State of Decay 2 Preview

With Undead Labs' survival RPG State of Decay 2 gearing up for its May 22nd release, IGN continues their exclusive pre-release coverage with a meaty hands-on preview that makes the upcoming zombie-bashing sequel sound like a straight up upgrade over its predecessor - bigger, better, and with more RPG elements. But if you're not the trusting type and would like to see the game in action for yourself, there's also this bit of co-op multiplayer footage:

And here are a few paragraphs from the preview:

The sequel, which I spent two days with at Undead Labs’ Seattle development studio, admittedly may not win over anyone who, for whatever reason, didn’t like the original. It is a sequel in the traditional sense, and considering how good the first game was, that’s a good thing here. It’s bigger, prettier, and doubles down on the stuff it did well the first time around. It’s running on a new engine – hello Unreal Engine 4, goodbye CryEngine – a new console, and yes, it’s finally got four-player co-op multiplayer. The only thing it has less of, based on my time with it so far (played exclusively on high-end PCs running at 4k resolution and a steady 30fps), is wonkiness. Sure, I saw my share of the jankiness that the original game could never escape, but State of Decay 2 is already much more smooth, polished, and technically clean than its predecessor – and the team still has a couple months left to polish it. The fact that it’s priced at $29.99 should buy it a lot of goodwill from gamers, too, even if a bit more wonkiness than desired creeps into the final product.

State of Decay 2’s depth starts with the world. It’s a much bigger one this time around, set some time after the events of the original in a totally different place. I’m told that it loosely ties into the first game, narratively speaking, but you certainly won’t need to play SoD1 to understand the sequel. You need a bigger world, of course, when you have the ability to bring three friends into it to help you out in co-op multiplayer. It works in a fairly unique way we’ll tell you more about later this month, and I spent an entire afternoon trying it out. One quick tip for now: splitting up generally doesn’t end well. But if you’ve gotta go your separate ways, at least bring one friend along. Buddy System FTW!

Next are the characters themselves. They’re procedurally generated, which ensures that not only will every simulation be different, but the possibilities for community personalities are myriad. In my group, Eyman had asthma, which limited his stamina. Zina is a hero – your community members can progress from citizen to leader to hero if you work with them long enough – and thus has a bonus of +1 ammo resource per day for the group. She also has a high pain threshold, which increases her fighting ability and XP rate. “We wanted to integrate characters more fully into the simulation,” said Undead Labs studio head and State of Decay 2 executive producer Jeff Strain. “We wanted to see the effects on your community rather than just [have] RPG stats that affect their standing in the world.” And thankfully, even when your weapons break (and they will, I promise), you’ll never be completely helpless. You’ll always have a screwdriver or similar-caliber stabbing object to give you at least a fighting chance when things go from bad to worse.

Added character depth naturally means that your base building and upgrading mechanics have a lot more to them as well. You can install mods in your facilities, such as “Install Game Console” (fittingly depicted as an original Xbox) in order to boost morale. You’ll need water outposts, fuel outposts, and power outposts in order to keep your HQ running smoothly. You can temporarily have your farm churn out medicine instead of food in times of crisis. The Resources screen breaks down exactly what all of your various inputs and outputs are, resource-wise. This daunting level of detail may be music to the ears for some, but if you’re overwhelmed at the thought of this, know that everything I saw and played was from a world halfway into the meaty campaign. In other words, you’ll work up to what I saw. Said Strain, “You don't have to drill way the hell down into all this to succeed and have fun, but you can.”