WTMG Opinion Piece

State of Decay 2: Zombie Survival Done Right

The state of zombie survival games.

Who would have thought that the original State of Decay, an Xbox Live Arcade game that was not well known, hyped or advertised could pull in the numbers and awards it has? Especially around the time where zombie games were a dime-a-dozen. The reason it stood out from the crowd was the kind of zombie survival it presented was unique. It felt like a true survival game, with real consequences if you didn’t properly prepare yourself and your fellow survivors. With base building, unique stats/traits/personalities for each character, inventory management, permanent death and a well done open world filled with things to explore and loot. It’s no wonder it has seen the success it has and sold more than 4.5 million copies.

Now, not everything was perfect. State of Decay did a lot of things right, but it also had its shortcomings. The controls for moving, shooting, and driving could have been tighter. The graphics weren’t exactly stellar, but not terrible for an indie game. There were a handful of bugs and glitches as well. But the biggest let down was the absence of co-op. Fret not, State of Decay 2 is on the horizon and it’s coming to knock our socks off and fix the issues with the original and then some. Here are a few things that make State of Decay 2 one of my most anticipated 2018 games and the only zombie game I am truly hyped for.

State of Decay 2 Field

Multiplayer

The most requested feature of the original was for co-op multiplayer and Undead Labs listened. State of Decay 2 will feature 4 player drop-in drop-out multiplayer. The online MP isn’t session based or requires an always online connection to a server, so solo players need not worry about unwanted player interactions. How it will work is that you invite up to 3 players into your game and they join as one of their real characters from their play session. They can collect XP and loot that they can take back to their own game, but they can also die as well. Unlike a game such as Dark Souls where you can summon help and if your help dies it doesn’t actually effect their own game in State of Decay 2, if you die in matchmaking, you die for real. State of Decay, like I mention above, is all about consequences and being able to permanently die in your buddies game fits perfectly with the theme of the game.

There is always a concern with games like State of Decay where your solo game depends so heavily on the decisions, relationships and progress you have made that you don’t want a, troublesome, friend (you know the one) coming in and destroying everything you have done. You will also have the ability to shoot a flair up in the air and immediately seek the aid of a random player if need be. Luckily players who join your game cannot interfere or make any decisions with the characters in your game.

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More Diverse Characters

Character traits proved to be a vital system in the original game. It determined who you would play as, how you would play as that character, who you decided to save and promote and who you needed to kick out of the group. If that character was going to annoy other characters, be self destructive, make bad judgment calls, require too much attention etc. you may want to reconsider their involvement. It actually seemed like a vast amount of different traits, but Undead Labs is stepping it up. The first game featured only a few hundred traits while we are going to see more than 1,000 unique traits in the sequel. They will range from big to small, with even something such as snoring will have an effect on morale.

I love the idea and execution of these traits within the game. It really felt like each character was different. With the game getting larger it’s good to see that we are also getting a more diverse group of strangers. This system really allows you to manage your survival properly. Managing the characters and promoting the right characters for the right job is crucial and it also leads to some very dynamic situations.

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The Sandbox

In most cases an open world sandbox is make or break depending on its world. A large sandbox is great if there is plenty to do in it, while a smaller one with too much to do becomes tedious. State of Decay had a nice balance, its map size was 16km². To compare, Skyrim was a little over 14km² and GTA IV was 15km². While there was a lot of empty open farm areas there were still plenty of opportunities to explore or get caught in a herd of zombies. It never felt too congested or too empty.

In State of Decay 2 instead of just making the game world larger to try and go bigger and bolder with more things, what Undead Labs is doing is making 3 separate maps which are all roughly the size of the first game’s map. We’re getting 3 16km² maps, with unique landscapes, characters, missions, and vehicles. If you aren’t familiar or never played the first game’s expansion, you eventually get to a point in the story where you move on from the first map to another in search of better shelter, more people, and hopefully less zombies. I really like this method of changing things up instead of just having one very large map. I feel it gives a greater sense of progression and of course brings back some nervousness of what you’re going to find in these new areas.

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Additional Points and Hopes

While I’m a strong believer of gameplay/performance over visual fidelity, it’s worth noting that State of Decay 2 will be sporting the fancy Unreal Engine 4 instead of the CryEngine 3 its predecessor used. This will allow for greater optimization for the Xbox family of consoles and provide better visuals and performance.

Not much has been revealed for State of Decay 2, but one of my hopes is for greater customization and deeper progression for your base. For instance I would love if you could build and upgrade an armory, appoint a weapons expert to oversee it, and be able to customize and modify weapons if you have the right components and materials. The first game allowed you to add a silencer to certain weapons, but I want to get more involved. I want to scrap parts and fully customize my weapon. Mag extension, red dot, reflex, 2x-12x scopes, stock and grip upgrades for greater handling etc.

Another addition would be the inclusion of jobs that players can also complete. State of Decay is about resource management and two of your most important resources is food and water. They could expand this into a deeper mechanic by including hunting missions. You can go out and hunt for deer, set traps for rabbits and various other wild life to stock up on food. Now, this would come with the danger of bringing in a horde if firing too many shots or the whining of a trapped animal can attract unwanted attention. You then could set up one of the NPCs to hunt if he has a hunting trait if you don’t feel like doing it yourself. This could also extend to fishing and harvesting fresh water from streams. And that would also make you consider exactly where to start your safe area, somewhere near a water source and hunting grounds would be preferable.

State of Decay does a lot of things right when it comes to zombie survival, but I think they can go deeper. I don’t want hunger and thirst meters for playable characters, but having a deeper resource management system for your crew would add more overall depth. From what we do know about State of Decay 2, it will improve and surpass the original in just about every way, but I also hope that it doesn’t play safe. From what we got in the original and what we know about the sequel, I’m confident it will be the best zombie survival game to date. State of Decay 2 does have a little competition this year with Days Gone, but when it comes down to survival aspects, Days Gone likely won’t be able to keep up. Just like State of Decay 2 likely won’t be able to compete with Days Gone‘s level of cinematic story telling and graphical fidelity. Either way, if you’re a fan of zombie games you’re in for a treat.

Are you a fan of State of Decay? What would you like to see or hope to see with the sequel? Do you think Days Gone is going to bury State of Decay or vice versa? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Our resident Californian ginger, also one of the only ones on the team who has a family (aka life). When he’s not taking care of sick kids he’s playing games with a wife who’s just as much a gamer as him or actually reviewing them for us, making him a valuable member of the team. Even if he’s pretty much stolen all our souls. His favorites include Dark Souls, Fallout 2, Majora’s Mask, and Shadow of the Colossus.

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