The zombie post-apocalypse genre is a bit over saturated at the moment. Zombies might be as popular as ever but it is hard to find anything new or interesting about killing undead yet again. Similarly, survival games like DayZ, Ark: Survival Evolved, and Rust are just as crowded. So, why am I thinking that State of Decay 2 with both zombies and survival gameplay is one of my most anticipated 2017 releases?
The first State of Decay was a strange game with a ton of potential. Beset with awkward controls and tons of bugs, the original game tried to blend RPG party management and open world survival tropes. Instead of being an army of one, you played several characters throughout the game. Some of these characters were randomly generated with different abilities and personalities. Somehow, you had to play to your characters strengths and mitigate their disadvantages as much as possible. It was a bit awkward to be left playing a hopeless, unskilled character because everyone else is either dead or injured. But this dynamic made every action and venture into the world fraught with danger. You cared about the characters, and honestly, the dopey, helpless ones would sometimes surprise.
This party system made it feel that your were really building a community within the game. It forced players to think as their character rather than a blank slate like DayZ or Rust. The game had its flaws, but it mostly felt like it was unpolished. The original State of Decay was a classic case of great concept and so-so execution.
The sequel has me really thinking about that “ton of potential” in awesome ways. A more refined, stable, and clear game could make State of Decay 2 the sleeper hit of the year. The game will undoubtedly look better with a larger world and a multitude of characters and places to explore. But the real kicker is going to be the addition of multiplayer cooperative play. The original was a single player affair, and while the AI characters each had their own personalities, nothing really beats playing with friends in a open world survival game. The hope is that playing named characters with their own traits will lend a bit more immersion than the generic characters of other survival games. Picking from a roster of survivors can make the game more dynamic as players try to find the right combination of people, traits, and abilities.
The one obvious concern is, ironically, the same feature I am looking forward to the most: multiplayer. Switching between your single player base and community to a multiplayer space can be difficult. Will State of Decay 2 seek to combine all player's worlds? Will the host's community of survivors be the default one? How do the other player's own single player worlds advance.
I have enormous hopes for State of Decay 2. With the focus on cooperation, it avoids a lot of the usual annoyances of this corner of gaming. The party system should lend itself to engaging experiences while being surprising. State of Decay 2 could be a proper blend of the dynamics of defined characters and emergent gameplay.
Lets hope it really comes out in 2017 and lives up to even a smidgen of its potential.