A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that State of Decay 2 is a third-person survival game for Xbox One and Windows PCs that's set during a zombie apocalypse. Players use realistic weapons -- guns, knives, wrenches, improvised explosives, and more -- to combat the living dead in gory, visceral fights that typically result in sprays of blood, as well as severed limbs and crushed skulls. The goal is to build and grow a community of survivors; doing so takes teamwork and a willingness to help others, sometimes sacrificing your own safety and resources in the process. But it's eventually up to the player to decide who to help and who to let fend for themselves, and those ignored may turn hostile. Dialogue includes occasional use of words like "f--k," and players must frequently find or craft strong drugs and medicines to heal themselves and others.
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What's it about?
STATE OF DECAY 2 follows a very similar formula to its predecessor, State of Decay: It presents an open world overrun by the living dead in which pockets of survivors do whatever it takes to live another day. Players spend the bulk of their time scavenging buildings for supplies -- food, fuel, ammunition, medicine, building materials -- needed to help their community survive, while keeping tabs on radio transmissions by other survivors in need of help. You'll make friends with some enclaves, enemies with others, and slowly recruit more people to live in your own community. Each new recruit becomes a playable character whose skills and unique abilities develop as you spend time playing as that character. But you don't want to grow your community too quickly, since having more people also means you need more beds and resources. Members of your community could starve or die of infection if you don't have the proper supplies to meet their needs, and in this game, death is permanent. Even the leader of your community can die forever if you aren't careful. As the game progresses, you'll find new areas to explore, discover more survivors and enclaves in need of help, and evolve your community by claiming more outposts and earning access to a steady supply of resources.
Is it any good?
If you've ever wanted a Sims-style Walking Dead game, this ought to do the trick -- if you can deal with the stress and repetitive gameplay. There's an unavoidable time management element to State of Decay 2. As time marches unstoppably on, your community of survivors will keep using up all of the resources you track down. As resources dwindle, the survivors' morale sinks lower and lower, until they begin fighting with each other, starving, and threatening to leave. At the same time, the game also has a vibe similar to The Walking Dead, with its focus on growing a community of people who work together to provide for one another and help other survivors. The best -- and, not coincidentally, most stressful -- moments in the game are when you're racing against the clock to find resources necessary to save someone who's rapidly deteriorating from infection, knowing that they'll die if you don't work quickly and efficiently. It's in these situations that the zombie simulation feels most authentic: scary, tense, and with real, unalterable consequences hanging in the balance.
But there are other times when the action settles into what can only be described as a slog. You'll go on countless repetitive scavenging missions simply to ensure your community is well stocked. And many of the survivors you help have the same objectives, such as to be protected while looting a house or to be accompanied back to their own group or community. More variety would have gone a long way toward making the experience less monotonous. Plus, the visual presentation isn't exactly cutting edge, and technical problems -- such as getting stuck in the environment -- are common. It feels a bit rough and rushed. In the end, State of Decay 2 will likely sink or swim based on the strength and appeal of its zombie apocalypse simulation. If you want to feel the stress and experience day-to-day travails of living in a world populated by the shambling dead, there's ample fun. But if you want something with a little less repetition and a little more story, keep looking.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Do you view zombies, like the ones in State of Decay 2, as people or as monsters? Does the distinction make any difference in games in which you must slaughter them in order to survive?
There are times in everyone's life when you simply don't have the ability or resources to help everyone who needs help -- so how do you decide who to help and who to let fend for themselves?
Why do you think that zombies, like the living dead found in State of Decay 2, are so popular? Is there a reason so many entertainment properties feature them?
- Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $29.99
- Pricing structure: Paid (Note that this game is included with an Xbox Game Pass subscription.)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
- Release date: May 22, 2018
- Genre: Third-person shooter
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.