I may have slightly missed the point of State of Decay 2, the upcoming sequel to 2013's breakout zombie apocalypse survival sim.
I was tasked with building a community for my zombie apocalypse survivors. This is I did... sort of. But actually, I spent most of my time doing donuts through hordes of zombies. It was like Carmaggedon (remember that game?) meets The Walking Dead. You can see some of that in the video below, which features 30 minutes of new gameplay.
As with the original, the goal of State of Decay 2 is to recruit followers and build a sustainable base of operations amid the zombie apocalypse. You collect resources by raiding zombie-infested areas with a partner, which can in turn be turned into new buildings and other crucial additions. As you progress, your base will get bigger, your partners will earn new skills, and you will master larger and larger portions of the wasteland.
Cars are a crucial part of exploring the landscape. They are your private mobile fortress as you navigate the wasteland outside of your community, plowing through zombies and causing them to burst into little giblets of zombie meat. The driving is simple in the extreme—even more arcadey than Grand Theft Auto—making it easy to spin your way through the army of the dead, leaving behind bloody tire tracks as you go.
Of course, it can all go wrong in an instant. Cars can run out of gas or become damaged beyond repair, leaving you stranded with your partner out in the wilderness (your human partner—State of Decay 2 has online co-op now). The zombies can fight back, too. Try to run over one of State of Decay 2's newest enemies, a massive monster that will literally tear your party members apart, and you will bounce off. It's at that point that discretion becomes the better part of valor.
"We were looking for as many angles as we could to get more interesting survival mechanics in there," design director Richard Fogey says, "and one of the best moments that I personally have had is when I started driving away thinking 'Thanks god,' and then the gas meter emptied. The 'out of gas moment' is fantastic in State of Decay 2."
Most, ultimately, will try and use vehicles as a practical means from getting one place to another in a hurry. Me, though, I like joyriding even more than I like building up my community. It reminds me a bit of PUBG—another game that captured my attention with its vehicles. There's something about driving through a post-apocalyptic wasteland that really drives home the absolute desolation of the world around you. Maybe I've seen too much Mad Max.
Anyway, the rest of State of Decay 2 is enjoyable as well, leaning heavily as it does on what was established in the first game. The overarching goal of the sequel appears to be "more of the same, but a lot bigger." There are multiple maps to explore now, new enemies, and of course, the aforementioned co-op. The engine has also been overhauled amid the transition from the CryEngine to the current iteration of the Unreal Engine.
The original State of Decay was an unexpected hit, attracting a lasting community of fans fascinated by the idea of not just surviving the apocalypse, but building something new out of it. It resonated because you couldn't help but bond with your settlers, who would inevitably die horribly on a mission gone wrong. It deftly mixed resource management, action, and a real sense of danger.
Microsoft and Undead Labs will no doubt be hoping that State of Decay 2 is able to mimic the massive success of Sea of Thieves, which managed to catch on in part thanks to Microsoft's Game Pass program. Between that and its low price—just $30 to start—Microsoft is clearly hoping to build a long-lasting platform.
If the success of the first game is anything to go by, there should be plenty of people hungry for its brand of zombie survival. But I'm betting a lot of players will also just have fun cruising the wilderness with their friends and squishing zombies. I know I will.