It’s finally here. I’ve played State of Decay 2 for well over 25 hours, making my way through Undead Lab’s latest title. Ahead of my review, I wanted to share my general impressions of the game and what you can expect when you start playing State of Decay 2 on May 22nd (or May 18th if you’re getting the Ultimate Edition). Here’s my State of Decay 2 impressions!
The Faction Systems Are Awesome
One of the major systems at play here is the way you’ll be forced to interact with other factions. Different pockets of survivors can be found all over, all with unique NPCs, goals and resources. Over the course of the game, you’ll be contacted on the radio by survivors needing help (or maybe you’ll just run into them by blind chance). If you decide to aid them in their goals, they can become useful allies, providing storage, trade and additional firepower. Ignore their requests and they might get annoyed. It’s impossible to make everybody happy while still providing for your community and you’re going to need to realize that quickly.
At one point, I tried to solve a dispute between two other camps of survivors. One had stolen medical supplies from the other, insisting they absolutely had to have them. When I sent a character to talk them down, they refused to listen and suddenly drew guns, killing one of my favorite survivors three hours into the game. As all deaths in State of Decay 2 are permanent, this was an absolute gut punch. That example isn’t comprehensive though, not even remotely. The morale of different survivors and their needs are all part of multiple gameplay systems that seem to work very well (at least so far).
One Zombie, No Problem. A Horde? Watch Out
One lone, standard zombie is handled very easily, even with a basic knife. As your characters progress their melee combat skills, you might even handle two, three or four zombies all by your lonesome. Get pinned down by a horde however, and you’ll very quickly realize how fragile you are indeed. If you get cornered by yourself, your chances of survival are usually quite dim. Especially when low on ammo and explosives, stealth and choosing not to engage the never-ending zombies will often prove to be the difference between living to fight another day and ending up as zombie chow.
Throughout the game, wandering hordes can be spotted from afar, roaming in a pack, preying on whatever survivors they find. These hordes will sometimes pin down communities, who will request desperate aid, just part of the ambient quest system at work here. These hordes can also decide to settle down in a building, resulting in a morale-draining infestation. The more infestations that build up, the worse things will get in a number of ways. Sometimes simply avoiding engagement isn’t the right choice, and you’ll have to learn when it’s appropriate to pick a fight.
A Lasting Community Is Critical
Another aspect that really shines strong in State of Decay 2 is how it is critical to build up your community. Don’t be content to just scavenge forever, construct new buildings at your base, upgrade vehicles, recruit survivors to your side. You’ll have to be very careful how you handle building up your group however, as appeasing everyone is, again, extremely difficult. Half your people might want a foundry, while half want a farm. You only have space for one, so who do you appease? Grabbing survivors to build up your population is great, but can you supply them all with food and beds? It’s not easy and it’s one of the many things that makes State of Decay 2 so compelling to play.
Work Together or You Will Die
When playing in co-op, the rules of survival are quite simple. Stick together or you’ll likely die. You can’t free your teammate from being trapped by a horde, pounced by a Feral or ripped in two by a Juggernaut if you’re far away from them. Much has been made online about the tethering system, which only lets teammates wander so far from the host of a world before they are teleported back. I’m happy to report that any fears over this system are unfounded, as you can wander a great distance from your host if you are so inclined. I played several hours of co-op and not once did a situation emerge where myself or my compatriots were held back from accomplishing something due to tethering. Indeed, given the average length of supply runs, the host could easily park his player at base and go grab food, drinks and take a break while the players in co-op kept on working. The range on the tether is far more than sufficient.
Your host should never want to do that though, as multiple players makes managing supplies and bringing back rucksacks of goodies (or new vehicles) quite a bit easier, something that you’ll be doing quite a bit, since being self-sufficient is extremely difficult.
Performance Isn’t Quite Perfect
Here we come to my only real negative impression of the game thus far. Usually, the framerate holds steady at a decent 30fps on console. If you get into a vehicle however, there’s definitely some bumps and hiccups in performance, especially if you start mowing over zombies (with oh-so-satisfying sound effects). It gets worse if you’re doing it on a busy street near a large base, causing some very noticeable dips. I hope performance can be tightened up here, since it’s certainly noticeable. Even a 1080p 60fps mode on the Xbox One X would be appreciated and would likely solve the problem.
It’s definitely a bit of a shame, since the game itself looks great. Lighting is fantastic, especially at dawn or dusk. Skyboxes look wonderful and the pitch-black nighttime is legitimately terrifying. There’s also an impressive amount of detail in animation, whether it be various bits of zombies being dismembered by your arsenal, or characters unskilled in firearms frantically fumbling to reload.
So there you have it, my State of Decay 2 impressions so far. My full review will be published on May 17th, roughly around 3:00 a.m. EST. If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.