As previously mentioned, I caved and purchased State of Decay 2 through the Windows Store. Since the announcement of the game I was waiting for it to come to Steam, because buying a PC game via any method outside of Steam is usually painful in comparison, but decided to break that general rule here because the wife and I really needed a decent co-op game to play together, and SoD2 seemed to be the best fit currently.
The shop experience was maddening because you have to get the store to ‘recognize’ your PC, which you would think would be an easy task given it’s the Microsoft Windows store and your PC runs Microsoft Windows, but nope. The linking part took me far longer than it should have, especially because the process for the first PC was different than the second, despite both running Windows 10.
“Steam is better at all of this” issues aside, lets talk about SoD2 as a co-op game, shall we?
It’s important to keep in mind that a major marketing point of SoD2 was the co-op. So much so in fact that I was a bit worried the focus would change the game too much from what SoD1 was, and, as I explained in the previous post, I don’t want my sequels being totally different games. Luckily SoD2 at its core is very much like SoD1, so bullet dodged there.
The big surprise though? The co-op is stupidly limited. One person is always the host, and everyone else you play with is a visitor. This means that the host is the person who’s game is advancing, while everyone else is just there to help move the host’s progression forward. You can’t actually have a co-op game where both players are considered core players for progression. That, alone, is INSANELY stupid.
But it gets worse in small but critical details. For instance, your main character can push aside friendly NPC characters, so things like getting stuck in doorways doesn’t happen. That’s kinda important in a zombie survival game where being able to quickly react to surprise zombies is a core gameplay loop. It’s also important because all buildings have narrow doorways and limited exits, so you very, very frequently run around/into a friendly character. In co-op, you don’t push aside/move through each other. Instead you block each other. Guess how enjoyable clearing a small house with a half-dozen doorways is? And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the game’s collision detection is rather unforgiving, so everyone has a huge hitbox and you really, really can’t squeeze by each other, or jump over/around. You almost always have to have one person fully back out of the way, and then proceed in an orderly fashion. That’s super fun when a dozen zombies are descending on you and you need to quickly escape…
Now sure, that’s something you can eventually learn to play around, even if it is annoying. Want to know what you can’t play around? The fact that visitor players can’t fully interact with your base, most specifically they can’t build or drop off supply sacks. Base building/interaction is a major focus of the game, yet if you play co-op, the host gets to do all of it, while the visitor just gets to watch. I’d love to talk with the developer who thought this was a smart system, especially one you can’t turn off. I’d then love to punch them in the face at the end of said conversation.
Another core loop of the game is recruiting additional survivors, and then playing as those characters to take advantage of their unique skills. This is also needed because characters get tired, so you are forced to switch to allow others to rest and recover at base. Guess what visitor players can’t do? Yup, you can’t switch characters. The only way (that I’m aware of anyway) for a visitor to switch to a different character is to exit the game and rejoin as someone else (and then of course whatever character they are no longer playing is gone from the game, rather than recovering and still contributing via passive skills).
Nothing says “we are having fun together as equals in this co-op game” more than having one person play the ‘full’ game, and having the second person playing 60% of said game with zero real progression. AND THIS IS A GAME THAT TOUTED CO-OP AS A CORE FEATURE!
What really sucks about all this is that the actual gameplay, collision insanity aside, is really fun together. Bashing zombies, getting loot, driving around, all more fun shared with someone else. It would be really great if the game actually encouraged you to play like that, rather than treating whoever you play with as a gimped second-class citizen.
PS: I hope I’m missing some major switch/feature to enable full co-op play, but searching around via Google has not yielded anything helpful, so don’t believe it exists.