State of Decay 2, developed by Undead Labs with Microsoft coming in to publish number 2 in this open world zombie apocalypse survival game, had promised to bring more of the same from 1 but with extras. From the start, choosing to play through the tutorial or not will give different results. If you choose to follow the tutorial you will be offered 4 set pairs of survivors to choose from and start from an abandoned army refugee camp. At this camp you pick up a soldier that had chosen to stay behind with a doctor working on a way to reverse the plague. If you decide you know enough about the game to skip the tutorial, then you are able to choose from a number of survivors, up to a total of 3 to get your group going.
On the perspective of starting with the tutorial, you have the advantage of ending up with 4 survivors at the end. With the time I have spent so far within that start line I am finding out early on that supply procurement and storage quickly becomes a thing. Therefore, starting out with 4 survivors may not be ideal for everyone. Starting with a full group does make it easier to build structures within your base, or give 1 extra person to use if all the others have an issue that makes them unavailable, like fatigue or injuries. Depending on what items you have available for looting around you it becomes a grind for loot searching fast, and then add on top of that the maintenance of keeping the entire groups morale high enough that no one leaves, commits suicide or starts a fight.
Once into the meat of the game the infestations from the first installment of this series expands to plague hearts, which is linked to the new aggressive creature encounter all over. The plague zombies are recognisable by their red colour and glowing red eyes with pulsating red “lumps” on their torso. The only time I have successfully destroyed a plague heart, without using a lot of explosives and ammunition, was when I had 2 other players in the session. They took on the waves of plague zombies, while I hacked away at the heart itself. With this in mind, I would say Undead Labs is trying to encourage multiplayer interactions, such as taking on plague hearts, since taking them on solo is a chore to say the least.
The structures that are buildable within the confines of your base has had a relook. As of now you have the ability to have small and large build areas, as well as related “stations” to build in those places. Add to the fact you now have mods to increase the efficiency of the station or base, so now electricity and water become a thing. This gets more interesting as the menu to interact with the station is more easily used, and upgrading can move into specialisations if your group has the skills and knowledge to perform the upgrade.
With all the content available in the game the question could be asked, is there room for any fun with the amount of risk involved? Taking a trip outside of the confines of the base and the somewhat difficulty in taking down some of the objectives, I would suggest that there is room for fun for the solo player if they enjoy a constant grind that seems to be cropping up in a number of titles. Grinding is made easier with friends, or just other players with the option to request random players to give assistance, or to join someone in need of assistance.
The multiplayer is not without fault. One of the players I had with me for a short time was my eldest son, so I had instant feedback from him on console. When we were travelling in a vehicle he suffered from some severe lag, which was quickly apparent on my end with his player icon bouncing all around the vehicle and the player model warping around outside the vehicle. Once stopped and out of the vehicle there was no apparent lag.
When it comes to the vehicles there has been a massive improvement. Now they have the ability to be repaired, even out travelling the map. That alone makes me happy, but then they stepped it up a notch and threw in the ability to modify the vehicle with special upgrade packs. The upgrades are relevant respectively to the vehicle size and type, from light, to medium, and then heavy, which then changes the vehicle skins and look to be more apocalyptic. As with the rest of the supplies, fuel is used fast so make sure to keep an eye on that stock pile of fuel. You will lose some to random events, which get announced over the radio.
Now if you decided the extra change in your pocket was worth throwing at the ultimate edition you will be in a better spot than those with the base game. One of the add-on packs grants you the ability to call in some extra supplies over the radio, which, for obvious reason, can only be called in once per community (save game). Some packs and features of the ultimate edition are showing to not be available yet, but promise to add to a game that, bugs or not, has the ability to grab you in and make you want to survive with all group members intact and breathing. This is a good time to mention that the old escape method of saving a survivor from certain death in SoD 1 still works, which is just exiting the save before the character actually dies, and then you load back in with a lack of zombies around you.
State of Decay 2 is more than a “copy and pasted” version with some bling attached. There are elements that do need work for sure, but for someone that enjoys a zombie survival game with a different kind of resource grind compared to most, then come give it a chance. The risk of losing survivors, rather than respawning, is still there from State of Decay 1, and enhances the feeling of attachment to the survivors to the point you will not want to lose a single member of the group you have fought to keep together. I hope things only get better, either with more updates and DLC, or moving forward with number 3!