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Who will have the best E3 in 2018?


Game Profile
Xbox One
Undead Labs
GENRE: Survival
May 22, 2018
State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition

 Written by Chris Woodside  on May 18, 2018

Reviews: State of Decay 2 is a thrilling survival game, where death proves a true consequence, yet is disappointingly hard to come by.


With State of Decay 2 one of the few exclusives Microsoft has confirmed, at least so far prior to E3, there is understandably a lot of pressure riding on Undead Lab’s sequel to their fan favorite State of Decay on the Xbox 360 back in 2013. This pressure is only magnified with two major Sony exclusive titles, God of War last month, and Detroit: Become Human at the end of next week, book-ending the State of Decay 2 release. In this regard, State of Decay 2 is an exciting, gritty, and genre-crossing game, but the many bugs, sometimes repetitive gameplay, and lack of any sense of being in real danger hold it back from being a truly great game.

The opening tutorial mission of the game does a good job of introducing you to the mechanics of the game for newcomers to the series, as well as the new main threat players will face, the plague hearts and plague zombies that flock to them. Unlike many other large co-op games like this, State of Decay doesn’t hold your hand for too long. In less than half an hour, you can be out in your new settlement and calling for help to take out a new zombie infestation that appeared or answering another player’s call to help.

That being said, while it is refreshing to have a game not hold your hand for too long, the downside is that some of the features and mechanics can be downright confusing. In some games, this may not be as much of an issue as you can learn on the fly. In a game where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of undead zombies waiting to devour you and resources are a finite resource, this can lead to some bad news for your settlement. For those who may be playing this game for the action elements that litter the zombie game genre, and who are looking forward to the first time you can smash in a zed’s (the game’s shorthand name for zombies) head may find themselves cross eyed at the prospect of managing a settlement as it grows larger and more complex. This is further complicated that the pre release version of the game tends to have a smaller than ideal font size for many of its tutorial screens. Hopefully, considering the larger than normal size of the dialogue in the subtitles during conversations, we can see a patch relatively soon that will make some of the tutorial screens easier to read for the vision challenged gamers among us.

The two most touted new additions to this entry in the series, online co-op multiplayer and the plague hearts/zombies, are welcome additions, yet leave much to be desired in their execution. While the game is invariably more fun when you can add 2 or 3 friends to share in the zombie apocalypse with you, the bugs and glitches that exist in the single player mode are magnified when trying to play online. None of the bugs really broke the game completely for me, save for an instance or two when the game froze on me and I had to restart, but they were still common and annoying enough to hurt my overall experience with the game. Undead Labs may not be a studio the size of some of the bigger developers out there, but you know your game can use a little bit more fine tuning when there is a button dedicated to freeing your character when they are trapped by the game’s environment.


The plague hearts add an interesting new dynamic to the game, I never really came to fear them the way I hoped I would. Getting to the plague heart proves to be the hardest part, as the plague zombies are always surrounding it, and getting bit by one will lead to you coming down with blood plague yourself. The issue here is that I never worried too much about getting the blood plague. It only happened a handful of times, and the procedure for curing it and the materials you need to gather to do so is depressingly easy, which caused me to fear the plague zombies in the same way one fears seeing that one annoying uncle at Thanksgiving dinner. It may be a minor inconvenience and slow down your progression a bit while you work to cure it, but rarely will it lead to your character’s death. This is made worse by the fact that once you destroy the plague heart, all the plague zombies around it will die immediately, meaning you don’t need to worry about making sure you have a way out. While your first few times destroying plague hearts will be fun, and it is oddly satisfying to see all those zombies killed by your actions, these fights will get repetitive sooner rather than later.

All that being said, on the (rare) occasions that you do die, that death means that particular survivor has been permanently killed off. No game over where you restart at a checkpoint. No ability to reload a previous save to resurrect your fallen hero. Instead, you just will take control of a different survivor at your settlement. At first, I was disappointed by the lack of a large overarching story for you to build up to, rather than just surviving, but as I got farther into the game I felt that this was the right decision by the developers. By having strong emotional connections to characters through deep and engaging dialogue, I would have been frustrated if they suffered a perma-death, a sense that I was being robbed of a chance to finish that character’s arc. By not having those strong connections, however, I was free to take more risks with my character with the only consequence being that I would have to learn to fight with a different weapon.

The combat in this game is very satisfying as well. While your weapons will deteriorate after a while, requiring you to repair them before they can be used again, I never worried about their overuse while plowing down wave after wave of zombies. This was due, in part, to the fact that your survivor will never be without a way to defend themselves. Even after your weapon breaks, you still have a small indestructible knife that is more than enough to bring down a zombie. The only time I ever felt that I was in real danger was when I was in the middle of fighting a large group of zombies with only my knife. Bringing a knife to a fight with a horde of zombies, it turns out, is not a great way to survive. While you can use your guns of course, bullets are scarce enough that you will always second guess yourself before taking a shot as you wonder if it is better to take down the zombie silently with your knife before using up some of your precious ammo. I have rarely felt more powerful or satisfied in a zombie game then the feeling when you land a perfect headshot with your gun and blow the zed’s brains up. That happened for me. A lot.


Despite the bugs and glitches that detracted from my overall experience, State of Decay 2 appears to be the exclusive title Microsoft has been waiting so long for. Its not without its flaws by any stretch, and your mileage with this game will vary depending on how quickly you become bored of the repetitiveness of taking down plague heart after plague heart. Nonetheless, while the original game may have been overshadowed during its generation, as zombie games seemed like the zeitgeist of its time, the sequel has learned the lessons from its previous entry, and Undead Labs has produced a zombie survival game that transcends the genre.

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