I know I just wrote an article last week on what I’ve been playing this month and State of Decay 2 wasn’t on it, but over the last couple of days I decided to finally jump into the game. I’ve never played the State of Decay games, but I’ve always been a bit curious about them. The recently released “Juggernaut Edition” update seemed like as good a reason as any to give in and check things out and it’s free with my Xbox Game Pass subscription on PC, so why not?
In short, I don’t think the new update is the sort of transformative upgrade the game needs, but I am mostly enjoying what I’ve played so far. It’s clear the sorts of things I want from this game aren’t likely to come in SOD2, but with the next game in the series, which was confirmed to be happening all the way back in June 2018. Now that I’ve played SOD2, this is some of what I’d like to see in the next game.
Anyone who’s taken a cursory glance at State of Decay 2 will almost instantly see the potential for a fun multiplayer experience inherent to its design. These games look tailor made for co-op and yet the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. When playing with friends you are simply there to help the host. You can’t progress alongside them, you can’t build, and worst of all client-based hosting structure leads to some serious lag and disconnect issues. Sure, you can earn Influence and loot for your own game, but that’s about it.
State of Decay 3 needs to be designed from the ground up as an online experience where players can progress together and there needs to be a competent network infrastructure supporting group play.
I was genuinely surprised when I went to create my campaign in SOD2 and found out I couldn’t customize my pair of survivors. Undead Labs added the ability to find and equip cosmetic items in an update released last year, which sounds insane to me since the game was released in May 2018. But there’s no way to customize your characters at creation. Your starting survivors have mostly fixed traits and fixed appearances and backstories.
State of Decay 3 should have full character customization both in terms of physical appearance and a selection of clothing items, but also in terms of skills and traits. I loved creating my character in Project Zomboid, for example, where I could select from a number of benefits and penalties using a pool of points. Positive traits subtract points from the pool while negative ones add to it. This allows some flexibility in creating a character without being overpowered.
After a couple hours playing SOD2, the appeal begins to wane some as it becomes clear the gameplay loop is a bit shallow and repetitive. The game tries to break up the monotony by mixing in seemingly random events you can take on while you’re going about your business, but it never feels like it matters a whole lot. It also doesn’t take a whole lot of investment to start feeling like you’ve become self-sufficient, which is a weird place to be in a zombie survival game, though not necessarily a unique issue to SOD2.
Base building is similarly disappointing. Unlike the rest of the game, there isn’t a whole lot of freedom in how you can customize your base and the slot limitations tend to railroad you into certain buildings while making others pointless since you don’t want to waste your slots on them. There’s some cool ideas here to be sure, but they’re kind of choked out by the restrictions put in place.
I’d love to see weather effects added in that interact with the game’s various systems to enhance the survival and management of your community. Fog and rain affecting morale, maybe natural disasters, that sort of thing.
It feels like there are a lot of great ideas in SOD2 that are only explored at a sort of surface level. If Undead Labs is willing to meaningfully expand on what’s already on offer here, they could have a compelling zombie survival hit on their hands.
What would you like to see in State of Decay 3? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!