While I enjoyed my time with State of Decay 2 at release, it was a game dragged down by technical and design problems that prevented it from being truly amazing. However, its emphasis on survival systems and exploration helped overcome the lacklustre controls, mediocre shooting and glitches I came across. With State of Decay 2: Daybreak, a new co-op DLC horde mode, those negative aspects have been focused on, with little done to improve upon them.
Daybreak has you take control of a trained operative from Red Talon, as you protect a technician from waves of zombies as they download blueprints from the mysterious C.L.E.O. The more waves you survive, the more progress the technician can make, and the more prestige points you earn. These prestige points unlock new weapons and gadgets you can use in Daybreak and the main game in State of Decay 2. So by playing Daybreak you can also benefit your settlement and survivors in State of Decay 2, giving you an added incentive to jump into the mode and smash through some Zeds. This is needed as well, because your progress to unlocking new blueprints is relatively slow unless you can get into the latter waves of the mode – which is difficult to do for reasons I’ll get into later. With no personal character in Daybreak – your operative is randomly assigned at the beginning of each game – there isn’t much attachment to your progression or the mode itself.
Daybreak’s issues began to become apparent relatively early in my time with the mode, highlighted by a lack of variety. Specifically, Daybreak takes place on a single small map which covers the frontage of a single building and a small park across the road from it. With each match lasting 20+ minutes, assuming you make it to the fourth wave of enemies, this means that you’re going to be spending a long time staring at the same walls, ground and props for quite a long time. Obviously in a wave-based zombie horde mode your emphasis should be on the enemies you’ll face, but unfortunately there isn’t much more variety there either. If you last into the later waves of a game, you’ll quickly notice the same zombie models and enemy types repeated throughout. Worse still, the same zombie types are constantly repeated, even within waves themselves. What results is you losing the appreciation or fear you had for these zombies in the main game. There are only so many times you can see the same Blood Plague Juggernaut running at you before their presence loses all meaning – especially when you don’t have the potential for a favoured survivors perma-death hovering over you.
The worst part though, is how matchmaking works in Daybreak. Unlike other games that wait for a full team before beginning or give you the option to launch a game without a full team, Daybreak boots straight into the game and forcefully begins after a few minutes regardless of team makeup. This would be fine, if you could manage to get a full team together within a few minutes. Even though its only been a couple of weeks since the mode launched, I faced constant issues trying to get a full team together when I hosted a game. While you can have up to two AI teammates if you can’t find a full team, these teammates are unable to perform the most basic of requirements in the mode – such as fixing walls or healing the technician – so you’re guaranteed to face a significantly harder time when using them.
However, the real problem for me came when I tried to find matches to join into. I would regularly wait two minutes or more to find a game, which isn’t too much of an issue on its own, but it was the types of matches and problems I then ran into that were the problem. It wasn’t unusual to be matched into a game just as the technician died, or to have the game load directly into the end game screen. Between time spent matchmaking, choosing my initial load out and the game loading, this meant spending upwards of five minutes for zero reward. I also had multiple problems where the game opened to a screen stating “Waiting for host” that never went away and forced me to cancel. The worst case of this was across a weekday evening where I managed to get into a total of two games that didn’t instantly fail or crash. When I did manage to get into games, the experience was still far from ideal, with constant lag issues causing enemies to jump around the screen, my character to take hits from enemies that weren’t there and on the most extreme end for my character to just drop dead. None of these are ideal situations for a prominently online experience, and they quickly killed off any excitement I felt when I booted up Daybreak.
These big negatives massively detract from the core of Daybreak, which would otherwise be a pretty fun horde mode. The fortified area allows for different strategies, with elevated platforms, openings in the walls and the option to go outside the walls to engage zombies up close with melee weapons. On top of this, the more guns, melee weapons and gadgets you unlock allow for even more changes to your strategy. I personally found the most success by getting up close and personal with my warhammer, relying on my machine gun only when overwhelmed, and with a variety of remote explosives inside the walls in case the zombies broke them down and got in before I could repair them. Of course, you could just as easily stay inside the walls putting shotgun shells into enemies as they get up to them or use a more accurate ranged weapon from the elevated platforms and lob grenades out into the masses. When you’ve got a full team together and they’re working in unison, Daybreak becomes and engaging, hectic and tense experience.
At the end of the day, the of Daybreak’s sandwich is tasty, but the bread surrounding it is stale and unappetising. For a game that basically requires you to play online – due to the downright lousy AI teammates – the issues with matchmaking and lag are game killers. The lack of environmental and enemy variety can quickly make you lose engagement with the mode, while the lack of meaningful attachment and engagement makes the slow progression even worse. Unless you already have a group of friends ready to play Daybreak with, I honestly can’t suggest purchasing it.
- Mode can be tense and engaging with a full team
- Matchmaking is slow and issues are frequent - Progression can be slow, unless you frequently make later waves - AI teammates are lousy, making online play a near requirement - Only one map and enemies constantly repeat