State of Decay 2 Review: Community Catastrophe

How does the zombie survival community builder hold up? Found out in our full review!

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The original State of Decay was a rough, yet fun community-focused zombie survival game that dropped players into the thick of a post-apocalyptic town and allowed them to implement their ideas on how best to survive the shambling hordes. State of Decay 2 isn’t an attempt to break the mold, but merely a shot at enhancing a solid foundation while injecting online multiplayer. Despite a host of bugs, glitches, and poor design decisions, State of Decay 2 provides an addictive routine where you’re always just one more supply run away from the putting the controller down.

The foundation of the State of Decay 2 experience is community survival. I started off with a small crew in a small base and had the freedom to recruit new members, build structures within the home, or move to other bases. The ultimate goal is to clear the map of plague hearts and the journey through this main objective is an engaging and delicate dance between collecting resources, managing crew morale, building up the base, helping other crews on the map, and taking down the growingly difficult plague hearts.

The extent of my routine was apparent early and there's a lot of repetition, but the RPG progression of the individual survivors made the repetition compelling. Survivors are a resource like any other that you gather, but you can shape them to fit your playstyle and home base aspirations.

The zombies are expectedly grotesque, especially the variant plague zombies, with their pulsing and crawling skin. Assets, from run-down buildings to trailers to rusting vehicles, all have solid textures. Vehicles specifically showed most of the visual flair, deteriorating over time and gathering smears of blood as I ran over zombies. Speaking of vehicular zombie-slaughter, that’s a practice I learned to limit. Survivors can only carry so much and, in an effort to maximize the efficiency of each run for resources or to clear infestations, trunk space is priceless. The frustratingly limited inventory management, which prevents you from easily passing items from one survivor to another, makes trunk space even more important unless you want to burn time dropping items to pass along.

Light is a major key in State of Decay 2 as well and the design team knocked it out of the park in this regard. Night is exceptionally dangerous, especially when walking or driving through areas you’re not familiar with. The view distance is poor even with your vehicle’s lights on. Furthermore, the game’s different towns have no power for the most part so building interiors are harrowing as well, even during the day. My survivors all come equipped with a chest light, but the small circle of illumination still kept me on my toes.

If the plague zombie’s crawling skin was peak visual creep, the yell of the screamer variant serves that purpose aurally. Sound design was, overall, good. Sound cues serve many purposes, ranging from the call for help from a stranger to the distinct squeal of unique zombie variants

Regarding sound, the games mini-map gives off a circular pulse for every act. Whether I was rummaging through a fridge, starting the car, or a zombie is banging on one of the entrances to my base, there was an indication on the map to let it be known how far that sound is ringing out. Of course, every one of these noises can attract the attention of enemies and that either ruined a run while away from my base or was used to my advantage to distract.

There were rarely ever moments where I felt the sound effects or cues screwed up my experience, but graphical glitches and bugs regularly tossed my planning right down the drain. A careful drive could be ruined by some objects that rendered late or by sketchy collision detection. I was also attacked through closed doors and walls, much to my annoyance. Also, a couple design decisions were troublesome. Tall metal fences can’t be knocked down and neither can short metal fences, but the later can toss your vehicle many feet into the air or allow you halfway over them only to leave your vehicle spinning tires uselessly.

Driving around feels weighty and results in a satisfying thud when you run over the many zombie pedestrians. The various vehicles control differently from each other and that played a part in what type of run away from base I’d make. My faster police car, for example, could get me to objectives and survivors faster, but didn’t have the trunk space for efficient resource grabbing.

Moving around on foot and the combat were largely solid. There’s a delay in your first attack that feels like it artificially makes things difficult when facing large groups, but the dodge button helps counter it.

Online multiplayer is something I felt was missing from the first State of Decay and the sequel delivers the goods. I teamed up with a friend by taking one of the survivors from my own community, going into the friend’s, and helping him gather resources and fight the zombie plague. Resource gathering is the foundation of State of Decay 2 and the developers balanced out the process for online multiplayer by setting claims on the search points for each player. For example, when entering a warehouse, roughly 30% of the points in the space can be searched by me, the guest. The rest is reserved for the host, but he was able to drop items that he wanted me to hold on to. Once the session was done, I was rewarded resources for my own community.

Overall, State of Decay 2 feels like a game that should have a home in the game preview section of the Xbox library. The community building is fun enough to engage my zombie survival fantasies but it’s held back by a consistent slew of bugs. Throughout my experience, my military truck constantly flickered, my player regularly fell halfway into the ground, companions would entirely disappear when I switched between them while away from base, and there was one bug I experienced twice that made my UI disappear and it seemed like any progress I made past that point was not recorded.

State of Decay 2 is repetitive, but fun when it works. When it doesn’t, you'd be forgiven for a few rage quits. In a game where any misstep can result in losing an important survivor for good, to have this happen not due to my own mistakes, but a bug or glitch, is frustrating. The RPG progression of survivors mixed in with the community building makes the repetitive structure work and rewards players that wish to continue cultivating new communities.  The game comes at half the price of most high-profile releases or as part of the Game Pass library and there's plenty bang for your buck. Hopefully, the developers will continue to iron out the game's fixable issues over time.


This review is based on a code provided by the publisher. State of Decay 2 is available digitally via individual purchase for $29.99 or as part of the Xbox Game Pass service on May 22. The game has been rated M by the ESRB.

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Charles Singletary Jr keeps the updates flowing as the News Editor, breaking stories while investigating the biggest topics in gaming and technology. He's pretty active on Twitter, so feel free to reach out to him @The_CSJR. Got a hot tip? Email him at Charles.Singletary@Shacknews.com.

Review for
State of Decay 2

7

Pros

  • Fun community building gameplay
  • RPG progression for survivors
  • Entertaining game at a value price

Cons

  • Constant bugs and glitches, some experience breaking
  • Frustrating inventory management limitations

From The Chatty

  • reply
    May 21, 2018 6:00 PM

    Charles Singletary posted a new article, State of Decay 2 Review: Community Catastrophe

    • reply
      May 21, 2018 6:55 PM

      did we have a username thread for this yet? razputinreborn

      • reply
        May 21, 2018 7:00 PM

        MadBrahminD

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          May 21, 2018 7:05 PM

          yeah baby. I won't be gaming for a few more days but then it's on!

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          May 21, 2018 9:09 PM

          ill be honest i was so hyped for this but after watching some streams, it looks like its exactly the same as the first. it went from must buy to uhh stand on the sidelines wait and see

      • reply
        May 22, 2018 6:52 AM

        Arcanum3000

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      May 21, 2018 7:15 PM

      anyone change their region to get downloading?

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        May 21, 2018 7:21 PM

        I was able to download it without changing my region. Just waiting on the unlock to happen at 11 pm. I don’t why that has to be so late in the day.

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          May 21, 2018 7:22 PM

          Oh I'm gamepass. I don't see a pre-load option for gamepass.

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            May 21, 2018 7:23 PM

            After I bought it it shows up in my library and I’m able to download from there.

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            May 21, 2018 11:46 PM

            It's downloading for me with game pass on the east cost

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        May 21, 2018 8:12 PM

        Yeah, I changed to new zealand and unlocked/downloaded/ and have been playing for a while

    • reply
      May 21, 2018 8:51 PM

      Damn, Pretty harsh considering it's only 29.99 50% of standard retail.

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        May 21, 2018 9:16 PM

        I not sure if being cheap is a good reason to not dock a game for its flaws.

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          May 22, 2018 7:00 AM

          good point. I'm just used to reviews faulting a games falws more due to the price i guess.

        • reply
          May 22, 2018 8:04 AM

          Value is a part of the equation. If it was $59.99, it'd probably have dropped down to a 6.

      • reply
        May 21, 2018 11:36 PM

        7/10 is harsh?

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          May 22, 2018 7:13 AM

          7/10 is the new 5/10. I only play 9/10 7/10 of the time.

    • reply
      May 22, 2018 6:25 AM

      You guys all suck at posting your gamertags.

    • reply
      May 22, 2018 6:47 AM

      Has anybody played this on PC with a controller? Does it have the same deadzone issues State of Decay 1 had? First game felt nearly unplayable to me with Xbox controller because it didn't register analog stick input until you've pressed it nearly all the way in a direction.

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        May 22, 2018 10:15 AM

        No, been m/kb without issue. Brad on gb was playing on PC with a Xbox controller though, he didn't mention it.