State of Decay 2 Xbox One Review

Civilisation has fallen and the dead now roam the streets and every day is a battle to survive.  It’s been a year since the outbreak and there is no one around to save the people, even the military can’t help.  It’s up to you to build your team of survivors and to do exactly that, survive.

Gameplay

State of Decay 2 is an open world zombie survival video game developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios and is a direct sequel to the original State of Decay that launched back in 2013. There’s nothing I like better than slaying zombies and you will be doing that in spades here, however there’s more to State of Decay 2 than just slaying zombies.  State of Decay is all about you and your community that you both build and manage with everything in between.  You need to take care of your home base as well as its people if you want to build a thriving or should I say a surviving community.

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When you begin your adventure you have the option to choose from various character duos with varying skill sets and abilities.  I didn’t give this a whole lot of thought initially however I encourage you to do so as each characters differing abilities can help you throughout the game depending on which progression tree route you decide to embark on.  For example, if a characters back story shows an interest in rifle collecting, that character will have a strong weapons skill and knowledge.  State of Decay 2 eases you in slowly and introduces you to the basics in what I call an interactive tutorial.  You begin by being shown the basic controls to walk and run, then perform an attack, check for loot etc., it’s all very well thought out.  It’s the sort of game where you cannot condense everything you need to know in a short tutorial, this requires much more time and the game is always evolving.  State of Decay initially directs you towards your first base where you set up shop and essentially begin the task of managing your home base and its people and once I reached this point, State of Decay 2 really starts to open up.

Some of the first initial missions are pretty simplistic and are designed to familiarise you with the games mechanics, after all the game does not assume you’ve completed the first game in the series, it brings you along for the journey no matter who you are.  The aim in State of Decay 2 aside from surviving and base building/management is scavenging.  Whether it’s walking across the street and raiding the local service station for food, ammunition and tyre irons, you are constantly needing to explore.  After all, much like the walking dead you need a good crew and plan as to what you want to target versus the rewards that can be obtained from your various scavenging missions.

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As you progress throughout the missions or even if you just decide to explore at will, you will hear radio broadcasts that can either be from your community or from other outsiders. These calls can be either distress calls or offers of assistance and it’s up to you whether you decide to engage on those quests or not.  In fact I was constantly switching between quests as I was accepting almost every mission over the air waves causing me to forget exactly what I was trying to do.  Further, each of these missions come with various options as well. For example, I assisted a small group of survivors at a campsite who were in a spot of bother.  Once I had assisted them I had the choice as to whether I would remain friendly to them or not.  In some cases you can enlist more survivors to your cause and in others you can turn your back on those same survivors.  Essentially State of Decay 2 gives you the choice as to what you want to do? Do they become your allies perhaps or your enemy?  As allies you can take advantage of trading items and or utilising their storage.  Or if you take the enemy route they can return later and seek vengeance on your camp site.  Can you keep everyone happy?

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One of the surprising things for me early on in my play through that occurred as I was clearing out a service station which suddenly became over run and I died.  My character was simply not well equipped and I was not prepared for what lay ahead.  Sadly my character died and I just assumed I would respawn back at my home base.  Unfortunately that is not the case with State of Decay 2 thanks to the permadeath feature which essentially means once you die, you’re dead for good.  This changes the dynamic of how you play as you carry the risk of death every time you venture out.  It’s always a good idea to take other survivors with you on various missions to help you should you encounter a horde of zombies or need that little extra backup.

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Characters in your team are simply not disposable and each have the ability to level up their abilities the more you use each character.  State of Decay 2’s characters have minds of their own and are not drones for you to command.  Each character has a history, driving motivations, concerns, fears, skills and attitudes. All these characteristics determine what they want as well as what they are willing to do and put up with.  Constantly you will receive notifications that a survivor at home is not happy, or has started a fight.  You need to interact with that character to see what is on their mind, for example Henry who was one of my survivors was not happy that we were out of medical supplies.  So after interacting with Henry I took him along with me to scout for medical supplies and thus improving his morale.  Sometimes though you won’t be able to make every survivor happy and may need to let them go from your community.  As you continue to play each of your characters can be levelled up.  You can also promote certain survivors into leadership roles to help manage the needs of the community. 

Resource management plays a huge role here in State of Decay 2.  Scavenging the world and finding valuable resources is key to your survival, from medical supplies to food, water, ammunition and more; if you see it, grab it.  There is of course limitations as to how much you can carry, so finding larger backpacks is in your interest.  Also, switching characters and having them carry their fair share of loot is also a great survival tip.  Of course when you are both over encumbered, consider loading items into your vehicle to help you out and increase the size of your haul.

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Exploring the world is filled with danger no doubt, however ensuring you are well equipped for the journey is the key.  Weapons will break on you during battles leaving you in a compromised position, however you still will have a knife or screw driver handy to save the day.  You will also be able to upgrade your weapons and improve their statistics as you collect various materials and upgrade your operations base.  There are also a host of zombie types ranging from the run of the mill type zombie through to screamers, bloaters and blood plague infected zombies.  Screamers will of course scream and alert other zombies to that of your presence.  Bloaters will explode when hit and release a large poisonous cloud of gas and then there are the infected zombies with blood plague.  If you are infected with the plague, you will need to find a cure quick or turn into an infected zombie, so be careful.  At one stage I drove head on into a bloater which turned out to be a bad move as the gas filled the car forcing me to exit the vehicle or face certain death.  One cool feature is being able to open your doors when driving to take out zombies on the roads or anywhere in your path for that matter.

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In terms of drawbacks there are not many here. However I must mention that at times you can feel a little overwhelmed with the entire community and missions that are available and it can be a little confusing, especially for new players.  At one stage I had a host of people sick, tired, exhausted, no supplies and very little direction as to what to do.  Fortunately I utilised the radio service to find some key items, however I felt perhaps some assistance early on could have prevented a death or two so to speak.

Graphics & Sound

Visually State of Decay 2 looks extremely good and is quite scalable across the various platforms.  For the purposes of the review I played on both the Xbox One S and Xbox One X and aside from the 4K resolution differential, there wasn’t a huge amount of difference between the two versions aside from the resolution.  Thanks to Unreal Engine 4, the game ran very smoothly and is far more polished than the original State of Decay title.  There were differences between the versions with draw distance for example.  When driving along, zombies would suddenly appear nearby as backgrounds and environments took a little while to load on the Xbox One S.  However, no such issues on the Xbox One X version.  The lighting and HDR effects on the Xbox One X were also noticeable, especially during the night.  For example, night time was quite difficult to see where I was going on the Xbox One S version, however the Xbox One X version seemed brighter and more detailed especially at night.  The Xbox One S version did have a slight grainy filter at certain points during the game as well which did not detract from the experience but was noticeable if you looked hard enough.  Otherwise I must say in terms of frame rate and performance it was pretty rock solid across both versions.

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Multiplayer

For the majority of my review time thanks to the early release copy was devoted to single player mode for obvious reasons.  However State of Decay does allow up to four player co-op mode where you and three friends can explore the world and work together.  With co-op mode each player essentially maintains command of their own communities and characters.  However you have the ability to enter your friend’s game and assist them on their journey.  The best advice that I can give is to stick together with State of Decay 2 as you will have a greater chance of survival.  We will also provide more feedback on the multiplayer aspect of State of Decay 2 post launch when the servers are populated.

Overall

State of Decay takes everything from the first title and builds on it here for the sequel.  It’s bigger, deeper and more rewarding than ever before.  State of Decay 2 encourages you to explore, manage your people, community and the wider population.  You need to survive by any means possible, whether it’s forging alliances or killing everyone in sight, it’s up to you.  State of Decay 2 is a fantastic title that’s filled with a plethora of quests and exploration and will keep you busy for a while to come. 

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State of Decay 2 is also a Play Anywhere title and is available on both Xbox and Windows 10.  State of Decay 2 is also free on Xbox Game Pass.

Thank you to Microsoft and Xbox for providing a copy of State of Decay 2 for review purposes.

Written by

Paul Barbara

I've been an avid gamer since I was 5 and owned almost all systems possible in that time. I love podcasting, having produced over 280 episodes over the last 7 years and I get a real buzz out of discussing all this gaming news with other gamers. So tune in!

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