But no seriously, I’m pretty sure the art for this one says State of Decay 2. Is this a prank? Does someone love me enough to change the whole internet to make it seem like Undead Labs had put out a sequel? Leave a mark on my mailbox if so and I shall write you a letter in a bottle….
This sequel makes Destiny 2 seem like a fresh take of that universe. Sure, there are some additions that we’ll get to with the same mediocrity as they’re worth, but I’m not sure I can recall a modern game adding so little and releasing as a full sequel. Is this how Splatoon 2 players feel?
For those that never touched State of Decay in either state (heh), you have a zombie apocalypse survive-a-thon where you build a community, find supplies, and knock out zeds. There are some other subtleties such as personality quirks of survivors, switching heroes, and various meters to keep satiated to add a twist to an idea I’ve waited to be fleshed out for years.
The main issue with the first game is that it’s got more bugs than plants. If you want more issues, I can abide. The standard cycle of scavenging has a soft ceiling that makes survival feel too simple in a world supposedly overrun, balancing hurts the meter juggling game, and the story never gave you much of a reason to thrive. It’s certainly still an experience about taking those micro-stories between survivors escaping death, but without something like an online-capable community to drive it, you just feel like you’re going in circles.
State of Decay 2 has similar issues. Very similar. In fact, here they are:
“The main issue with the first game is that it’s got more bugs than plants. If you want more issues, I can abide. The standard cycle of scavenging has a soft ceiling that makes survival feel too simple in a world supposedly overrun, balancing hurts the meter juggling game, and the story never gave you much of a reason to thrive. It’s certainly still an experience about taking those micro-stories between survivors escaping death, but without something like an online-capable community to drive it, you just feel like you’re going in circles.”
We’re not looking at exactly the same game as the first, but my petty point is that they’re simply too similar. It feels like a huge waste to not evolve the world in a mainline way, either to that online-driven community or towards that tighter story-driven system. What’s present is neither, choosing the same path of ambiguity as the first game almost exactly.
The differences are mostly small with tweaks to balancing and how your home base builds. Even this has some annoyances such as the clunky interface, only a single build spot, and no real way to take care of conflicting compatriots unless you waste a chunk of gathering time staying at home. I know this world has walkie-talkies. Why can’t Brad tell me about his pride issues over the airwaves?
State of Decay 2 does have a – singular – gameplay addition that gives the undead a more hive-based origin. Their flavor of virus is now called the Blood Plague, which any character of yours can now contract with enough damage that runs down the clock until their lives are lost to the zombie hordes. This means you have to divert and frantically seek an antidote that you better have the means to make after the early stages or it’s curtains for your comrade. While these aren’t the deepest characters, you can still look at them as numbers that dwindle if you let them, which can serve as good motivation to seek out their salvation.
This bleeds into two other areas that branch off of giving the plague itself an identity: Blood Hearts and home defense missions. I am a complete sucker for any game that forces you to test your built defenses and allies in a home defense. There’s no simpler way to measure your preparedness or to keep you caring about the homestead than to place an ominous cloud on its horizon. Those aforementioned conflicts become all that much more intense when you’re about the only one that seems to care about the flimsy gates holding back an incoming horde.
Blood Hearts are tied to more powerful zombies in the world and serve as a hive mind for each of them. Obviously, they’re pulsating, vulnerable targets that must be taken out at some point, but with each swipe, more and more plague-infected minions storm the keep to take you out. These serve as natural tiers in the world that test your collective preparedness and supply caches, offering another natural reward in taking out the heightened danger for the area.
I love the identity of the plague and the three main additions that choice offers. It’s just a shame that each and every downfall of the first game is still present as well.
The story for State of Decay 2 feels even more barren than the first with those moment-to-moment survivor tales mostly reserved for co-op. While you’d think co-op could help that online community I spoke about, there’s virtually nothing that makes co-op feel like a good idea beyond having another backpack and gun. There’s no trade line set-up, no login bonus, no world interactions, nothing; co-op never feels like the natural setup to take into this world. I’m just as fine taking a computer partner as my donkey than waiting in the queue for someone to pop in.
None of this is to say that State of Decay 2 is a terrible experience or not worthy of the zombie survival tag. In fact, if there’s any game that works at that genre in a near triple-A way, it’s right here. The problem is that I’ve seen this game before. I recognize it so clearly as a buggy, barren, unrewarding station of cycles that feel pointless that not even the positive additions can save it from being boring. That’s the ultimate crime of it all because no virus anywhere in this world will ever kill as fast or as capably as boredom.
State of Decay 2 Score: