It’s been five years since the first State of Decay, though you’d be forgiven for thinking little has changed in this particular post-apocalyptic world since. At a glance, this ghoulish sequel offers up more of the same survival and community management as its predecessor, tasking you with building an enclave of survivors, dodging zombie, and scavenging resources and materials.
Peer a little closer though, and there are plenty of new features and content to be found in Undead Labs’ follow-up, with most of the benefits being reaped by the characters you’ll be spending your time with. The diversity on show – both in their physical depictions and the depths of their personalities, which impacts community balance and morale – is a significant improvement.
Every character is entirely procedurally generated, with behaviour drawing from a pool of more than 1000 traits, Couple that with native skills they bring with them from their lives before the undead rose up, and you have a near-infinite range of people you might recruit for your enclave.
Unfortunately, the action is impeded by combat that is boring and repetitive.
Not all are positive though – for instance, a doctor with an upbeat personality will be a blessing, but a juggler with kleptomaniac tendencies will just be a drain on resources. You’ll find yourself becoming increasingly picky over who you invite to join and grow your community, each new human you encounter feeling like an interview scenario.
Elsewhere, a new zombie type spreads the horrifying ‘blood plague’, an infection that can only be cured by crafting a treatment in your infirmary. To do this, you’ll need to find tissue samples from infected undead, which often means venturing into deeply infected territory and wiping out plague hearts – disgusting sacs of pulsating, malformed organs that produce the disease. Where the original State of Decay could get too bogged down in the building and management of your survivors’ base, these sections introduce some much needed horror and action into the proceedings.
Unfortunately, that action is impeded by combat that is ultimately boring and repetitive. With zombies attracted by the slightest sound, you’re effectively forced into stealth play – sneak up behind a ghoul, stab it in the head, over and over and over. Melee combat when you do have a crowd to deal with is largely unsatisfying, every weapon landing with a dull thud until it breaks, and guns are mostly redundant given the sound serves to attract more.
Couple that with maddeningly unclear directives for missions and a disappointing amount of bugs – swinging a tire iron at a zombie with the hit never registering and the zombie then frozen in place, or allied characters from your base taken out with you on scavenger runs sometimes turning invisible are two of the worst offenders we encountered – and State of Decay 2 fails to live up to expectations. Still, the budget price point will mitigate those issues for some, and if the bugs get patched, this will stand as a solid end-of-the-world survival sim.