The Walking Dead might be burning out somewhat with each subsequent season, but its premise is still one strong enough that it invites inquisitiveness. The idea of living in a world where civilization has broken down in the wake of the dead roaming the streets isn’t exactly novel, but the interpersonal stories around survival and the sacrifices required to sustain it are. It’s why State of Decay worked so well as a survival adventure, but it’s the way its sequel is expanding on those established ideas that looks to grow out the franchise in a way that the first game simply couldn’t.
State of Decay might play (and look) a lot like the first title, but its interconnected web of consequences form the central key difference in how you approach specific situations. The demo we were treated to started out in a small settlement of survivors, which saw to the needs of everyone stationed at the camp. What this means is looking at meters – ones that govern personal status, food and water supplies and the means to gather more, medical kits in hand and more. Every sort of aspect needed for survival is covered in some way, forcing you to balance both brining in new people and making sure there’s enough of everything to go around.
Food is scarce in lands that State of Decay takes place in, but sustainability is sometimes more important than the casual food run. With new bodies joining the settlement, it quickly becomes clear that crops need to be grown to create a more stable food ecosystem that can be relied on. That means venturing out into the nearby town for seeds and supplies, while also instructing the construction of a space for crops back home. This micromanagement is key to expanding your reach in this desolate lands, but invites unwelcome attention in a number of ways.
Leaving to town in a gas guzzling muscle car, for example, generates a lot of noise. That noise attracts the undead, making the search for seeds somewhat trickier when fighting off a growing horde of enemies. With everything randomly generated, the search could take anything from a few seconds to a prolonged hour, with each of your actions either attracting more attention of circumventing it entirely. With supplies in hand it was time to head back to the settlement, which was having its own sorts of problems.
With construction on a space for crops, the noise from the work had initiated a wave attack from the nearby undead. With the settlement under attack, non-player controlled companions use their abilities as best they can to fend off and defend the camp. Firearm proficiency, melee strengths and more all factor into this, with each fight making one more skilled in each pillar of gameplay. Actually playing with a particular character helps progress this more, as you can choose to focus your efforts on making a military-like fighter proficient in any and all firearms, or a medic that excels at getting fighters back into action faster.
Perma-death keeps you on your toes constantly though. In said demo our weapons expert made some terrible combat calls and found one-half of his torso detached from the other. it was a bloody mess, with the camera quickly panning to a nearby companion that was now under new player control. With a little bit of rallying the wave was fended off, but the casualties were heavy. The best fighter at the camp was now dead, and scores were injured. With medical supplies short and their effectiveness around the camp now reduced to nought, it was clear that the benefits certainly didn’t measure up to the risks involved.
But that’s what State of Decay 2 wants you to constantly be thinking about. This world that it throws you into is constantly evolving, and your leadership is being tested as much as your ability to point and shoot. I’ve never quite seen a game delve into this fundamental pillar of the likes of The Walking Dead so deeply, and it immediately instilled a greater sense of excitement than the brief demo during the Xbox Conference did. State of Decay 2 is making your choices matter, and you best be ready for it later this year.
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Last Updated: June 21, 2017