Review - State of Decay 2.
The fine folks over at Xbox/Microsoft Studios were incredibly amazing enough to send me a review code for their sequel to the highly praised post-apocalyptic zombie survival game State of Decay, State of Decay 2! Buckle up, cause this one will be wild!
Platform: standard Xbox One.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT!
The game starts off with you getting to choose what set of starting characters you want to play as, as well as displaying information about them. I choose the siblings, since I myself have a lot of siblings, making it the most fitting choice for me. Shortly after, you're tasked with exploring an abandoned military base in search for supplies. Things take a turn for the worst, though, as zombies overrun us and bite my sibling. Later on, the pair gets saved by a military woman, named Frost, that is accompanied by a doctor called Feliciano. Feliciano is doing everything he can to cure the blood plague, an even worse version of the virus that makes the zombie's eyes turn red, and turn the zombie into a more violent one. If not cured in time, my sibling would turn into one of them. This is where you'll also get your first gun and awesome yet depressing enough, get to execute your first zombie with a gun up-close, that couldn't be saved by the "cure". Shortly after, you're driving off with your newly found team to find a place worth settling down at, which introduces us to three big open worlds that we can choose from to start playing in. Once the best looking place is found, this is where the game really begins, and you're free to explore the game's vastly open world.
The first game wasn't really the king of visuals, but it still held up very well. The sequel, however, is a huge step-up, both in terms of visuals and the game's performance. The graphics are exceptionally amazing, and really gives the game a "AAA" atmosphere.
While exploring the huge world that State of Decay 2 offers, I never tend to find any game-breaking bug at all, which is a big upgrade from the first game that had noticable bugs happening fairly often. The game's performance isn't perfect, though. As we all know, every game has its share of tiny bugs, which is to be expected. You can find big ponds of water, too and the small details in the water really makes it look great. They nailed it with the water physics. When it comes to the game's framerate, I can't really complain at all: running over several zombies at a time doesn't really bring it down at all, for example. Visually, it looks downright amazing. Needless to say, I definitely spent a LOT of time taking screenshots and recording videos. The audio is really improved upon a lot, as well. While bashing a zombies head in, you'll hear its skull crack a lot clearer, for example. The general audio and the atmosphere regarding it, is definitely creepy and well designed. Standing still and focusing on the game's audio gives off a terrifying yet awesome feel due to the zombies you hear in the background, as well as the nature's ambience. The game has a great looking motion blur effect going on, too, which makes it all look even more nice and impressive. Undead Labs really took their time to polish this game to the fullest, which clearly shows. Even on a standard Xbox One console, the game looks and feels very impressive, in terms of every aspect.
Settlement building & skills
One of the awesome things about the original game was that you could improve and build your settlement with additions like a watchtower to get a better lookout upon zombies approaching your base, build a workshop to build additional needed things, a kitchen to prepare food, as well as a garden to grow vegetables. Basically, this game is improved upon, from the first game, in every possible way to a huge degree. When building needed additions to your house, you have even more options now and they also seem more detailed.
You're now able to prepare a can of fuel to re-fuel your vehicle (which is a new mechanic, and a really welcomed one at that), install mods (such as a power tool which gives you 50% more action speed with power), break down weapon remains into usable parts which improves your mechanic skill, create a blood plague cure at the infirmary, and a lot more! You're also able to bring a rucksack with you now, that can hold important supplies that needs to be shipped off. The skill system is back and even more detailed, with even more skills and traits that you can upgrade (like upgrading one of your skills to be able to fit more supplies in your backpack, which you increase by climbing and running). There's all kinds of small but awesome details in the sequel! Now, I don't remember every little thing from the first game so I might be wrong here but: it seems like it's now faster to prepare small things like food, creating medicine, and similar stuff. I don't know exactly, though.
The morale bar is, of course, back and works pretty much the same way like in the first game. Your settlement's morale status and amount of supplies are shown in the top left of the HUD, showing clearly what you have and don't have, as well as if people are satisfied or not. There's also a bar over the mini-map that indicates how close you are to getting infected with the blood plague/getting sick. You'll notice when exploring and killing that it'll go up a bit, but it takes a while for it to go up by a big marginal, so don't worry. If infected, the victim has to be cured at the infirmary (and to create the cure you'll have to find blood plague samples from actual zombies infected by the blood plague). If the victim isn't cured in time, you'll sadly have to execute one of your friends.
It's kind of hard to explain the State of Decay franchise's story since, in my opinion, every individual playing creates its unique own story due to the game's detailed survival and choice driven concept. In the sequel, the zombie apocalypse is even more extreme and the military's presence is completely gone (leaving the few marines that are left having to join civilian survivors in hope of getting a chance at surviving, too). Though some of their outpost sites are still left and unvisited, making for a great weapon outpost. Sure, it doesn't have a story like the Gears of War franchise but it doesn't really need one either, since that's not really where it is supposed to shine the brightest. In State of Decay 2 you create your own survival story, spicing its different parts up with what you might've decided to do differently regarding your survival.
Did you decide to help that particular other settlement? Did you ever have to shoot one of your own in order to survive? It's been a long time since the outbreak first happened and now it's up to you and your group of survivors to gather supplies, be smart about the way you'll build your settlement, and build a new future. In the end, YOU create your own story.
Driving & vehicle management
The driving and vehicle management has gone up by a HUGE notch. Driving a vehicle feels a lot better and it actually feels like the car has more weight to it now. The sound of the car's engine sounds very realistic and believable, too. I always felt like the driving in the first game was a tiny bit off, but Undead Labs have definitely learned their lesson with the sequel. I really enjoyed taking long, zombie-smashing trips to gather supplies. The car's handling feels great and really immersive, making every trip enjoyable. A mechanic that wasn't featured in the first game, is having its debut into the State of Decay franchise: re-fueling your vehicle.
I didn't actually know this was in the game once I started, so I very surprised once it hit me. It's a VERY welcome surprise, though, as it gives off a more realistic feel to your survival, with all the trips that you'll take. I didn't really ever have to worry that much about the fuel, so don't go thinking you'll have to re-fuel every 5 minutes. There's a realistic and fair time between re-fueling sessions. One more addition to vehicles is that you can now repair it with a repair kit, in case it breaks down (or if you just don't like the cosmetic damage taken). Both are great and welcome additions to the game! There's more vehicles featured now and you're also able to modify/upgrade your vehicles with the help of your parking spaces, to further help you survive out in the zombiefied wasteland.
The open world
The world of State of Decay 2 is filled with places you can go to, offering hours of exploration and enjoyment. Sure, you'll spend a lot of time entering different houses and buildings trying to gather as much supplies as you can to survive, but I never felt that it got worned out. I always felt like each place had its own sense of mystery, and chance of having something new and awesome that I were looking for that could aid me in my attempt at survival.
Influence is back, of course, and works pretty much like in the first game: helping a fellow survivor, gathering supplies, completing tasks/missions, all reward you with Influence that you can use to establish outposts (which creates a safe haven, that also can provide you with supplies), trade with other survivors, and more. Each open world is very huge and filled with opportunities. You'll probably almost feel like there's too much to explore, at times. You can enter each house seen in the game, pretty much, which is a great thing about the State of Decay franchise that I really love. Plague hearts is a new thing, that you can find while exploring that is filled with nearby blood plague zombies. You'll have to destroy the plague heart, which can be pretty difficult, to wipe the nearby vicinity off of blood plague zombies. All helping you to create a more stable enviroment. Stealthing around and stabbing zombies is a lot of fun, and the executions look even better now! Stealth has always been a thing in the State of Decay franchise, and at the same time it is very well worked on. Generally, it works very well.
State of Decay 2, like the first game, uses a third-person perspective. I'd say that a third-person perspective is more fitting for a game like this, but first-person would look really cool, too. Looking around feel very good and the default sensivity option is perfect. Running around looks even better now and the animation, generally speaking, is improved upon a lot. Shooting in State of Decay has always both felt and looked really great & realistic, which is definitely no exception when it comes to the sequel. It's obviously a big part of the game since it's very needed to survive the apocalypse, and they've improved upon it in every way possible. Destroying fences and similar things is improved upon a lot, too and looks really realistic. I Love driving around with my jeep destroying fences and what not! Especially zombies.
The recoil feels and looks even more realistic now, there's even more weapons, you can add a muzzle attachment, there's more variety, the weapons audio design is superb, and the weapons are really well designed. There's huge details when opening fire, too. I can safely say that I can't wait to start the game up again and shoot some zombies with my AR-15.
Multiplayer was probably the most requested implementation back when the first game released, but Undead Labs most likely wanted to wait for the sequel to get the best multiplayer experience possible. I spent some time playing co-op and I mostly only have good things to say about my experience. First of all: there's a tether of around 400 meters that keeps you from getting too far away from each other. 400 meters is actually pretty generous, and you're able to complete different scavenging missions individually, and such like. Second of all: the game doesn't seem to be using dedicated servers (which is needed to avoid lag, and to get the best multiplayer experience). I don't know why they're not using it, but I don't mind it that much since I didn't experience much lag at all, actually. Generally, co-op works very well and there didn't seem to be much problems getting someone to join me, at all. Any supplies you find are yours to keep.
When joining your friend, it's basically like you're just another survivor within the settlement: you're helping with whatever you can. Unlocking achievements is also shared within the session. So you can freely go around in a 400 meter radius to do whatever you like, to help the person you've joined. A cool thing about co-op is that you volunteer to join a fellow survivor's game by using a flare gun to shoot a flare into the sky, indicating that you're available as aid. Co-op doesn't have many problems, except for MAYBE the dedicated servers for some people, but at the same time I can not really complain since co-op is pretty much what we all wanted the most, and Undead Labs have made it into a reality.
All in all
State of Decay 2 is the ultimate zombie survival simulator that is greatly action packed, very good looking, and enjoyable. The game is definitely worth both your time and money, especially the Ultimate Edition. If you liked the first game, you'll LOVE State of Decay 2. I enjoyed every second played in the game and I seriously can not wait to get back into it, to bash some more zombie's heads in! The sequel improves on EVERY aspect of the first game by a huge degree, and with the debut of co-op, you can choose to try to survive the zombie apocalypse with a fellow friend.
State of Decay 2 released today (the 18th of May) for those who bought the Ultimate Edition which is priced at $50, and will release on the 22nd of May for those who has bought the standard edition which is priced at $30.
Reviewed by Jesper Ingemansson.