Shambling back to State of Decay 2

After a heartbreakingly negative first experience (and multiple patches), State of Decay 2 is now a lot closer to delivering on the promise of the premise.

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Shambling back to State of Decay 2

I really, really wanted to love State of Decay 2. But at launch, for everything that engaged me, there was at least one other major detractor that tarnished, damaged or flat out destroyed immersion. Just check out my review for the full rundown of my experience.

The thing is, I always intended on returning to State of Decay 2. First and foremost, every time a major patch dropped, I was determined to return to see if it would fix the game-breaking bug that wouldn’t let me finish the game. Second, I had a friend who was keen to play co-op, and as a co-op fiend, I definitely wanted to experience more of that side of the game.

Y’see, prior to launch and while reviewing State of Decay 2, the co-op was unplayable, at least on the Windows 10 version of the game. I tried it multiple times with other reviewers, only to suffer through an experience that was so out of sync that there was no point playing it.

Fast forward about a month after launch, and while not unplayable, there were still major synchronisation issues, not to mention persistent minor bugs that I’d originally experienced. The main problem of the synchronisation issues at this particular time was linked to one of the benefits of co-op.

State of Decay 2 involves a fair chunk of busywork. The prospect of applying the ‘many hands’ principle to said busywork makes it all the more manageable, particularly if you get it sorted up-front so you can focus on more exciting gameplay rather than fetching items. And by far the best way to raid resources from an area in co-op is to take as many cars as you have people. Not only does this mean more storage space on each player’s backpack, it also means additional storage space in the boot of whatever car you’re driving (on top of this, the more space in the boot, the more you can loot).

While there is a noticeable drain on fuel—admittedly, one of the easier resources to manage—the trick with bad co-op synchronisation (even with great internet) is freezing cars. As the self-appointed navigator, I’d often lead our resource-packed convoy, but when the massive synchronisation pauses would occur, well, I’d get rear-ended.

This’d be manageable or even funny if it was a rare occurrence, but the way that State of Decay 2 handles car physics (and, unfortunately, still does to this day) means you’re often dealing with the potential anxiety of losing a car to wonky physics. There were multiple times when we had to ram a car away from a sticky object, which makes it all the more painful when you get stuck because of dreaded desync.

Thankfully, in more recent play sessions, this hasn’t been a concern. The worst part of my particular experience of State of Decay 2 is that none of the updates have fixed my game-breaking bug, so I still can’t finish the game with my initial starting community. The silver lining of that is I don’t mind playing the guest role in my friend’s community, and I have a bunch of levelled-up characters to choose from who hail from a now redundant community.

The thing is, with the bigger bugs squashed, it’s so much easier to get caught up in State of Decay 2’s addictive gameplay loop (wonky car physics notwithstanding). The bugs are way less persistent, so the main problem at the moment is the repetitive nature of certain scenarios and side missions, as well as the overall difficulty (or, more specifically, the lack thereof).

Thing are already made easier playing on PC, given the ease of headshots, but the lack of enemy variety and the low numbers involved in the average zombie attack make this survival game feel closer to arcade than realistic. Once you’ve built a self-sufficient community, zombies rarely feel like a threat. Special zombies occasionally create tension spikes, but hordes are regularly too small in shamblers to ever inspire flight over fight.

In the dozen or so hours I’ve played since launch there have only been a handful of instances where I felt threatened by the regular brain-munchers, and that feels like a missed opportunity. Still, as strange as it might sound, I find a lot of comfort in State of Decay 2’s gameplay loop. The repetitiveness is frustrating on a long enough timeline, but played in few-hour bursts, State of Decay 2 has a great sense of accomplishment at the end of a session, even if you’re keenly aware that there’s always work to be done.

Of course, playing in someone else’s game world means I have to wait for our schedules to align to continue the (read: their) story. I don’t mind it, though, because the longer the time between play sessions, the more I find myself longing for another hit of mostly laid-back zombie slaying.

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