State of Decay 2 is a bug infested chore that will leave you starving; just like your survivors. You are always running out of something, as you attempt to survival in the post-apocalypse zombie-infested world. From food, medicine, materials, you will continuously be grinding away to keep your base running smoothly and your community with a better life than if they are out on their own. The game is a marginal improvement than the original game, but it may have needed some additional time to iron out specific gameplay systems and the numerous bugs.
Interacting with the other survivors and AI controlled followers out in the world is a clunky experience. It's a cumbersome system, as AI will not automatically carry loot when your backpack is full, and there are zero direct commands for them to perform anything useful. What you can do, is switch to that specific character, complete any of the actions you need doing, and then switch back. However, I noticed while switching to a follower, minutes after surviving a horde of zombies, the AI refused to heal themselves, even when their health was reaching critical levels, and they had healing items equipped! This type of management is needlessly frustrating.
Influence is the primary currency in State of Decay 2, as it is needed to claim outposts and new base locations. The issue stems from it being so scarce that you can screw yourself very early on if you are not careful with how it is spent. This may come as no surprise if you played the first game, but those that didn’t may struggle to balance the need of the community vs. the desire to expand. To properly grow, you need to understand that each outpost passively produces a different resource set. You’ll want to ensure you are pumping as much food and medicine out as possible before moving on to things such as radio towers that affect the effectiveness of your radio calls. Unlike other games where you obsess with improving a set character (or main), you are freely rotating between community members, especially since the game includes permadeath. You'll need to rest if you haven’t slept, which drains stamina and you'll want to send them to the infirmary if they contact the deadly blood plague. It's best to cycle between different ones between supply runs, amplifying the clunkiness of the UI to shift gear between characters.
State of Decay 2 separates all the things that you’ll need to the form of consumables and resources. Consumables are things that a single person can use, such as an energy drink to regain stamina or bandages to heal a fresh wound. Resources are items that you use to keep your base operating. While the smaller consumables use backpack space, resources are found in giant rucksacks, which you can only carry one at a time. Consumables cannot be turned into resources, but resources can be converted into consumables. This makes for an exhausting experience, as the game does a poor job of explaining each of the systems when you first start out. I found my base continually running out of medical supplies without realizing I needed to find a rucksack of meds, even though my supply locker was stocked to the brim with them.
Cars and trucks provide an additional location for storing consumables, but most importantly rucksacks. This means you can bring back as many resources as you can fit into the trunk space and your characters. However, due to the game’s poor collision system with the vehicles, you best be careful. I’ve had cars get stuck on a wooden bench, forever lost to the hordes of zombies as there was no way to free it. Even when I was able to maneuver it away from the object, to the point of being able to run laps around it, it was still “connected” to the bench. So much for a successful resource run.
As you are maintaining life in your tight-knit community, you will receive radio calls from other survivors from other enclaves that are scattered throughout each of the three maps. Answering the cries from help from your neighbors is the best way to earn influence, but most importantly it alters their perception of you. Will you become friends and work on a mutual relationship or follow down the path of armed conflict with each other? Considering almost every other zombie fiction in existence has pockets of evil humans, it's no surprise that it exists in State of Decay 2. Sometimes it's not your fault, as you are getting flooded with requests and it's just not possible to get around to all of them, especially since you need to ensure to focus on your community needs first.
As promised there is four-player online cooperative gameplay in State of Decay 2; however, it has its drawbacks. One player acts as the host, while the other players join their specific game world as a survivor. Only the host can accept quests, and the focus is always on the host player, meaning if your friend joins your game, they will be tethered to your character if they get too far away. They essentially replace the need of using AI followers; however, anything they pick up can be saved into their own supply locker. You will spawn into the host’s game with your last selected character and only have access to the gear they are carrying at that time, so prepare ahead of time. However, you can’t bring any resources gathered from rucksacks into your game. Influence is also gained and kept, as well as any character progression, but you can also permanently lose a survivor if they die. One thing to note, you are unable to pause the game even if you are playing alone unless you choose to play offline.
State of Decay 2’s promise of improving upon the existing formula with cooperative gameplay, fails to capture our attention and ultimately is a disappointment. I’ve lost countless vehicles due to improper collusion in a mostly static environment. While there is an “I'm stuck” option for players, nothing can resolve anything with your car stuck between a table and a wall. There are too many systems that don’t cohesively tie the package together. The game runs rather poorly, even on Xbox One X. The frame rate can undoubtedly dip well below 30 frames per second and is frequently under when on running on an Xbox One S. The included motion blur is way too aggressive, and even the slightest camera movement makes the visuals a blurry mess or swirling colors.
Note: State of Decay 2 was reviewed based on a digital Xbox One copy of the game.