It all started when we found a 4×4 in a garage near our house. We’d settled in for a day in our new home – it was small, and broken, but it was ours – and we’d been starting to go further and further afield, collecting supplies and bringing them back home.
But we were getting tired. Lugging bags of timber, medical supplies, ammo back to our homestead was taking its toll. Ollie – a passive aggressive ex-gym coach – was making life hell for the four other survivors when he was tired. Mike – our de facto leader – loved cars in his past life. So when the two of them went on an excursion to an old shopping center just off the main road, their (new, unhappy) lives were changed.
The 4×4 made State of Decay 2 a dream to play. It had space for six rucksacks in the boot. Six! That meant, in one outing, we could head out and scout about seven locations, raiding them for their booty and returning home triumphant. When Mike and Ollie were done for the day, they’d turn in and we’d get Claire and Lana to take over instead. They’d head out, get their own booty and come back. Rinse, repeat.
This 4×4 became the pride of the fledgling community – it even had space to bring home survivors we found out in the wastes of the footlands we’d made our nest in. We kept it in good repair with kits we found in garages, we fed it fuel whenever it was running low… we even named it. Forby.
But one day, on a particularly fruitful mission to an old pizza joint/coffee shop (fresh beans!), we fell out of love. Having loaded up the Jeep, a good 2000m from home, State of Decay 2 decided we drove too far, too hard into a crash barrier. The car was wedged in it, in the way only a car can be wedged into something in a game. The barrier was clipping through the middle of the car.
We got out. Examined the situation. No matter what we did, the car wouldn’t budge. We were already laden with goods, and couldn’t take more from the vehicle. Home was a good walk away (about 5 minutes of navigation real-time, and we were out of ammo). Weighing up our options, we went to scout and see if another vehicle was nearby.
Long story, multiple wounds and an exhausted Mike later, we got a sports car. Room for just two people, and three backpacks. We unloaded the Jeep (had to glitch our way onto practically the top of a tree to do this) and made for home. RIP Forby.
By the time we got home, Mike was practically dead. This felt unfair – for the most part we’d been playing the game safely, not risking anyone without good cause. The game’s glitch had caused us to lose out – and not for the first time.
A few awful UI stuttering issues and button prompts not gelling properly had caused failures in combat, the inability to pick up certain items and general crashes.
We had such a good time forming the base of our community we were willing to overlook that – this is a game, after all, we’re playing ahead of release. You have to cut it some slack for that.
But the more we played, the more we realised these glitches weren’t superficial – they formed a main part of the gaming experience.
And that was really upsetting, because we really wanted to like State of Decay.
When you’re balancing your characters’ unique quirks (there are over 1000 of them apparently!) against each other, whilst managing resources, trying to mitigate what you use up per day versus what you bring in, the game shines.
“It’s a post-apocalypse simulator, the best in the genre”
It’s a post-apocalypse simulator, the best in the genre.
It’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none scenario, though. It’s good at being a real time simulator of what you’d need in a post-apocalyptic homestead: balancing medical needs with firepower desires, food production with storage… it’s an inspired system.
But it’s not very deep. There aren’t a lot of various structures and buildings to explore. And that’s OK – it just makes the game seem smaller than it is.
The same is true of the RPG system. On first look, it’s overwhelming, but as you get used to it, you see the nuance: how to upgrade skills like gardening, utilities, cardio, swordplay, gunmanship. The more you use one character to do one thing, the better they get at it.
So, by the time he died, Mike was an honest to God hero, with great sprinting stamina and an affinity for carrying heavy items. RIP Mike.
But as you start to get more characters, you realise how shallow the system is – personality quirks aside, most playable characters are kinda all based on the same primary foundation. Like the base-building system, it’s all far more shallow than you’d think at first glance.
You’re pushed through the game by ‘dynamic’ missions that are tied to each character, but the main narrative is destroying zombie-spawning Plague Hearts – these are tough, and get tougher with each one you take out.
That’s your rudimentary progress bar: the more you kill, the further you get through the game. There’s no real story – so if you’re coming into this thinking about trying The Walking Dead: The Game, think again.
So between the bugginess and the shallow systems, is there a reason to play? Absolutely.
State of Decay 2 is a great game, and thanks to how it lets you put your own narrative over the top of everything you do, it’s heartbreaking.
Who’d have thought we’d get so attached to a car so quickly? It’s incredible how the game gets in your head – especially when playing co-op and inviting someone else into your home.
The day-to-day playing of State of Decay 2 is the ultimate zombie survival fantasy – and it delivers in making that fun.
But a few design and gameplay aspects make it a chore at times: night is so incredibly dark you can’t see what you’re doing.
By the time dawn rolls around, you are tangibly relieved – not because you’re scared or anything, but because it’s like the game just doesn’t want you to play at night.
And you can’t even pass time, you just gotta stick it out – with your two-feet visibility and your Xbox One X enhanced 4K black screen.
THE VERDICT: 3/5
State of Decay 2 is a must for anyone on Xbox Games Pass – if you can download this 20GB game for free and try it out for a while, we can’t recommend it enough.
If the juggling of gameplay, management and sim all come together…