State Of Decay 2 Review (Xbox One)
'State' is definitely the right word – Undead Labs' sequel is a shambling mess
Undead NightmareIt's official: zombies are fully played out. The undead stock market crashed some years back after wild oversaturation in the gaming sphere, given just the briefest of glimmers of hope by quality titles like Left 4 Dead. These days, it's kept alive (well, undead, we suppose) only by Call Of Duty's dogged persistence and the miraculous continuation of the Dead Rising franchise, so it takes a rare gem to make us truly care about battling through braindead hordes again. State Of Decay 2 is sure as hell no precious stone.
The best example of zombie fiction numb the tedium of the subject matter by coming up with novel and creative ways to contextualise and explain the outbreak, whether that may be the bioweapons-gone-wrong of Resident Evil, the weird bee-like parasites of Dead Rising, or the rage virus of 28 Days Later. State Of Decay 2 makes no such attempt to validate its post-apocalyptic world, happy instead for 'and then there were zombies' to be the full extent of the scenario. It just feels incredibly lazy, and it isn't helped by the fact that the survivors make it feel even less convincing, dropping flippant wisecracks and pithy remarks in the face of humanity's extinction as if this is the kind of thing that happens every other Tuesday.
Difficult decisions come thick and fast
They're a pretty hateful bunch in general, to be honest, which makes the central premise of the game – trying to keep them alive – one that's kind of difficult to get behind. And that's a shame, as the systems driving this process of running a small community of misfits are actually pretty neat.
Personality clashes are prevalent, selfish needs can run rampant if left unchecked, and you need to weigh up what's best for the group as a whole. Keep the master medic around even though her night terrors annoy others by interrupting their sleep? Exile the kleptomaniac despite the fact she's one of your strongest characters in a fight? Run errands for other lazy enclaves just to appease your resident goody-two-shoes brainbox? Difficult decisions come thick and fast, even if a lot of them perhaps don't carry the kind of weight that the game implies.
Dawn Of The DudState Of Decay 2 makes a habit of placing false importance on many aspects of its general upkeep routine. Lost survivors are extremely easily replaced and quickly forgotten; areas stripped clean of resources can be replenished with a quick radio call, the cost of which can be recouped in a single killing-and-looting spree; maintaining faction standing is, in reality, as shallow as having to do their busywork on a regular basis to avoid losing standing with them.
It's a game with plenty of good ideas and core concepts, but it never has the faith to double down on them and make them count. You should have to up sticks and move when resources dry up. You should have to worry about losing core members of your community for fear of it falling apart. You should have to walk on eggshells around other groups of survivors, as 2,018 years of zombie fiction have spoken plenty on the havoc such situations could and would cause on the human psyche. We don't usually like to criticise games for what they could or should do – we'd much rather judge them on the merits of the things they actually do – but cases like this blur that line and make it hard not to see how much better the game could be if it actually followed through on any of the half-assed systems it presents. And that's not even the worst of it.
State Of Decay 2 is an absolute mess on a technical level
To paraphrase a classic zombie movie quote, “When there's no room left in the QA budget, the dead will walk through the earth.” State Of Decay 2 is an absolute mess on a technical level, with glitches and bugs almost as commonly spotted as unexplained undead. We've seen mission-critical objects vanish from sight, watched healthy allies disappear through the ground and become useless only to later reappear back at camp at death's door, nudged the wrong rocks in factory-fresh vehicles to send them flipping skywards or just outright blow them up, been teleported 50 feet into the air when switching characters, discovered entire hordes of underground zombies trapped beneath the world and unable to escape... the shopping list of issues we encountered doesn't even end there, but that should be enough to give a decent impression of the absolute state the game is in at the moment.
Such issues are only further compounded during online play where even more problems present themselves, making what should be a great USP for the game borderline unplayable at the moment, so fingers crossed for a patch that addresses online issues soon.
Dead And Loving ItDespite its catalogue of issues, though, there's still something oddly engrossing about State Of Decay 2's work-like gameplay loop. Heading out to stock up on supplies to keep your settlement up and running can feel like a chore when you only manage to scavenge enough to squeak by, but that just makes it all the more satisfying when you finally hit paydirt and return to camp with a literal truckload of supplies. Similarly, juggling your survivors' unique personalities and managing to keep the peace and keep them in high spirits is suitably rewarding, particularly as you'll likely have to make a few difficult decisions to get to that point.
There's something oddly engrossing about the work-like gameplay loop
It's unfortunate that simple things like combat aren't equally enjoyable, else this could have been one of those games where you fight through the jank just because the meat of the game is so much fun. But between the poor selection of generic undead baddies that simply aren't much fun to fight and the countless technical issues that plague the game, the infrequent pockets of entertainment the game does offer up (beyond those that involve laughing at daft bugs or glitches) aren't really enough to make extended play feel like a decent use of your time.
It takes a hell of a lot of patience
- Oddly compelling gameplay loop
- Awesome soundtrack
- Some neat emergent moments
- Riddled with serious technical issues
- Combat simply isn't much fun
- Looks pretty awful
State Of Decay 2 Review (Xbox One)There are certainly some neat ideas at the core of State Of Decay 2, but the good stuff is almost always drowned out by technical issues and some core gameplay systems that aren't particularly engaging. The trio of maps and various win conditions for each Legacy mission mean there's plenty of replay value to be found here, but it takes a hell of a lot of patience and leniency just to make it through one playthrough, let alone to push through into subsequent ones.
Patches to address the numerous bugs and online issues would do the game a few favours (the first hit shortly after the time of writing, in fact, and does improve matters somewhat), but they won't do anything to change the fact that the end of the world is just a bit dull.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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