[State of Decay 2]OPINION ｜ GAME ON： Plague updates make ‘State of Decay 2’ infectiously fun
Survival games set during zombie apocalypses have always been a favorite of mine, and “State of Decay 2” by Undead Labs has solidified its place near the top of the rankings.
The first “State of Decay” game was an immediate hit with me, and I put in a lot of hours. I remember how thrilled I was to play an early version of “State of Decay 2” during a PAX East gaming conference in Boston a few years ago. Then the game came out, and my disappointment was immeasurable.
It was glitchy, it was buggy, the multiplayer didn’t work and the game often crashed.
I put it away and didn’t think about it again until just recently.
What a difference it makes when game developers show true commitment to their products. The latest version, “Juggernaut Edition,” made available all the downloadable content released so far as part of the base game, and last week, Update 25 significantly reworked some core mechanics, fixing lots of bugs. It really made it seem almost like a totally new game.
Like the first version, “State of Decay 2” revolves around building and maintaining a little community in a world overrun by zombies. Your small band must upgrade and defend a base while scavenging from the surrounding area for necessary supplies.
As you explore, you’ll encounter other enclaves attempting to survive, many of whom will ask for your help. Do so and they’ll become reliable trading partners and might even join your community, but ignore them and they could turn hostile.
As your community grows, you’ll pack up and move into larger bases and establish useful outposts (such as claiming an electrical substation to power your base, or a military outpost that will be an ammo source).
Also on the map are what’s called Plague Hearts — pulsating sources of infection that spawn particularly nasty plague zombies. The infection also can spread to your survivors, and if left untreated, is lethal.
Plague Hearts spread their influence across the map, and with the new update, no outposts can be claimed within plague territory, mandating their removal.
The game is played in a pretty familiar, third-person over-the-shoulder view. You start by picking a pair of survivors — each with their own history and relationship. Part of what makes the game fun is trying to build the perfect community and the randomness of finding survivors to join you who have just the skills and abilities you need.
Characters have four core skills: cardio, wits, fighting and shooting. These core skills are improved by activities such as searching containers, running, engaging in melee combat and shooting, and when maxed out, a character will be able to specialize, gaining extra abilities or different attacks.
Each character can also gain a fifth skill, called a community skill, that provides knowledge of a profession, such as cooking, mechanics or chemistry. Having a survivor with the medicine skill, for example, is needed to upgrade medical facilities used to treat infected survivors.
Characters also have a number of traits that can offer minor boosts or detriments, and a Hero trait that can be unlocked when they’ve risen through the ranks in the community.
One person in the community will be chosen as the leader, which will determine the conditions to “win” the game. A first requirement is to clear out all Plague Heart locations across the map, and then a series of quests will start that will allow your enclave to escape. Finishing the game will unlock permanent bonuses that can be used in future play-throughs.
There’s a ton of content for this game now. There are dozens and dozens of kinds of weapons, everything from machetes to AK-47s to grenade launchers. The most recent updates also added a sidearm slot, so survivors can switch from crossbows used for stealth takedowns to a pistol for dealing with sudden hordes.
Getting across the map is fun, as you commandeer vehicles and plow through zeds (zombies) shambling along the road. If you’ve enlisted a fellow survivor to help you out, they’ll even open their door to smash a zombie that would have narrowly escaped — usually with a quip like, “10 points!”
”State of Decay 2″ now has five maps, and you can start your survivors on one map and then choose to move to a new map. Each map has its own challenges, its own unique base choices and landmark outposts to claim.
To keep anyone from getting bored, the difficulty can be ramped up significantly. Higher difficulties will make survivor management harder (zombies are tougher, don’t appear on maps, blood plague is more lethal, survivors have more penalties, etc.). On the hardest difficulty, the game is almost unfair. Every single zombie is a deadly threat and only minimal resources are available. It’s wonderful.
There’s so much content and replayability now for this game that it’s totally worth picking up. Oh, and it also offers four-player co-op and the ability to pop into other people’s multiplayer games and give them a quick hand.
If you like this genre of game, “Juggernaut Edition” is a must to check out.
Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox One X/S
Rating: Mature for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language
Score: 9 out of 10
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