While at E3 I met with members of the State of Decay 2 team at Microsoft’s booth to hear their pitch on the game and to see it in action. After this 30-minute meeting I came away with a much more positive take on the game than I originally had when it was shown off at Microsoft’s E3 press conference. I’ll be honest, the zombie genre is rather burnt out, or at least for my gaming preferences, so seeing another entry coming down the pike I was skeptical at best. After seeing what State of Decay 2 has to offer, I’m changing my tune. I’m not one hundred percent sold yet, but I definitely am intrigued and feel that this zombie game has a much deeper experience to offer.
According to the developers, this game is all about character progression and base building. It’s not solely a zombie third person open world game. It’s a strategy game with hints of the Sims, and consequences as steep as those in a game like XCOM. If you lose a character, they’re toast — gone for good — peace out, which is huge considering your base is everything and the survivors living there play a major role in how it runs. Losing one could derail your progress and set your goals back to the point that you may never fully recover without doing some major work to replace what was lost. The direness of this world is great, so embracing the talents of your survivors will be key to success, and how you use them can make or break your community.
The characters of State of Decay 2 are everything, and you will play as all of them because this game does’t have a singular hero. You must use the survivors you’ve found and enlisted into your community in strategic manners to make the best use of their base buffs and abilities. Some may be talented in gardening, giving them abilities to farm and add food to your base’s stores, while others are just badasses and can make everyone else in your community that much more of a badass, so they’re suited for runs into town to scavenge and fight for supplies.
In our demo we got to see the Base screen, which is the hub where you manage all aspects of your community. The main items you can toggle in the Base screen are: Resource, Community, Morale, Effects, and Noise. Most are self-explanatory, but all must be managed to forge a stable community that can prosper. Using this screen it was clear that the community needed some food, so the developer set off on a mission to hunt down some seeds for the gardner to plant to increase their food stores.
Considering that the gardener’s farming ability is too valuable to the community, our guide took the hero character out to search for seeds because he is suited for combat and survival. The hero eventually found seeds, but in the mean time he created enough of a ruckus to rile up a zombie horde that proceeded to attack the community.
This is where we got to see State of Decay 2’s combat in action, and it looked pretty gnarly. Grappling and throwing have been added to the mix, and so has dismemberment. Everything appeared very fluid and precise, and the animations looked brutal, in a good way. Although, we did lose our hero character, which again is permanent, so the community lost his buffs and actually became depressed. This led to a morale penalty that lasted 30-minutes, so anything and everything can affect your community.
We also saw its drop-in/drop-out multiplayer that supports up to four players. It is flawless and never broke the experience with a a loading screen. Parties can be formed easily and efficiently depending on your location and state in the game. You can also fire up a flair that other players will see and can come join your game. It definitely looked like the best way to play, so the fact that the multiplayer mode is so seamlessly integrated into the single player campaign is very impressive.
The world does have its fair share of zombie games, but after seeing State of Decay 2 in action and hearing the developers explain its world, I think we can do with one more. It’s more than a zombie open-world title, and it’s not just a survival sim. It has a story, so there will be motivations to progress your community forward to reach the end. For these reasons I think State of Decay 2 can stand out amongst the sea of zombie titles once it releases for the Xbox One X and Windows 10 PC.
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