Let’s face it, while Sea of Thieves is a fine game that will likely have a dedicated fan base as it grows over time, it’s fundamentally flawed. There’s a great foundation there and, potentially, it has a very bright future, but it needs a lot of work to ever reach the status of tentpole exclusive franchise that Microsoft desperately needs for the Xbox One. This feels especially true in the present with a trailer for Spider-Man releasing the other day, Spyro remastered being announced today, and God of War releasing in a few weeks. And that’s just news for the first week of April.
Ultimately, the controversy over Sea of Thieves’ perceived lack of content and underwhelming endgame has meant it now falls on State of Decay 2 to build a bit of hype and excitement as we approach E3. Microsoft has teased this year’s conference will be its biggest yet, and while that may the case, ending the first half of the year on a high is a boost it probably now needs more than ever. Thankfully, in my hands-on experience at PAX East 2018, I can confirm State of Decay 2 looks ready to take center stage.
State of Decay 2 will feel familiar to fans of the original on Xbox 360. You’re still tasked with playing the role of one of the various survivors in a community that you build from the ground up. In the demo, took on hordes of zombies with all manner of amusing apparatus; mowing them down with my car, incinerating them with Molotov cocktails, and shooting them up with assault rifles. The combat is satisfying, but it can be tricky. Sure, there are plenty of mindless of zombies to just smack around with your bat, but there are plenty of deadlier, smarter, and faster ones reminiscent of the Olympic runner zombies from 28 Days Later. Resources (which include humans in your crew) are limited, death is permanent, and acting recklessly quickly draws bigger hordes towards you. Therefore, supply runs, exploration, and hunting exhibitions require a careful, strategic approach.
The sequel’s big draw is the addition of cooperative play. You’ll now be able to invite friends to your session where they can play as a survivor from their game to help (or hinder) your efforts, and in return, they’ll earn various perks and rewards for their own experience. The lack of multiplayer was a strange omission from the original, but it should fit State of Decay 2 like a glove. Those worried about random uninvited players wrecking the experience needn’t worry; I’ve been assured that the privacy settings have been designed in a way that prevents such an occurrence.
Like in the first game, effective management of your resources (human and otherwise), will allow you to build up your community to provide more advanced services like comfier sleeping quarters and infirmaries. I’m not even a huge fan of the genre personally, but I can certainly see the appeal of the gameplay loop that State of Decay 2 is setting up. Our session wasn’t long enough to assess the depth of all of it, but the foundation seems sound.
State of Decay 2 has both its brand name and the popularity of its genre to see it enjoy success, both amongst gamers and streamers – an important consideration in today’s gaming ecosystem. Survival and resource management-heavy titles are in vogue right now, and the State of Decay franchise was and is ahead of the curve in that respect. State of Decay 2 probably isn’t going to be an equal replacement for something of the magnitude of, say, Insomniac’s Spider-Man, but it’s shaping up to be a solid exclusive that will be sorely missed by those without an Xbox One. And importantly, even from my quick gameplay experience, I’m confident there’s enough depth to its content to see it avoid the same launch woes that have plagued Sea of Thieves.