State of Decay 2 Review

If State of Decay 2’s zombies don’t stop you, the bugs will

State of Decay 2 is a unique take on zombie survival plagued by bugs and tedium.
State of Decay 2 is a unique take on zombie survival plagued by bugs and tedium.
State of Decay 2 is a unique take on zombie survival plagued by bugs and tedium.


  • Genuinely frightening at times
  • Relative calm of success is a haunting message


  • Lots of bugs
  • Poor pacing, particularly near the end game
  • Awful controls for exploration and traversal

DT Editors' Rating

State of Decay was something of a sneaker hit back in 2013. It was among the first of the open-world zombie survival games that, in time, would evolve into the massively popular “Battle Royale” pseudo-genre we know today.

With State of Decay 2, though, developer Undead Labs and its publishing partner, Microsoft, are looking to twist the formula. Mixing in cooperative play changes the chemistry quite a bit. The goal is to survive against the apocalypse – together.

That means a renewed emphasis on building a base that can supply and care for the people you gather. It’s a war you can win, eventually. One bite doesn’t doom you, and with enough resources you can even treat and cure those in your care. It’s a surprisingly optimistic take on the setting, but the spark of hope doesn’t last. A buffet of bugs and awkward design choices thwart the game’s best ideas.

Zombie survival takes a village

State of Decay 2 opens by letting you choose not one character, but a pair. Each has distinct skills, as well as a background that explains their traits. Some are better at cardio, others come with medical knowledge. Whomever you select, though, they’ll become your starting protagonist. Or, rather, protagonists. You don’t play as a person, but instead as all the survivors, leaping between them. You’re an invisible hand, guiding their actions, and hoping that you can pull them together to make it.

That comes with its own distinct tension. While you lose the power of a single narrative thread, you gain the story of the community. If one of your members dies, you feel that sacrifice — not just in the absence of their voice around your camp, but in the loss of their skills. The camp, your camp, pushes on regardless. There’s nothing else to do in the wastes. Death is a real and permanent threat, but not an insurmountable one.

The struggle for supplies binds the community-oriented gameplay together. There’s a constant need for more food and resources. After the opener, play settles into a gentle oscillation between outings and base management. It’s these parts that work the best. Gathering, while not terribly engaging on its own, forces you to make choices about the risks you’d like to take on, weighing those against what you desperately need.

Hungry mouths, festering wounds

And there’s always a need.

Food dwindles. Survivors get bitten and need medicine to be cured. Basic construction materials, too, find a use in patching and building up your safe house. And the progression from bombed-out dwelling to semi-permanent base that can hold its own is a powerful one, capturing the mundane audacity of living armageddon day-to-day.

From the moment you step foot into State of Decay 2 you’ll have to grapple with the game’s buggy, broken world.

In the early stages of a new expedition, for instance, you’ll need to find a high place to survey the area. While that might sound a bit like Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry, the distinction here is in the selection of targets. Scanning the area manually will help you pick out your destination. You may spy a cluster of houses to one side, or a supermarket to another. The former will have tight spaces and bottlenecks, great for avoiding a zombie swarm, but will also be light on supplies. Sorting out which might be a better target and when, is half the fun. There’s also a tradeoff between risk and reward.

Where this formula starts hitting snags, though, is in its execution. From the moment you step down from whatever tower you were using to get the lay of the land, you’ll have to grapple with State of Decay 2’s buggy, broken world. Simply traversing the area can be a pain. Jumps are criminally short, allowing you to scale tiny rocks, and occasionally a fence.  lipping and falling down hills into inescapable nooks is common. So much so, that you’re given a special ability that allows you to get yourself unstuck. But that’s on two-minute cool down timer, and there are plenty of times you’ll need it more often than that.

Once the fighting starts, you’ll go through the standard zombie-killing bits. Shoot the walkers, stomp the crawlers, clear things out room by room. You’ve likely done this thousands of times in countless other games. Luckily, the combat in State of Decay 2 isn’t constant, so the lack of excitement rarely becomes annoying.

Decapitating zombies isn’t the point, anyway. You risk life and limb to scavenge new materials from abandoned lockboxes or refrigerators. When looting – and you’ll loot a lot — you have the option to move slowly so you don’t attract the attention of baddies nearby, or you can rifle through in an instant, but make more noise. It often seemed the quick-and-easy option caused new zombies to spawn in the game world, just so they could rush in and punish the expediency. While that makes sense in theory, in practice it can be woefully tedious.

Clawing out a living

Still, State of Decay 2 has moments of greatness. It’s not frightening because of jump scares, but how it reminds you of the fragility of life.

It is almost beautiful in its simplicity, in its repetition, but it’s impossible to look past its flaws.

When it launched, one of the most consistent praises for State of Decay was in its mundanity. The idea that the people you gathered together at your base could be trained up in cardio or marksmanship to make them more effective scavengers. That’s still true, and it’s easy to settle into the pattern of play the game was clearly designed around — survey, explore, gather, rebuild, repeat. That circuit is almost beautiful in its simplicity, in its repetition, as it can convey the lesson that success isn’t a point you cross, but a state you maintain.

Cooperative multiplayer should (and may one day still) be the game’s saving grace, as the camaraderie of real humans in this setting is a tough experience to top — but then we come back to the bugs. Disconnections, lost data, wiped saves, and other game-breaking issues are just that. And when two or more systems link up, the odds than one of you will get stuck multiplies.

That puts State of Decay 2 in the odd position of receiving a strong recommendation for those with an abundance of patience, but a pass for all others. At least until the basics are tightened and patched.

Our Take

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, and no. You can find many cooperative games with roughly similar themes, like Don’t Starve Together, or smash hits Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Even Valve’s classic Left 4 Dead 2 is in the same ballpark. However, State of Decay 2 scratches the itch for no-nonsense survival in a zombie apocalypse.

How long will it last?

Technically, the game could be played in perpetuity, particularly in multiplayer. We found the adventure wearing thin after a little over 20 hours.

Should you buy it?

No. State of Decay 2 holds promise, but its many bugs and thin gameplay fail to deliver on the game’s premise. You could sink hundreds of hours surviving in this game’s apocalyptic world, but a lack of variety in anything aside from bugs will leave you bored long before that.


From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

How to sync and troubleshoot your PS4's DualShock 4 controllers

Sony's Bluetooth-enabled DualShock 4 controllers for PlayStation 4 are some of the best on the market, but connection issues aren't unheard of. Here's how to sync them to your console.

The Division 2 is another loot shooter with a dull story. Does it matter?

The Division 2 has a story to tell. It's not a good story. It's not told very well. But by-golly, The Division 2 is going to make you sit your ass down and listen whether you want to or not.
Product Review

The Division 2 brings the most fun we've ever had to Washington, D.C.

After 55 hours with The Division 2, it’s clear that Ubisoft has improved on the original in almost every way. The world is richly detailed, the story missions are wonderful, gunplay and enemy design are great, and the endgame content is…

A new hope is lost as Disney dismisses rumors of a revival of Lucasfilm Games

According to job listings on the Disney website, the company has plans to revive Lucasfilm Games. This comes as a surprise following the shuttering of LucasArts in 2013 and could potentially mean more Star Wars games.

Last gen had some hits! Take a look at the best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.

Oculus shows off the Rift S, plans to phase out its original VR headset

Oculus plans to phase out its flagship Rift VR headset for its newly created Rift S. The Rift S made its debut this week at the 2019 Game Developers Conference and is expected to be released in spring 2019.

Hook up your Nintendo Switch with these deals on accessories right now on Amazon

The Nintendo Switch is a portable system with tons of accessories. The problem is, hooking it up doesn't come cheap. Every week, we look for the best deals on Nintendo Switch accessories on Amazon so you don't have to.

Epic Games is offering $100 million to game developers with no catch

Epic Games launched a new grant program called Epic MegaGrants. The program will dish out $100 million in funds to developers working in the 3D graphics community, even if they don't use Unreal Engine.

The best PUBG weapons to win you that coveted chicken dinner

Which weapons in PUBG are worth the time to scout out and fit with attachments? Which are going to help you become the last player standing? We've got the answers you need in our best PUBG weapons guide.

Here's what we know about the Dark Souls developer's next game

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest game from Dark Souls and Bloodborne developer From Software. Here is everything we know about the new game, including its setting and combat changes.