Like a shot of adrenaline jammed into a barely-beating heart, State of Decay and its definitive Year-One Survival Edition brought new life to the zombie genre. Undead Labs’ fresh take on the walking corpse apocalypse proved there was more to surviving than simply filling flesh-craving creeps full of lead.
While it afforded fans ample opportunity to put the mutated monsters in their place, its focus on base-building, resource management, rescuing and recruiting survivors, and other RPG-flavored elements separated it from the pack. Next year’s State of Decay 2 will build on its predecessor’s strong foundation, doubling down on those dynamic simulation elements and presenting players with more problems that can’t be solved with a loaded 12-gauge.
During our behind-closed-doors demo with Undead Labs founder Jeff Strain, he stressed the sequel’s deeper dive into character systems, including the unique traits and skills that can both help and hinder your attempt to live another day. Our preview began at an old church that had already been transformed into a thriving community. Survivor Matt had welcomed newcomer Tiffany to the group, a smart move considering her valuable grounds-keeping and gardening skills.
Tiffany apparently brought some friends though, meaning the appeal of her green thumb talents were tempered by the fact the community now had more mouths to feed. Rather than gambling on a quick and dangerous supply run for grub, Matt — whose former job as an action choreographer makes him the group’s go-to hero — decided to seek out seeds that could provide more nourishment over the long haul. With Tiffany and her gardening skills as part of the group, our survivors can build a farm for sustainable food — but they need to get those seeds first.
Before hopping into his muscle car, Matt shot a flare into the air to signal for assistance. The action soon summoned a “volunteer”, a live player willing to lend a hand with the mission. Co-op, for up to 4-players, is one of State of Decay 2‘s new features, and helping friends in need will apparently yield some yet-to-be-revealed benefits. You’ll be able to tackle State of Decay 2 in a number of ways, including playing solo with AI helpers, co-op with volunteer players, and cooperatively with your friends online.
Matt and his new pal then high-tailed it to town, occasionally slowing down to introduce fleshy targets to the car’s doors. Upon finding the needed farming goods at a gardening store, the pair picked up some extra guns and ammo at a nearby police station. According to the developer driving our demo, the latter location could also be staffed with a survivor to yield a daily ammo boost. Before Matt can consider recruiting someone to man the abandoned station though, he received a call from the church—apparently the eager beavers back home had started building the farm, attracting a small undead army in the process.
Matt arrived home to find is community under attack. Screamers — which don’t bite, but attract more of their hungry friends — had called a tank-like Juggernaut to the brain buffet. Wielding an automatic shotgun, Matt was able to turn many of the threats into pulpy puddles, while his co-op partner silenced her fair share from behind a pistol and machete. The duo also joined forces for some special team moves, a new feature that could see one character restrain a monster while the other spills their rotting innards.
Despite Matt’s best efforts, his stamina — an element that must be carefully managed during combat — betrayed him, giving the Juggernaut an opening to tear him in two. The other survivors eventually thwarted the threat, but their leader’s demise offered a gory reminder that death is permanent in this world; while players can essentially pick up where they left off with a new character, a dead survivor takes all their upgraded skills and abilities with them to the grave.
Before our demo closed, Undead Labs revealed that one of Tiffany’s less favorable traits was her penchant for being driven by guilt, leaving us wondering if Matt’s untimely death could have ramifications even after he, er, bought the farm.