In our original review of State of Decay 2 we said “SOD2 is in serious need of post-launch love and a multitude of patches.” Well after almost two years of patches, DLC packs and expansions, Undead Labs was ready to launch the Juggernaut Edition – a package of the game filled with every post-launch addition to State of Decay 2 since its release, plus even more content. But is it enough to redeem the game’s rocky launch?
For as much as I loved the first State of Decay, something felt lacking for me in the sequel. Despite three new maps, SOD2 had removed much of the narrative content that added so much personality and atmosphere to the experience. The same is still true in this new addition, at least in terms of the game’s campaign, with limited interesting storytelling and character anecdotes throughout.
Juggernaut Edition comes with a brand new fourth playable map for the campaign. Providence Ridge is easily the most visually unique map in the game. While SOD2’s launch maps were all a variation of the original’s summery Trumbull Valley, Providence is almost the opposite. Foggy and blue, Providence Ridge is aesthetically on the other end of the game’s other maps.
Despite Providence Ridge’s aesthetic differences, it doesn’t offer anything that the other maps don’t. The bases here are pretty bland outside of a fire station with a truck going through the gates, and you’ll start to notice a lot of copy and pasted buildings present in the areas as well. The first SOD took the time to build notable landmarks and environments with their own distinct feel and SOD2 loses that personality by stretching resources across four maps with little variety.
Juggernaut Edition also packs in SOD2’s two expansion packs as well. Heartland takes us back to Trumbull Valley, for a story-focused adventure. It’s nice to see the original’s map with a shiny coat of paint on top and Heartland also scratches some of the narrative itches left behind by the campaign. It doesn’t give us the same great character interactions as the first game but it still fleshes out the SOD world enough.
Daybreak is State of Decay 2’s second expansion pack and is definitely the most addictive, tense and corporative mode in State of Decay 2. It essentially works like Horde Mode from the Gears series, with waves of zombies attacking your stronghold. In breaks between waves you can reinforce walls, heal your team or run into the darkness for supplies to prepare for the next gruelling pile of brain eaters.
It’s very easy to be overwhelmed in Daybreak. Not only are there a seemingly never-ending amount of regular zeds, but Freaks constantly show up to throw a wrench in your strategy. You might have a decent plan to keep hordes away from tearing your walls down, but Bloaters can stop you from accessing areas and Ferals have the ability to just climb over your fortifications, adding a level of unpredictability and spontaneity to matches. You do get points whether you win or die that’ll unlock weapons for future run throughs, but there’s a missed opportunity here to connect it with the campaign by potentially giving your enclave rewards too. You can play Daybreak online or by yourself, however SOD2’s borderline terrible friendly AI makes this less than ideal. Regardless, Daybreak is probably the quickest way to have fun in SOD2 with sweat-inducing rounds that show just how much potential there is in State of Decay’s sandbox.
SOD2’s launch was infected with a multitude of bugs, frame rate drops and other technical problems. Thankfully, after hours of playing, I didn’t experience one instance of any of this, even on a launch Xbox One. State of Decay 2 runs miles better than it did back in 2018. Along with improvements to bugs, SOD2 has also been given a little bit of a graphical enhancement, with a new lighting system and better textures. It doesn’t turn the game into a gorgeous, triple-A production, but it’s another improvement that shows the team over at Undead Labs cares.
Juggernaut Edition is packed full of other smaller improvements to the base game too. Zombie spawning has been improved, so if you’ve cleared out an area you won’t have zeds infinitely spawning to pester you. New weapons including the stealthy crossbow are here alongside many others. There’s also the welcome option to find clothes, so you can dress up and customise your survivor’s outfits. None of these additions are game-changing by themselves, but alongside everything else included in this package it makes Juggernaut Edition feel like a much more complete and feature-rich experience.
State of Decay 2’s gameplay loop of scavenging for provisions, improving your base and handling an enclave of survivors is unchanged from the base game so I won’t spend too much time talking about it. However, there’s a reason it’s remained the same since 2013: it is so satisfying. If you’ve never played a State of Decay game it’s well worth experiencing, however if this isn’t your first time with the franchise, going back in for the third time (or more) can make the experience quite grindy and repetitive.
State of Decay’s formula has so much potential to be special in the future. Its zombie survival and RPG mechanics are uniquely applied to an open world but there’s too much repetition and bland environments in State of Decay 2 to make it the zombie apocalypse of our dreams. More narrative missions to add gameplay variety and focused map design can go a long way in State of Decay’s future, but for now the Juggernaut Edition on Xbox One is a welcome improvement to the 2018 game.