State of Decay 2’s Daybreak DLC has launched and it’s a step away from the grassroots survival elements of the base game.
Playing through any zombie game you’ll often find yourself wondering what the government or the military are up to while people are huddled around campfires, listening out for an oncoming horde.
It’s a shame then that this look at the paramilitary armed forces of the zombie wasteland has stripped away so many of the things I loved about the base game, and replaced it with repetition.
State of Decay 2 Daybreak DLC Review
Throughout my time with Daybreak, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this isn’t what State of Decay 2 fans want. What sets State of Decay apart from Dying Light, Dead Island, Dead Rising, the Zombie Army Trilogy and the multitude of other zombie shooters on the market is the community aspect.
State of Decay 2 gives you a tiny community of survivors and asks you to help them survive. It’s a town management simulator, a light RPG and a survival game wrapped up in the zombie apocalypse.
Daybreak casts you as a member of Talon; an elite group of soldiers out to do something in the zombie-riddled world. The backstory here isn’t really explained, just that you need to defend the Talon engineer from hordes of undead until seven waves have passed.
This means lots of guns, lots of shooting and lots of the same enemies thrown at you time and time again. You’ll defend parts of the wall and rebuild sections when they’re broken, every wave will also have one or two special infected that will smash down the wall or climb straight over as well.
However, I feel like Daybreak takes one of the weakest elements of the main game, and devotes all the attention to it, which just puts the flaws under the spotlight.
It’s not a Shooter
Players didn’t flock to State of Decay for the gunplay, for that there are handfuls of other games that tackle the zombie apocalypse, makeshift weapons and survival elements more competently than State of Decay did or does.
What makes State of Decay shine are the community challenges that the game throws at you and the challenge of keeping a ragtag group alive through zombie hordes and internal struggles alike. Not gearing up and shooting zombies like some post-apocalyptic Rambo.
In the main game, you spend more time avoiding using your heavier weapons than shooting zeds. So it is somewhat cathartic change to be in a situation where you can haphazardly fire at will. It shows just how much effort went into designing the physics and animations of the zombies in the base game.
I’ll admit that it is hugely impressive to see a zombie have its arm blown off and then watch it stand up and keep coming at you. Firing a shotgun especially points out just how destructible the character models are.
If you take a second when there are one or two zombies left to just play around and shoot different parts of the model, you’ll be very impressed at how realistically they fall apart and keep coming at you.
From my playthroughs, it’s clear that State of Decay 2 Daybreak is best played with friends. Like any other Horde-style mode, you can slog through it alone, but you’ll probably get worn down by the monotony pretty quickly.
The plus side of this multiplayer-centric idea is that the map is just slightly too big for you to manage on your own. Each of the openings that zombies will attack are spread out in such a way that each member of your team will have to look after two or three choke points at any one time.
You’ll also have to spread out between waves and find a number of drops throughout the world that give you the resources to rebuild your walls and access to some more powerful gear.
Of course, if you can wrangle two friends up, you can always use two AI buddies in their place.
Unfortunately, the AI are idiots.
The same was true in State of Decay 2 and the original State of Decay. But playing a horde mode style match with two AI partners really highlights their shortcomings. They’re mostly fine as walking turrets that stand near spaces in the barricades and fire into the horde.
But between waves when you need to venture out into the map beyond the walls and collect CLEO drops, or rebuild barricades, or collect more ammunition, then you’ll see just how useless the AI companions can be. When there’s one minute until the next wave, five things to do and they’re just standing around waiting for the zombie, you’ll wish you brought a friend with you.
Sure there are some pretty challenging waves thrown into the mix, as well as a new breed of zombie; the Blood Plague Brute to be specific. These challenges don’t really overcome the repetition of surviving wave after wave of grunts with the occasional special enemy thrown in.
The big differences come in the form of new weapons from the mysterious (mostly unexplained) Talon paramilitary group, but these just seem like more powerful versions of weapons you already have access to.
Frankly, I would have loved to see more of a focus on the defensive elements of this mode. State of Decay 2 had us raiding buildings and shopping malls for supplies and really building our home base. So why is it that Daybreak gives us a tiny map, a small park to collect drops and no real enterable structures?
This could have been so much more, if we had longer time between waves to venture out into a larger map (even one of the smaller towns from the main game), and collect supplies to build makeshift barricades, sandbags, towers, turrets, or even ramshackle huts this could have been a much more engaging experience.
If, between waves, you had to venture further and further into town to collect items as you slowly looted the whole area, that would ramp up the tension between rounds and having more defensive options would give the player more agency and make replaying more exciting as you could try out different tactics.
As it stands you run out into the map, grab a new weapon, maybe some ammo and repair the walls in the same spot. It’s just about putting the walls back up and watching the zombies throw themselves against them again and again.
Fighting off Zzz…
Admittedly there is some longevity to the unlocks Daybreak brings to the table. As you survive multiple waves you’ll unlock more weapons to bring with you at the start of a run, and you’ll also have access to Talon specific buildings and a new survivor in the main game. So if you’re hanging out for some new content for your base experience, there are a couple of new things here.
In the end, if you’ve had your fill of survival and just want something easy to play with your friends who already own the base game, State of Decay 2 Daybreak might be a good option. But for the current price, it comes in pretty content light and doesn’t carry over the best parts of the main game.
Daybreak might have worked as a free add-on to lure players back into the main game, or as a side mode to the main game. But as a paid DLC, it just feels like it’s missed the point.
This State of Decay 2 Daybreak DLC review was written after playing on Xbox One with a code provided by Microsoft.
Game Title: State of Decay 2 Daybreak DLC
Misses the point of State of Decay 2 - 4.6/10
Focuses on the least entertaining mechanics of the game - 5/10
Grows old quickly - 5.3/10