State of Decay 2 Review – Full Moon (Death Classic)

Alright, let’s get one thing straight here: the original State of Decay wasn’t good.

It was lifeless zombie slaughter hiding behind a warm visual design. That was it, there was no strategy behind your actions, no likeable characters to warm up to, and no thought put into the mechanical aspects of the game. For some reason, people give it unending clout, tagging it with stuff like “the best Xbox exclusive” and other such nonsense awards… I suppose when there’s nothing else to compare it to, this stuff is bound to happen. Enough of that though, the sequel is here to improve on exactly fuck-all.

State of Decay 2 is the “hyped-up” sequel to the original 2014 Xbox exclusive from Undead Labs, a Seattle-based studio who’s only been behind the State of Decay series. As stated, the original State of Decay wasn’t anything special, and I’ll fight anyone to the death who thinks otherwise, yet it still garnered enough attention to attain a sequel. The result? Ohohohoho… no.

 

There’s no real story aside from it being 18 months since the original outbreak of the undead, and instead you have just 1 set objective: escape. You choose between several sets of 2 survivors and make your plans from there. What I think always happens is that 1 of your 2 survivors is bit by a new zombie type, and the first hour of the game is dedicated to building a facility to treat said bite. After that, this world is yours to explore.

Something the average player will immediately notice is that there’s not a whole lot different from the original State of Decay. You’ve got the same bulky and stiff melee combat, the same camera perspective, the same annoying characters, and the same bullshit pretense of “freedom”. The changes that Undead Labs have made are trivial in nature, and while it’s true that small differences can go a long way, nothing that’s been changed can be considered a good idea.

A good example would be the base management mechanics, a confusing and bulky set of sub menus and ambiguous intentions. Undead Labs are keen in constantly telling you that these facilities will NEED to be made, and they will NEED to be constantly looked after, but that’s without telling you what they’ll actually do. At best, you’ll get a small bonus to your population morale, and at worst, it does absolutely nothing except waste resources and time.

 

Then there’s the NPC survivors: whiny little bastards, in every sense of the phrase. Your walkie-talkie will never stop being notified with random pillocks wanting help and supplies that you also desperately need. Really, when it comes down to it, who are you going to take care of first? Your established squad of people with defined skills, or the random, palette swapped twats who’ll beg for your help?

This is State of Decay 1 & 2‘s biggest problems: The immediacy of the player, expecting nothing but the best from them at all times, even when the world never calls for your best. There’s never a chance to sit down and work on a little pet project, there’s no time to experiment, it’s always go hard or go home. They’re trying to do the Dead Rising thing, where you have to cut up schedules and work as efficiently as possible, in order to make those moments of brevity and fun that much more worthwhile and fun. Here though, there’s no downtime, it’s constant work.

You’re never given a chance to take pride with what you’ve created, because there’s always somebody wanting something done, there’s always somebody trying to get you to do stuff. Let the player unwind, let the ambience flow through the game, don’t leave us here in the middle of a horde with some fucking prick on a walkie-talkie asking for some leftover Lunchables.

 

Yet the inherent flaw in both games isn’t what ruins State of Decay 2. The biggest problem is that for a sequel that’s 4x the file size, and offers 3 different open worlds to explore, State of Decay 2 pales in comparison to the first one. This might just be one of the laziest sequels ever made. It’s not as boring as something like Sea of Thieves is, but Sea of Thieves can actually be considered fun at points. This is just constant white noise, with corners severely cut, and nothing changed for the better.

Remember that warm visual design I mentioned in the 2nd sentence? Yeah, well here’s another washed-out, brown-n-grey modern game with no visual identity to help it out in a line-up with games like Dying Light and Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Christ, even the colours that aren’t what show up in my toilet bowl daily are seemingly browned and greyed, with vibrant colours on vehicles seeming like they’re being muted by the game engine.

Gameplay has also taken that shitty generic open-world route, where the world “iz urs 2 expl0re :D!!”, but if you go anywhere other than the strict railroad that Undead Labs have provided, you’re digging your own grave. Tacked onto that is an extremely frustrating durability system that breaks weapons between 2 or 3 fights, with the game tugging on your sleeve to use stealth instead, which is just absurd. I have tonnes of melee weapons and guns that can turn these zombies into chunky salsa…  when they don’t break immediately. Why on Earth would I sneak about?

 

If the game does want you to use stealth, then why does it feel like the design and the intentions are duking it out for the top spot on the priority list? Zombies can spot you if you so much as step on a dead leaf 14 miles away, and with that brings one of the biggest design flaws in the entire game, 1 that completely removes all tone and immersion: the “Fast Search”.

What is the Fast Search? Well sometimes you’ll find that your character is rummaging through a 1-litre gas can a bit too slowly, but with a hold of the Left Bumper, you can rummage through them a bit faster, with the risk of making a ruckus. Fine in theory, but if I’m searching something like said gas can, then how the fuck does gasoline dripping make a noise loud enough to bring the entire 28 Days Later cast come back for a reunion?

Also, if I completely clear out an area, fumigate the rooms, get the crew of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to spruce the place, and THEN decide to loot everything in the area, why spawn zombies afterwards? It takes you out of the world, because I’m supposed to be the participant, the player, not the reason the sun rises and sets in the morning and night. That being said, sometimes the moon doesn’t spawn in, even when the sky is lit up with stars. Oh Christ, this isn’t about zombies at all, I’m the God of the New World, taking the form of a whiny bitch named June.

 

You want to know where State of Decay 2 lost me? It was when I was tasked to drive all the way to the other side of the map to give some of my leftover supplies to a random colony of 3 fuckwits. Thankfully, I’m not shit at games so I got there no problem, but Undead Labs thought I hadn’t wasted enough time yet, which is why they spawned a fucking Juggernaut zombie in front of me. Stranded in the middle of nowhere with no car in sight, no outpost to deposit the random crap I found on the way, and surrounded by DICKS, I shut off.

Yeah, if I reload the game I can just spawn back at my base, but at this point, who cares when Undead Labs doesn’t? This isn’t an immersive experience, this is an unending list filled with annoying characters, sluggish gameplay, disgusting graphics, and a complete lack of stakes. “The more things change, the more things stay the same…” has never been used to such an apt example, and it can now hold the proud title of The Worst Game of 2018 Thus Far. Agony and Hunt Down The Freeman are still on my to-do list, so give it time, it might have some competition covered in birdshit.

There’s barely a single element in State of Decay 2 that improves upon the original’s crippled but understandable design choices. It’s all stumbling towards a vague goal that not even Microsoft and Undead Labs can figure out. Scalebound, Fable IV, a possible sequel to Max: The Curse of Brotherhood all gone.

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