How to Survive 2 is the second title within the series developed by Eko Software and published by 505 Games; the first one released on all major platforms, and I was a big fan of it when I tried it. Admittedly, I didn’t play as much of it as I wish I could’ve; and so I was very excited to hear the second one was on its way to my platform of choice, the PlayStation 4.
How to Survive 2 will have you battling hunger, thirst and the undead. These are more than just your slow walking zombies, as you level up; so do they. Along with that, you’ll also run into different types, big guys who blow up when you kill them and deal massive damage to you and anything else within range or zombies who run at you, making it tough to pick them off with your bow, the downside is besides wild animals the game doesn’t offer much variety when it comes to this. That’s about all there is.
The leveling system is both annoying and great. It keeps you playing and grinding missions as you need to dump experience points into both; your character and your camp. You’ll need to do this to unlock crafting recipes and unlock harder missions. The leveling tree for your character is very detailed, things like reducing the time until you need to eat again, how much physical damage you do, or even to be able to pick locks and speed at which you’ll do so, and all depend on experience points. The player’s camp however, requires the experience points to be able to build stronger defenses alongside better structures; doing so also raises the difficulty of the game and tosses tougher enemies at you within the zone.
On top of all of this; experience points and can also be lost if you die and they’re left unused, thankfully though, not a massive amount is lost. Adding on to the RPG elements, you’ll also find yourself looting different kind of equipment to protect yourself with; these range from helmets to body armor and of course, weapons.
How to Survive 2 also offers a huge map to roam around and salvage items in, the problem with this is the quest system doesn’t tell you where you need to go. Early on in the game, I was tasked with finding someone in order to get some items I need to progress, but even after a half an hour of walking around and slaughtering any undead in my way; the NPC was nowhere to be found and I felt like some direction would’ve went a long way for such a big map. Most missions send you into their own zone so it’s not really an issue, you’ll still spend plenty of time roaming around, but it’s a much smaller location for those and more often than not; you’ll find what you’re looking for.
The melee combat in the game reminds me a lot of State of Decay, another popular (and one of the best zombie games I’ve played) title that takes place in this kind of setting. While it isn’t the most creative, it’s still a ton of fun. A lot of it does come down to stunning your enemy and going for the execution kill, and they look pretty cool. Though with so many weapons to create, there’s something for everyone. I’m always rocking a crossbow or bow in these games and the way it auto locks on for a headshot just by aiming in a zombie’s direction is just wonderful and kept me wanting to use those weapons because it would be very easy for the camera to be against you in this game, especially if you’re zoomed in, like how I prefer to play. At times, you’ll still find yourself overrun or being chased down by a horde of zombies and unable to fire off that perfect shot, luckily for this, the game allows you to have two weapons equipped so you can quickly swap over to melee weapon and get to work.
The visuals aren’t great and offer a pretty basic look for a top down game, but they aren’t ugly. The major downfall of How to Survive 2 is the dull environments, you’re usually looking at the same old swamp or forest and the rundown town. Roaming through different houses and shops keeps it feeling fresh and enjoyable, but you’ll still wish you were seeing something new after a few hours of game time. Playing with the camera zoomed in does make it a little more appealing to look at but really limits what you can see around you. Another problem I had was the way walls in front of your character collapse when in the way, sort of like a Sims game would do back in the day. I can’t help but feel that there’s a better way of handling that; like letting players adjust the camera perhaps.
The game does have some great music that picks up when you run into a horde of zombies, making things feel more intense and dangerous. That’s always a huge plus in my book.
How to Survive 2 truly feels like an upgrade to the first, but not like a brand new game. That isn’t going to be a bad thing to those who loved the first one in the series. Even with the limited levels and a UI that is clearly designed for the PC and not console friendly, the game has some great RPG elements, gory kills and a ton of replay-ability. The co-op multiplayer adds on to this as well giving even more value to the player. For $19.99, the game is a great buy for any fan of the genre.
How to Survive 2 was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 and is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.