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State of Decay 2 review: Shambling toward nothing

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Enlarge / Exhaustion, injuries, and low morale stack up pretty quickly within your community.

I wanted to be a “State of Decay person” since the first game came to the Xbox 360 in 2013. My friend pretty much forced the issue. I remember a straight month where all they wanted to do was whack zombies from a third-person perspective, scrounge vital materials, and maneuver the valuables through menus to keep a playable squad of survivors happy. True State of Decay fans found the hunt for food and ammo was just a vehicle for ambient stories of post-apocalyptic survival. Assuming you could stomach the game’s many vicious glitches, that is.

Very little has changed in the half-decade since that original game. In State of Decay 2, you smack undead “zeds” around to loot the supply-rich structures they guard. The gear shores up your semi-safe headquarters. And while I’m still not feeling the fantasy as much as I’d like, the bugs sure are back in full force.

State of Decay’s continued lack of polish is sort of infuriating, and not just for the obvious reasons. The game’s premise was always sound: like the best zombie fiction, it gives us a window into an egalitarian nightmare-fantasy, where debt and bureaucratic power are wiped away by a threat we can exercise six-gun justice against, largely guilt-free.

Few other games strive to be a sandbox where those stories crop up organically. With a bit more polish and a lot more direction, State of Decay could have been an undisputed classic—and not just among a devoted cult of followers. Theoretically, State of Decay 2 should be that polished follow-up. It has had five years to cook, leverages more powerful hardware, and already has its own predecessor as a sound proof of concept.

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