State of Decay 2 Review
A complex and unique survival sim with a hard edge.
Weapons are easy to come across but think before you shoot: noise will attract the hordes.
With news of the arrival of yet another zombie game, you’d be forgiven for immediately turning away. But wait: State of Decay 2 is probably the best zombie game of this generation (and in my opinion, of all time).
Few major console titles dare ask as much from the player than this sequel, both on an emotional and cerebral level, and what results is a survival simulation that feels less like a grindhouse retread and more like a meditative, tense, existential journey.
The format is barely changed from the first State of Decay: choosing from a few survivor archetypes, you’re set loose in a collapsed society, where you’re forced to gather resources and build a pathetic semblance of normality amid the ruins.
Early in the game, you’ll have a small handful of survivors you can take control of in order to bolster your settlement (via some light, but surprisingly detailed, management elements), clear out zombie hordes and make contact with other survivor communities.
Survival is key here: each of your characters can die, and permanently. Within the first four days of my first playthrough, the two chief characters in my settlement had been brutally murdered by an aggressive survivor community, leaving just three remaining (miserably).
While the writing in State of Decay 2 is hardly worth writing home about, to put it kindly, it’s the emergent elements that matter, and this is a game where each player will inevitably have their own stories to tell. Should you choose to focus your settlement on weapon development rather than, say, health is a decision that might not seem dramatic at first, but can have significant repercussions as a playthrough proceeds.
It’s a survival game in the purest sense: you won’t be punching trees, you won’t be grinding resources to build an axe: you’re keeping people alive in a harsh, aggressive world. Each time you take a character from the settlement into the wastes, there’s a strong sense that anything can happen.
But it’s not because the game will kill you at random: rather careful play, careful consideration and careful planning will hold you in good stead.
You can have real-life friends come along for the ride via online cooperative play, too, though the functionality is limited and you unfortunately can’t team up for settlement building.
Meanwhile, the graphics are improved over its predecessor but State of Decay 2 is by no means a pretty game. But what it lacks in triple-A presentation, it more than makes up for in depth.
This is a sandbox in the purest sense. Player agency is the priority, and across three massive maps and a large cast of avatars, there’s a startling abundance of stories and experiences to be had in State of Decay 2.
Turn away from this at your peril.
A deep and engaging survival game with not a punched tree in sight.