State of Decay 2 – First Impressions
Disclaimer – Review code provided to Gaming Instincts by Microsoft Studios (PC Version)
State of Decay 2, developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios, launches on May 22 and we have had the opportunity to take an early look at the zombie apocalypse. Taking place in a torn apart canyon and hill covered landscape, players must build a community of survivors with unique skills to take on the challenges of the new world. Here are our first impressions of State of Decay 2.
When players first enter the game, they will have the opportunity to look through a set character list and choose the pair that they will play as. Each pair has their own unique skills and traits that will affect how well they will perform certain tasks. The base level skills that can be learned are wits, cardio, fighting, shooting and mechanics. These can all be leveled up by doing activities based around the skill such as taking on zombies or sprinting long distances. Each skill will level up seven times before capping and opening up the opportunity for a character to specialize in one of two branching skill trees. This game mechanic works really well for keeping the community in mind. The more members of the community you recruit the more opportunities you have to specialize certain characters in certain areas making a well rounded roster to choose from for specific mission throughout the game.
Further looking at the community mechanics, the different traits of various characters that you begin with or recruit will directly affect the moral of the community. During one playthrough I had a character who was a big fan of hitting the bottle and would start arguments with community members when moral was low. I also ran into a character that would steal rasions from the community locker when they were hungry and had to sniff out who was the culprit. While playing the game you never really deal with these directly, they pop up as notifications or as calls from the radio, but it keeps the immersion up during playtime which I really appreciated.
While scavenging throughout the world players will take on their fair share of zombies along the road. While taking on the horde I could really notice a difference between the weapons that I was using. Melee weapons have a very realistic weight to them depending on what kind of tool it is. Cleavers and small knives would swing quick while pipes and hammers are slower depending on their size. The swings match the weapon and they are not over exaggerated or underpowered, a very subtle game mechanic that really made me enjoy the combat and seek out different types of weapons to combine with different characters specialized skill trees.
So how about the horde? While fighting off the zombie scourge there are several things that stood out to me. While one on one or two they didn’t pose much of a threat and I felt like I could usually clear out a house without much help, but when the noise of a fight began to attract more it began to cause an issue. There was real intensity when surrounded by several zombies at once trying to struggle free of attacks from all sides. I would quickly run out of stamina and have to purposely take damage to escape because I was no longer able to attack. The sense of being overwhelmed is definitely here and the game does it well. My advice, take along a follower when out for long periods of time. Having the extra body around to fight, and let’s be honest be an extra target, really helps with crowd control.
There are also zombie variants throughout the game that kept things interesting, the most common of which are the plague zombies. These bleeding red eyed meneces will infect characters with blood plague if they manage to land enough hits, causing the character to eventually die if the plague cure is not administered in time. You can find these red eyed enemies flocked around plague hearts that have infected buildings. If left unchecked they will increase the danger around the area significantly. I found taking them out to be pretty easy with a partner involved, and the reputation and loot given after taking one out makes it worth your while to keep them in check.
During my time with State of Decay 2 so far, there is a lot to enjoy. There seems to always be something to do weather its a community request or a lone survivor in need of help in the area and it all seems manageable as the game goes on. Unfortunately there was not much I really enjoyed looking at while playing the game. The landscape is kind of bland and the textures don’t seem to have much time invested in them. While I know that graphics are not the focus of the game, it did take me out of it often enough to have me hoping for an update or new map to have something new to look at.
To wrap it up, I have enjoyed my time with State of Decay 2. The game really held my attention while playing co-op missions and seems to have a ton to do as I grow my community and survive day by day. So far I am constantly finding new small communities around the map with different skills or items to trade with that also come with missions attached and offer opportunities for recruitment. The individuality of the characters through their traits offers a unique experience in managing each community you start making replayability an easy option.
State of Decay 2 launches on May 18 2018 for those who bought the Ultimate Edition and May 22 2018 for those with the Standard Edition of the game.