Yes, it’s another zombie game, but there’s a lot more to worry about.
The second iteration of the original zombie crusher, State of Decay 2 has sort of a new approach to the genre. Probably one of the most striking features - if I can call it that - is the lack of a single open world map. Instead, what you get is a choice of three maps that are quite humongous themselves and get tougher or easier to master depending on how good a ‘survivalist’ you are. But that’s not all. There’s a sort of back story too and once you start delving a bit deeper, you understand that the zombies aren’t that much of a problem. Confused? Well read on to find out...
A window into your life
You start off by selecting a pair of characters that have their own backstories and personalities. You get to choose from a pair of siblings who have been brought together by the plague but have some past to them in relation to their family, age old buddies who have had their friendship tested, two women who were in love and now aren’t, one fortunate couple who found love when the world around them is full of hate and the undead and so on.
What’s really interesting is that each of them has a special skill set such as gardening, mechanics, craftsmanship and chemistry. The characters also have a set of general skills that they develop over time in the game such as Cardio, Wits, Fighting and Shooting. You need to choose wisely as it isn’t just the skill that matters, but the personalities too. Yup, some of the survivors have a low metabolism rate while some are serial plant murderers.Adding these backstories makes State of Decay 2 a really unique zombie survivor that adds a level of immersion that other games like DayZ and throw-hordes-of-zombies-at-em Dead Rising can’t really offer. They are fun on their own, but in State of Decay 2 each character you meet has their own background and past and those characters actually have an impact on your survival. How? Because they have skills and experience too which gets added to your community, so to speak.
Ready to be Governor?
Remember I mentioned that the zombies aren’t the real threat? Yup, the real threat in State of Decay 2 is the depletion of resources thus leading to a hunt for them further and further away into zombieland. Why do you need the resources? Well to build a community that is sheltered and had all the possible needs available to them.
A ‘Community’ can be established by clearing out a house infested with the hungry beauties and building essential bits like an infirmary, workstation, beds with bunkers, water supply, armory and a whole lot more. Each of these require their own set of materials that you need to hunt down and cost labour time and manpower.
Building some of these in your safe haven may increase the general morale in the community and your fellow survivors will be singing songs of joy. Well, not really, because noise too plays a very big part in the game, but more on that later. As a great community leader you get ‘Influence’, which is the main currency of State of Decay 2 and you spend it on claiming other Safe Houses and smaller places.
Vehicles are a big help in State of Decay 2. They are limited and rare and susceptible to damage. Walkers can cling on to almost all the sides and man do they have a grip! Shaking them off requires driving like a mad man and scraping the sides of the car through fences, but a head on collision into a lamp post works too. You can also open doors on a zombie and that is just downright hilarious.
All that damage can be repaired with repair kits, which become an essential commodity along with Fuel canisters to carry when you go hunting for supplies. Cars even provide storage space and are liable to upgrades like armour, raised suspension and a lot more.
Strong leaders also have to make tough decisions, which include food rationing and on a more serious note, euthanizing (headshot) LOL survivors who have been infected by the BLOOD PLAGUE. DUN DUN DUNNNNN. What! A plague within a plague? Yes. There’s another infection spreading called the blood plague that spreads through zombie bites that come from blood plague-infected zombies. The more bites, the higher the toxicity meter goes, and once it reaches the max and is untreated, you turn into one of THEM.
How do you find the cure? Well, the how takes a back seat and the real thing to worry about is can you do something about it. You destroy a certain plague-blood-spitting heart to get certain samples that you then have to have the medical expertise to work with. But overall it makes for a fun time with you mostly shooting ‘nades and throwing molotovs.
Need more than kung fu
There’s two traditional approaches to combat in this game. Being a little slimy worm and the guns-blazing, zombie-smashing, headshot-popping badassery shoot ‘em up style. However the latter isn’t the way to go if you want to survive for a long time. You see, here comes the noise. The more noise you make, the more zombies show up, which results in you stuffing more bullets down their heads, which causes more noise and the vicious cycle continues till you’re out and the character dies - permanently.
Yes, you read that right. The game sticks to its ‘permadeath’ roots and once you lose a person in your community, you lose them for good. Not to mention their skills and experience that are buried with their bodies along with the time you spent developing them too. But this makes you think twice about your approaches and is a key factor in implementing that kind of seriousness to the game. The decision of whether to search a warehouse or to let it go and actually weighing in the pros and cons is what perma death brings to the game and it results in some really tense situations and nervous sweating.
But even if you do chose to go through the bam-bam route, you’d be happy to know that there are over 100 guns in the game and of different types, ranging from pistols, grenade launchers, scoped rifles and even the big-daddy .50 cal. It’s seriously fun to just light ‘em all up especially the plague hearts. But chose poorly and your community will lose more than you can handle.
Enough with all the seriousness. Here’s where the fun is. You have your regular yellow-eyed zombies and then you have the mean red-eyed ones that can infect you with the deadly blood plague. There’s also big blobbers and those annoying hunter nuggets who jump from side to side like a monkey to attack you. These guys are fairly easy to take down and the stealth attacks from the back of the zombie are insanely satisfying and brutal.But then come the heavy hitters like the juggernauts and blobbers who are full of deadly gas. Beware, your car will be full of gas if you mow one down on the road and you will be forced to get out of it. The juggernauts need some real fire power and effort to put down and the bugger is capable of taking you and your team down with minimal effort. Yup, you’ll need the heavies for this bad boy. A planned and well coordinated attack is the way to go if you want to survive in State of Decay 2.
What’s in your head? Zombaay
Talking about cooperation, the most revered feature to be introduced to the game is co-op. Now the idea of your friends joining you is super exciting, however, four players gets a bit too tedious for the game and that’s where trouble starts brewing. Apart from the minor spawning bugs that don’t allow you to roam away from the host, there’s a sense of hypocrisy here.
On the one hand, the game wants you to select your friends smartly and play accordingly, but in co-op mode your visiting friend’s powers and accessibility are limited. For instance, if I join a friend’s game, I don’t get access to his stash and his survivors. Instead, the game allows me to access only my stash of weapons and my cavalry.
So, in order to have a successful co-op session, I need to make sure my armory and cavalry both are doing well. It would be better if it were more open and access was allowed so that we could select who would be joining us in the game and their true character would show ie. do they steal your stuff and wander away, do they actually help you out or do they just stick around and waste your resources. So this is the kind of real-world freedom and scenario that the game withholds from you. But you do get influence points for helping a friend out. Fair enough, eh?
Time is of the essence
Another issue which I found really annoying was the time it take to bloody search a particular object. There is an option to fast search but that makes an awful lot of noise and attracts a hoard of brain munchers to where you are and sometimes the search fails and you have to start over again. They could have timed the search according to the size of the object, but no, all of them take the same freaking time.It also gets frustrating when you don’t have a vehicle and need to walk everywhere, but that’s still passable. But hey! It’s the zombie apocalypse people, we need to hurry the hell up.
State of Decay 2 is a beautiful game that doesn’t demand a lot of your GPU’s juice. But our reference machine that packs in an Nvidia GTX1080 in a sexy case from Corsair handled it like a breeze. With 4K on the menu and everything set to Ultra, the game ran at a buttery smooth 75fps and there was never an iota of struggle.
The vast landscapes and the different types of zombies just make for a truly immersive experience that is rendered very well by the GTX1080. Even some of the fast-paced action sequences especially the ones that involve killing the zombies by opening a running car’s door on their head is beautifully done. You have to play this on 4K, there’s no two ways about it.
State of Decay 2 Verdict
The original State of Decay was an absolute favourite and in its second iteration, Undead Labs has provided what it needed. It sort of fills in a niche that other zombie games don’t quite cover. There’s a sense of immersion and seriousness to it that will really get you hooked on for quite a bit, unless you get easily bored by essentially doing the same thing over and over again with just additional difficulty and changing dynamic. Don’t expect to go on a zombie murdering rampage like you would in say Dead Rising. Think of yourself more like Rick from The Walking Dead TV series. It’s almost exactly like that just in a cooler and more badass way.