State of Decay 2 Review - Read Before You Buy

State of Decay 2 Review
The closest things to a Walking Dead simulator

State of Decay 2 is without a doubt right up my alley. My love of strategy, action, and zombies instantly made me fall in love with the first game despite its glaring faults. The sequel is out now and I’ve no choice but to fairly critique the deliver for what it offers and what it does not.

About State of Decay 2

State of Decay 2 at its core is an open world zombie apocalypse survival game that forces you to lead a growing group of survivors to build a defensible base, scavenge, and build a legacy for your community. Released by Undead Labs in May 2018, it is a sequel to the surprise hit back in 2013. The original did well enough for Microsoft to buy the studio and make it an Xbox exclusive (meaning it can be played on PC and Xbox only). When the sequel dropped, its sales made it the top selling game in May of this year by attracting over 2 million players in its first two weeks of availability. This excellent performance topped games like God Of War and Detroit: Become Human which were both PS4 exclusives released in May as well. Needless to say, this strong debut, which almost doubled the launch month of the first game, is a great sign that fans loved the game considering it was available for free for those who have an Xbox Game Pass subscription. Even with the impressive initial sales, critics have not been kind to this buzz worthy title.

State of Decay 2 Story

Plague zombies and hearts (shown here) are the new threat to your community.

As with most zombie games, the story is pretty simplistic. Survive! Looking a bit deeper you’ll find that the developer intended the game to have less of a ‘traditional’ story and more of a ‘dynamic’ story based upon who your leader is and which survivor communities you decide to help or not help. Regardless of your decisions, though, you must eradicate a new zombie threat called the blood plague. With red eyes, bubbling skin, and the ability to ‘infect’ your survivors, these zombies are your primary initial concern. After that you essentially take missions based on who your leader is called ‘building your legacy’.

Honestly, the story is pretty dull and does little more than offer more for your community to do towards an eventual ‘endgame’ mission. Once the mission is completed, it allows you to start the game over in a new area with bonuses, experienced survivors, and whatever gear those survivors had on their person from the previous playthrough. To say the least, the bare bones narrative of State of Decay 2 will not be the aspect of the game that entices most players to play more.

State of Decay 2 Gameplay

Pay close attention to the fifth skill each character does (and does not) have.

At the beginning of the game, you are given the choice of 4 different ‘couples’ or groups of 2 characters to start your community with. They have descriptions that detail who they are and their beginning set of 4 or 5 skills. Every character has Fighting, Wits, Cardio, and Shooting skills. The fifth skill is either left blank for you to decide on with books you find, or it is a default skill like Mechanic or Gardener. This fifth skill defines a specialty that allows your community to build specialized areas in your home base such as auto shops, hydroponic gardens, armories, and other areas.

Your stamina is key as it determines how long you can run or swing melee weapons without an exhaustion slow down. As you can imagine, being exhausted and unable to sprint away can be a bad situation when dozens of zombies are chasing you. To avoid exhaustion, you constantly have to switch between controlling each of your survivors allowing the tired ones to rest. Even severe injuries can temporarily reduce your health maximum in the field as well. Healing them requires an infirmary at your HQ.

Each survivor also has what are called ‘traits’. These random abilities are buffs and debuffs based on the character’s personality or past life that affect their skill progression and even their relationship with other survivors in your community. As you progress in the game, you’ll meet and recruit randomized NPCs. They will have varied levels of skills and traits that you’ll use to determine if you want or need them in your community. If your character is too annoying or starts fights, you may have to make the call of exiling them from the community as morale is a key metric as well.

As your survivors do and complete tasks, they go up in ‘community standing’. Becoming a community ‘hero’ grants a community wide bonus and the ability to select them as a Leader. Defining a leader for the community essentially determines the story arc for the game. There are four leader types: Builder, Sheriff, Warlord, and Trader. Each allow you to build one exclusive HQ area or facility. Of course, once selected, the only way you can change a leader is if the old one dies.

Just like in a strategy game, you are constantly balancing resources, morale, and threat level. The more survivors you have, the more resources you need per day. You need more survivors to build bigger and better HQ areas. You need bigger and better HQ areas to produce more resources per day. You have to go on resource runs to get what you need to build, maintain, feed, and heal your community.

In the midst of all that, your map fills up with plague heart locations, infestations, other survivor communities, and hordes. Sprinkled in all that opportunity are bloater, juggernaut, screamers, and feral zombies. These special zombies are just as deadly as before but occur with a greater frequency as your progress moves along. Thankfully, there are more melee and ranged weapons you can find and utilize to protect yourself.

This game has a lot to consider with multiple possible HQ locations of varying sizes on each of the 3 different maps for the game. You’ll regularly feel overwhelmed with tasks as your radio sounds of with people to save, trade with, and assist. Thankfully, the community GUI is pretty good at helping you track all this along with active buffs and debuffs for your HQ and what is causing them. The character screens are good as well and tell you each character’s stats, traits, inventory, and what is affecting them too.

While it may seem as if there is a lot going on and a lot to do, you can probably best all three maps in roughly 10 to 12 hours of gameplay. With decent replay ability due to the randomized follower attributes, you honestly have to like this formula and the repetition of hunting resources for the whole experience to be fun.

State of Decay 2 Multiplayer

When it comes to multiplayer, fans of the first were foaming at the mouth. State of Decay 2 seems like it has the formula for a great coop game. Somehow, however, the execution isn’t quite what was expected. Given that this game allows you to take a survivor with you as backup when you go on runs across the map to explore or scavenge, having a human player to assist you or even take on a different mission seems like it would fit right in. Instead, the game restricts the movement of the second online player to a given radius around the host.

This severely hampers what the guest player can do as they must stay within a relatively short range around the host player. For instance, if the host is tinkering in their menu or at the HQ, the guest must simply wait or putz around the HQ (which is often already scavenged) for whatever they can find. The real appeal of multiplayer was to be able to send a friend off to the other side of the map for resources while you help a community or something of that sort. Instead, the game forces you to stay close to each other.

State of Decay 2 Quest/Mission System

SoD 2 weaves its mediocre story by having your community members suggest certain actions and random survivors and communities reaching out for help over the radio. When selected, the map highlights an area or building you must go to in order to progress the mission. If you miss out on someone requesting help, that community may become hostile. Once that happens, encounters with them will require you to take them out or flee. These quests are pretty run of the mill and include actions like the following: guard me for a while, escort me home, find my family, or get me some resources. As you’d imagine, this gets old after a while.

State of Decay 2 Graphics

Headshots are key. Especially against special zombies like the Juggernaut here!

Graphically, SoD 2 essentially isn’t much better than the original. The environment, characters, and objects come across as little more than a high end Xbox 360 game and while that isn’t a bad thing, one would think that the sequel would up the visuals a bit more than the result. Thankfully, the graphics don’t really take from the experience, but when combined with the bugs, the result can easily become highly frustrating. Cars can hit imaginary objects or edges when visually you thought you’d be fine. This can lead to characters or vehicles getting stuck which is infuriating. Months after initial release and many of these issues still remain.

State of Decay 2 Developer

Undead Labs stays connected to their community. When their patches drop or they are asked questions, they tend to respond quickly on social media. Even in the past when players kept requesting mulitiplayer, they made a point to respond as to why they couldn’t just so that their fans knew that they were listening and trying. With this sequel, they seem to be dedicated to not only patch the game every few weeks, they also attempt to add free content as well and plans for future paid content. So far, 2 of the paid DLC are simply supply drops with resources and new weapons. The other existing DLC is a horde mode that as it is bested grants new survivors and gear to existing community saves. There are certainly plans for more content and DLC as well for more zombie smashing opportunities.

Probably the biggest issue here is that Undead Labs has a tragically buggy product that has really divided its fan base. Players either love it in spite of the issues or despise it because of them. For example, one of the worst bugs involves when you ask a second survivor to accompany the one you take control of. For a while that survivor will follow and help out. Unfortunately, before you know it, they will disappear despite their icon being shown on the map as being right next to you. Oftentimes this happens when you switch between characters but sometimes it just happens in the middle of a mission as you’re fighting or running to a mission. This bug is infuriating as some situations (like battling a plague heart) can get difficult if special zombies arrive during the battle and help is necessary. Undead Labs will certainly need to prioritize solving these various bugs.

State of Decay 2 Price

Amazingly enough, the price is probably the best part of the game. At an MSRP of $29.99 for the Xbox One and PC, the flaws the game has are often overlooked by this modest price. With an understanding that more content and fixes are no doubt along the way, fans of zombie games clearly have been willing to live through the bugs. Throw in DLC that are priced between $5 and $10 and you have an experience that can grow and change as time moves along as well.




+Fun base building and survival features

+Simple combat and enjoyable zombie busting

+3 good size maps to explore and survive through

+Great price (especially when on sale)


-Difficulty is a bit too easy by the end of the first map

-Bugs are quite numerous and frustrating

-Multiplayer distance restrictions are annoying

-Endgame missions are underwhelming

A Mechwarrior to the core, I spend my digital days trying to hide my K/D ratio behind the victories my lances have. I will write the story of my triumphs on their pixelized graves!
Gamer Since: 1983
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: NBA2k19
Top 3 Favorite Games:, ,