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State of Decay 2

State of Decay 2

The undead should make great fertiliser for your garden.

  • Text: Jon Calvin

Bethany is dying. She'd been bitten by a blood plague zombie on a supply run gone wrong. She didn't have much time left at this point and a decision needed to made. She was past the point of being cured, leaving only two choices. She could be euthanised, which is a polite way of saying shot in the head or she could be exiled and cast out from the community she helped build. These are the kind of split decisions leaders have to make in the apocalypse; thinkers don't survive long in a zombie plague. A loud bang rang out across the derelict church, a concussive signal that another tough choice had been made. It's these sort of ethical dilemmas that define State of Decay 2 and in a broader sense the survival genre as a whole. They attempt to explore the innate human curiosity in what people are capable of when pushed to the limit and challenge the moralistic structure of society by confronting players with challenging decisions.

State of Decay 2 once again thrusts you into a hostile sandbox where society has collapsed at the hands of a devastating zombie outbreak where it's up to humanity's last survivors to re-establish communities. The game presents the player with difficult choices from the offset, the first of which has you selecting which duo of unlikely survivors you'd like to start the game with from a pool of four pairs. Each couple has their own short backstory of how they came to be together and varying randomised skills, but ultimately, all present similar starting scenarios. The narrative backdrop of State of Decay 2 is very much built on emergent gameplay in which your characters become what they've experienced more so than their initial backstories or starting stats. So, to a certain extent, your opening characters aren't as important as you may think.

In classic zombie apocalypse fashion, the player is challenged with moralistic choices from the first opening hour of the game that only scale up as you continue to become more invested in the characters. Your community will soon grow beyond your starting characters and expand to accommodate the various survivors you encounter throughout your journey. There's a greater emphasis on engaging with the individual in the sequel with players being encouraged to pursue specific party members goals, but of course, you won't be able to help but pick favourites - the game is counting on it. The game communicates this by naturally pushing your preferred characters to the top of the pecking order through community standing giving them the opportunity to become heroes and leaders.

A leader has a lot to contend with what with the game being very much segmented into two halves. There's the practical side of things. Your people have to go out and scavenge for resources and materials to survive. Then there's the management side of the community that requires you to build facilities for your residents and utilise the resources your scavengers gather. You'll usually find survivors gravitate towards one or the other of these specialisations with your soldier types obviously more geared towards supply runs and the professionals you encounter, such as doctors, more adept at home management. There's a significant amount of depth to the information on offer about your home base and its inhabitants with detailed statistics from resource usage to characters mood. This requires you to see your people as more than just commodities that need food and shelter, but human beings with thoughts, feelings and emotions.

State of Decay 2

This means there's some building involved as people need somewhere to sleep and food to eat. The building menu itself is quite intuitive if not simple. Each site has set out areas that you can build in and clicking on them brings up a menu for the available facilities. What is often lacking though is a great explanation of how some of the finer building mechanics work as it isn't always patently obvious. For example, the game may inform you that your community's morale would be boosted by having access to running water without explicitly detailing exactly how you do that. And even once you figure out how there's no further guidance on how to optimise that through the facilities functions or selection of mods. Now, nobody wants a situation where you have hour long tutorials or aggressive hand-holding throughout, but for a game that continually reminds you of the basic movement mechanics the odd tip on building management wouldn't have gone amiss.

The best thing is if you don't like your current location you can uproot and upgrade to something more suitable. This would mean loading your entire community into vehicles, resources and all, and setting out across the apocalyptic landscape. It's a risky proposition, but tempting when you scout out some of the bigger camps you can commandeer. The map is pretty sizable as well, albeit nothing in comparison to big budget open-world games, but enough to keep things interesting, especially when traversing it is no simple task. Dotted around the game world you'll find various outposts you can set up to expand your community's reach as well enclaves of fellow human survivors you can trade with.

State of Decay 2
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