State of Decay 2, the latest from developer Undead Labs, is all about building community and keeping those invested in your faction alive for as long as possible. The world in which you reside is vast and filled with tons of grotesque enemies, be it dwellers that walk or crawl towards you, or those who explode once you’ve come within proximity. Scavenging for much needed items is a typical past-time in State of Decay 2, and failing to provide for others will make you feel absolutely terrible.

There isn’t exactly a story in State of Decay 2, other than you and a group of individuals must fend for yourselves against a mass zombie outbreak who are referred to as “Zeds.” Though there isn’t a direct storyline involved, character backgrounds present a slight narrative to you that can be interesting at times, and it also gives you a good idea of the personalities to those you manage to save.

Building a community and keeping others alive is incredibly important in State of Decay 2. You find new faction members across the vast open world, and in many cases you must save their lives or complete an errand on their behalf before they join your group. Other objectives include rescuing a particular character who radios you for help as they’re trying to survive against a small wave of flesh-eating zombies. Some of these instances, however, aren’t so easy-going, especially when you can’t make it to them on time, or you barely escape with your own life, and they end up becoming pure zombie-chow.

I ran as fast as I could, but several bones were broken during my attempted escape”

When a member of your community is torn apart by the walking-dead, whether you’re playing as them or they’re fighting at your side, you really feel terrible. It wasn’t until I was 7-8 hours deep into State of Decay 2 that one of my comrades died. You see, after a while, you begin to think you’re Billy Badass, truly believing you’re invincible to the entire world and all its inhabitants. But my huge ego got me killed as I was blindsided by two zombies, which later became an entire pack of enemies. I ran as fast as I could, but several bones were broken during my attempted escape, not to mention my stamina bar was really low. Sadly, within a matter of seconds, I was tackled to the ground and died on the spot. All of my gear and loot, the items which I strived so hard to find and carry, was now lost until another member could recover them.

Preserving group members to the best of your ability against zombie hordes isn’t the only thing to do in State of Decay 2. For example, keeping a happy household is another task to accomplish, and it includes foraging for food, collecting medical bags, and ammo supplies. Being in possession of these items is a must, and lacking said material often leaves your group in despair. If your community is in terrible shape, and you happen to be low on something, or all materials for that matter, arguing amongst your faction will occur and you’ll need to fix the problems quickly before things get worse. Thankfully, destroying things like plague hearts will boost community morale and all will be fine… for now.

This portion of State of Decay 2 was very interesting. It proved that there was simply more than roaming the zombie infested streets and collecting random pieces of inventory, but it did, however, feel like a chore from time to time. For instance, traveling across the open world is encouraged, but my expedition felt limited in time due to my homes poor standing in multiple regards. Instead of being able to explore without a care, I had to stop what I was doing to make the group of NPCs happy, which occasionally broke the immersion. It’s like finally being able to put a crying child to sleep. You rock them and tuck them into bed, and just when you fire-up your console for some late night gaming, the baby cries yet again and you must now stop what you’re doing to tend to someone else. Stopping what you’re doing is ultimately for a good cause, but some “me time” would be nice as well.

The world of State of Decay 2 is quite large, and there’s plenty of things to do when you have the time. Places like empty gas stations and houses are at your disposal, leaving you with the ability to browse through boxes and file cabinets for items like ammo and food. That is, however, unless a group of zombies or human rivals reside from within. But it’s with this aspect of the game that makes you truly preserve, for as long as possible, things like bullets and other means of firepower – similar to that of The Last of Us, in that ammo is made available to you, but in very low capacity, making every single bullet and shot important.

Juggernauts, which are big fat zombies, can destroy you without any real effort.”

Although the world is vast in size, the collection of zombies in State of Decay 2 is slightly average. You have walkers that drift about like lost children, and there are some that possess half a body and crawl on the floor towards you. Explosive Zeds exist and do a large amount of damage to you and anything nearby, while some even fall from the sky – which is likely an in-game bug. Screeching Zeds called Screamers also pose a big problem to you and your group, as they should be avoided at all cost, because these zombies attract nearby walkers. Let’s not forget about Juggernauts, which are big fat zombies, can destroy you without any real effort. These, in contrast, require a ton of effort to kill, and I found it much easier to avoid them, if possible.

There’s much to see, do, and collect in State of Decay 2. Although there isn’t an award winning narrative to keep the player well invested, things like developing a community and keeping your faction alive fills the empty gap well. Maintaining a full house and keeping everyone happy can be a chore at times, especially when you’re more interested and focused on your personal agenda for the day. But slaughtering the large number of drifting and lifeless Zeds that pose of threat to you and others makes it all worthwhile.

State of Decay 2 was reviewed on Xbox One using review copy provided by Microsoft