While at E3 I had a chance to sit down with Undead Labs, the developer behind the State of Decay series. During its presentation that lasted roughly 25 minutes, myself and a few other press outlets got a better idea of what to expect from State of Decay 2.
Although the second entry of the franchise has a lot of new ideas, its biggest addition is co-operative multiplayer. Up to four players can be in a lobby at any given time, though single-player is still doable if you prefer lone-wolfing. In the case of the presentation, we saw a second player join the presenter's lobby seamlessly to provide support.
This presents a huge opportunity for the franchise. When it comes down to it, survival games feel overwhelming when played alone, many times to a point of being oppressing. Teamwork and social interaction could prove incredibly powerful in the hands of State of Decay.
This functionality brings with it unique interactions. In one situation during the demo we saw the two players team up on a zombie in brutal fashion. While one player was preoccupied with getting behind the zombie to hold it in place, the other unleashed hell upon it—good luck pulling that off without a microphone.
A large portion of the demo was spent showing off the size of the world and its seemingly endless sea of zombies. At some points I got Dead Rising vibes, though what was shown was far more attractive than Dead Rising 4, both in terms of visuals and polish. State of Decay 2's world has a good sense of freedom with a healthy mixture of open environments, as well as plenty of opportunity to duke it out with hordes of zombies inside buildings.
We did get a good look at three different types of zombies: the regular kind, a big, powerful guy that appears to enjoy smashing things like the Hulk, and even one that is unable to attack, but shrieks to draw in zombies when you least expect it. These three styles of zombie did a good job of mixing things up, although I'm curious how many others will be presented at launch.
Teamwork and social interaction could prove incredibly powerful in the hands of State of Decay.
Yes, you can drive vehicles, and even mow down zombies if you wish. However, consider that this uses both fuel and damages the vehicle, perhaps irreparably. It's probably best to keep the car clean and use it for traveling long distances.
On the note of gameplay, I wasn't very impressed by what I saw. It appeared clunky despite being host on Unreal Engine 4, thought some of that might be the fault of the player using a controller rather than keyboard and mouse—his aim was all over the place.
Similar to its predecessor, death is something you want to avoid at all costs: it's permanent. On one hand, this increases the intensity of situations, which there are plenty of if you aren't careful. On the other, there is some repetition involved as dying is considered part of the experience.
Fighting this repetition will be a great sense of variety. This is first and foremost delivered by a cast of characters who you can choose one to play as for each playthrough. These characters have unique characteristics, which range from positive to negative. For example, Matt snores, reducing teammate morale by a small margin. However, he's very competent in combat, so ruling him out isn't a great idea.
Undead Labs made sure to emphasize that the demo wasn't scripted, and thus was different from the dozens of other showings they had done during E3. I asked whether or not loot locations were static, to which they responded that it's randomized.
There is an important layer of management featured in State of Decay 2 that has me conflicted. It certainly de-emphasizes action as you'll often be preoccupied with gameplay loops that include gathering materials and heading back to build structures such as the Farm. However, it does provide a unique angle on the genre that makes it stand out, and will resonate well with gamers who enjoy management games.
State of Decay 2 will be available for PC and Xbox One in Q1 2018.