The original State of Decay for Xbox 360 was a one of my ‘games that got away’. A friend of mine at university introduced me to it but for one reason or another, it never got the attention it deserved. I was determined not to make that mistake again…
I’ve only turned on State of Decay 2 twice and have already clocked 8 hours. I don’t know about your gaming habits, but that’s a rare occurrence in my household. State of Decay 2 is my kind of game. I am the type of gamer that loves a challenging game, but will play everything on ‘easy’ given the choice – it’s weird, I know. So when a game comes along that has no difficulty settings, but allows you to determine the challenge based on play-style, I’m ‘in‘.
State of Decay 2 is the quintessential ‘risk versus reward’ experience. You are tasked with founding, supporting, and developing a community of survivors during a zombie apocalypse. Each day is slow and gruelling as you attempt to house and feed your followers, whilst also maintaining a positive morale. I am almost always stressed when I have the game on, and controller in hand.
The gameplay is a mixture of base management, scavenging for supplies, and all out zombie warfare. I tend to lean into the base management and deploy great patience when it comes to scavenging. The zombie warfare I could honestly do without, but sometimes, I don’t have a choice…
State of Decay 2 has introduced multiplayer to the series. You and up to 3 friends can cruise the size-y open world cooperatively. My chosen partner this past weekend was the same friend who introduced me ever-so-briefly to the series years ago, and as it happens, we don’t share a similar play-style. Bombs, flares, horns, boomboxes, fireworks, grenades and a old taxi car were all involved in a zombie massacre that stretched over 2 hours. Survivors died. Injuries were sustained. Supplies were depleted. It was so. much. fun.
State of Decay 2 is not a good example of game design in 2018. It runs pretty poorly (even on my Xbox One X). It looks slightly dated. It doesn’t do anything new. It just isn’t’ particularly remarkable at first glance. This is all further compounded when playing the truly awkward introduction mission. But none of that matters once you push through the opening phases of the game and get to the core of the experience.
The core I speak of is ‘choice‘. Do you help neighbouring enclaves, or leave them to perish? Do you focus on building a fortress, or a utopia? Do you sneak through the night looking for supplies, or blast your way through zombie hordes in plain daylight? Do you develop two or three characters to create an elite hit-squad, or distribute your time evenly across a dozen or so survivors to create a small army? All of these questions are coming at you, and there are only wrong answers. There is always a sacrifice. Always a lose/lose decision to make. It’s a really good ‘make your own adventure’ type of game, which is handy because the narratives that developer Undead Labs tries to tell are astoundingly bad.
It’s easy to gloss over that, though, because you don’t necessarily have to align yourself to a particular character or story line. You can chop and change as you see fit. Sometimes you might have to, too, because a certain friend drops a grenade in a small crowded room by mistake. The glamour of modern console-exclusive gaming is not to be found here – instead we have depth. I don’t understand many of the mechanics and systems going on in State of Decay 2, and whilst some of that is due to a poor tutorial, most of it is by design, following the ‘do it yourself’ model that many gems over the years have utilised. It’s incredibly rewarding to try something out and see it pay off without the game holding your hand through to the same conclusion.
It’s disappointing then, that reviews of State of Decay 2 have been poor, and to be completely honest, had it not been for Xbox’s Game Pass I probably wouldn’t have played the game because of it. That would have been a great shame, but instead we have another example of Xbox paving the way forward. For a small monthly fee, State of Decay 2 (along with over 100 other games) was available to me from day one via Game Pass. I now can’t stop thinking about it, and want to sink a considerable amount of time into it this weekend, hopefully finding an hour or two to play solo and build my base, rather than deplete it!
Today’s ramblings are a bit longer and less cohesive than usual, but I hope you’ll forgive me! Long and short: State of Decay 2 is worth checking out, especially if you’re a Game Pass subscriber. It’s real silly serious stuff.
Best wishes y’all.
My Two Bottle caps