State of Decay 2

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Undead Labs
Release Date: May 22, 2018


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Xbox One/PC Preview - 'State of Decay 2'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 1, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

State of Decay 2 immerses you in an all-new, multiplayer zombie survival fantasy.

The original State of Decay was a bit rough when it debuted on the Xbox 360, though even in that state, the game showed plenty of promise. An updated version later made its way to the PC and Xbox One, opening up the franchise to a larger group of players. Now, State of Decay 2 is nearly upon us, and Undead Labs has gone for a “bigger and better” approach, building on the ideas that came before, while also adding a requested multiplayer feature.

We sat down with an early build of the game and played through some of the single-player before jumping into multiplayer. Our single-player adventure didn’t start right at the beginning of the game; instead, Undead Labs used a few cheat codes to get us set up with a base and a crew, so we could jump right in to the adventuring.

One of the first things to point out, especially if you never played the original, is that fighting zombies is only part of State of Decay 2. Yes, combat is a thing, but it is not the primary goal. Your core focus in State of Decay 2 is all about building a community that can survive and thrive with zombies around, and that means resource management.

After selecting a base, you need to build up farms to generate food, ensure security, figure out a way to treat the injured, create barracks, and so on. There is a level of depth to this component of the game that you might not expect if you just looked at it as a “zombie survival” game.

Unlike strategy games where you simply farm for resources, in State of Decay 2, you need to salvage resources from around the world. This means venturing out (and risking combat) to find the raw materials you need. This could mean raiding an ammo shop or recovering meds from an abandoned clinic. Your community uses resources, such as food and fresh water, every day. If you run low, your morale runs low. If you run out, well, let’s just say that’s not an ideal situation.

The developers at Undead Labs tell us that it is possible to play through the game from a single location, but it’s not a requirement. The explorable map area in State of Decay 2 is bigger than the original and offers multiple regions in which to establish a base. If you drain the local area of resources or if you just want to find a better spot, you have the option of abandoning your current base and moving to a new location. The “cost,” as it were, is that you have to start building your new base from scratch (new farms, new barracks, etc.).

How you build out your base will help shape your play style, but equally important is who your choose to be your leader. Once you promote a community member to leader, he or she will add certain buffs based on their style. This can include aggression, trading buffs, better defense, and so on. While you can leave your base at any time, you cannot change your leader on a whim. The only way to get rid of a leader is to let them get killed, which is a permanent thing.

During our time exploring the world, there was noticeable repetition among the house models (the same bedroom, same kitchen, etc.), but the zombies didn’t feel repetitive, and that’s the more important part. Wandering around, the choice to avoid or engage was often a conscious one. Yes, there were a few surprises, but by and large, aggression and stealth both felt equally viable during our limited play time. Noise is a big factor here, with zombie screamers calling others to the fight, as well as the game giving you the choice to break into secure containers quietly (but slowly) or quickly, at the risk of making a noise that could be heard.

Multiplayer is much like the single-player portion of the game, with the big difference being that you’re only playing in the host’s world. Any individual items that you collect during multiplayer come back with you, but base progression and mission progression only apply to the host. This limits what you can do as a guest player, though it also promises to be a way to see how your friends have approached base-building and a way to check out later portions of the game if you have buddies who are farther along.

While playing in multiplayer, only the host can select missions and progress the story, which led to an awkward situation during the demo. I had picked up a mission item and couldn’t give it to the quest-giver, even though the game host was standing right there. Instead, I had to drop it, she had to pick it up, and then she could give it to the quest-giver. The host is also the only one who triggers the mission dialogue, so guest players lose out on the sense of immersion.

One last limitation is that guest players must stay within a certain range of the host. You can’t all go off to opposite corners of the map to explore. This helps the team stay focused, but it also means that the host has to consider the exhaustion level of all party members. After all, if you’re far from home base, a single tired party member can’t just run back and swap out another character if the base is too far from the host’s location on the map.

Because of the coordination that is required among players, headsets and voice communication are likely to be considered required gear if you’re playing multiplayer. For the demo session, we were able to do without them, as we were all physically sitting in the same room, but I couldn’t imagine playing online and not being able to talk to my teammates. If you don’t have a headset, your multiplayer experience is not likely to be a good one.

The final version of State of Decay 2 hits the Windows Store and Xbox One later this month. While it’s too early to make a final judgment, we walked away from the demo play session with a positive impression. So long as the full game maintains the same level of depth and immersion, State of Decay 2 should please fans of the original as well as newcomers to the franchise.


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