
All in all, State of Decay 2 takes the solid core laid forward by its predecessor and expands upon it in all the right ways. The addition of Co-Op is exactly what was missing the first go around and makes an already fine game into an amazingly great way to spend an evening with some friends. The budget price of $29.99 makes the barrier for entry pretty low as well. State of Decay 2 is out now on Xbox One and Windows PCs thanks to the “Play Anywhere” feature.
A copy of this game was provided by Microsoft for review purposes.