Fight against the zombie horde in a world where any of the survivors can die. Permanently. State of Decay 2 is an open world zombie survival game published by Xbox Game Studios and developed by Undead Labs. It’s a sequel to State of Decay, and it was released on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It’s not simply about fighting wave after wave of zombies because building a community of unique survivors is just as important. I’m reviewing the current build of the PC version of the game, which includes the main campaign, the stand-alone DLC story mode “Heartland,” and the online multiplayer mode “Daybreak.” State of Decay 2 isn’t perfect, but it takes the right approach to accessibility for disabled players.
State of Decay 2 is much more accessible than the previous game in the franchise, especially when it comes to support for gamers with fine-motor impairments. For starters, Windowed mode can be turned on to allow the use of third-party programs while playing. There’s also no “Cursor Lock” issue affecting the game window, meaning the on-screen keyboard can be accessed while the game is running. Keyboard bindings can be customized in the options menu, and State of Decay 2 now has an aim-assist slider to increase or decrease its effectiveness. This feature seems to combine aiming with guns and general melee combat. Although the aim assist is lacking when it comes to guns (I’ve noticed on PC it doesn’t respond well unless you are very close to the enemy), the melee combat aiming is very impressive. If the aim-assist setting is raised to the max, the character will automatically lock on to the nearest enemy, so opponents can be pummeled just by holding down the attack button. This is especially useful dealing with a fast-paced horde of zombies. Speaking of zombies, State of Decay 2 has many types of zombies including Screamers, which attract more enemies with their sound, and Juggernauts, large hulking zombies that take a lot of firepower to take down. Daily challenges often consist of building a community, farming, crafting weapons, dealing with hostile humans, zombie hordes, and finding a cure for the new blood plague. Add the fact that State of Decay 2 carries over the permadeath feature (any one of the survivors can die) that sets the series apart, and there’s quite a lot players are required to manage.
Thankfully, State of Decay 2 has a very refined difficulty system which helps alleviate the stress of relentless gameplay. There are 5 difficulty modes to choose from in the game: Green Zone, Standard Zone, Dread Zone, Nightmare Zone, and Lethal Zone. Green Zone is the easiest mode, and it raises the number of resources and lowers the threat level of zombie attacks. Even better is that the difficulty can be customized further by changing individual settings. For instance, if I prefer more difficult combat but easier community management, State of Decay 2 allows picking and choosing what works best for me. There’s also a designated accessibility tab in the options menu. It’s here players will find relevant accessibility options like “Auto Camera Tracking” and the ability to toggle or hold down button presses. If I had to take issue with just one aspect of the gameplay, it would be the vehicle controls. When driving, the controls are locked to the keyboard (W, A, S, D to be specific), so the mouse can only be used for the camera. Since I have limited mobility, I couldn’t drive with this control scheme, so this basically forced all of my supply runs to be on foot, adding extra time to my travels. Thankfully, State of Decay 2 has a great buddy system, so as long as I had at least one follower with me it’s relatively easy to traverse the map. There’s also the option to have up to 3 online friends temporarily join your community who can bring over supplies and weapons from their own separate campaigns.
For gamers with visual impairments, State of Decay 2 has a few options to choose from. The HUD can be completely turned off in the options menu, which also includes showing the mini-map, tutorials, and quest notifications. Colorblind players should take note that the base status indicator has a color-distinguishing bar which turns from green to red depending on the severity. The direction of the bar can also be a visual aide because the bar fills up towards the right as things progress. Unfortunately, State of Decay 2 also has a contrast problem overall. Though there is a brightness slider in the options menu, even when turned up all the way the game is very dark. During the day this isn’t much of a problem, but traveling at night is very tricky as a result.
State of Decay 2 is very accessible for deaf players. The game is fully subtitled with large white text and a clear font. Most dialogue has a nice dark background for added visibility (some of the early cinematic cutscenes don’t have the dark background, but these are rare moments). Subtitles are fairly consistent, though I should mention they can be cut off or interrupted by changing game menus. There’s an automatic white glow surrounding items that can be interacted with and icons that tell what action to perform. Visual cues offer helpful alternatives to audio-based notifiers. For example, a ripple effect is shown on the mini-map when a character makes too much noise in a building. Some zombies make special sounds that help in identifying them, but there’s also a unique icon for each that show up on the map when they make noise.
I very easily sank dozens of hours into playing State of Decay 2. Fortifying my base to protect against zombies is really fun, and I will openly admit to getting attached to all of the survivors in my community. The developers made the game very accessible to gamers with fine-motor impairments. Customizable controls help with limited mobility, and there’s also aim assist available for combat support. Visually the game could use some improvements, but deaf players have great alternatives for audio cues. State of Decay 2 is a very accessible game and a welcome addition to the zombie genre.