I finally finished my first campaign of State of Decay 2. I was kind of confused about the whole ‘meta’ aspects of the game so now that I know a little more, I thought I’d scribble it down so in two weeks when I forget I can refresh my memory. This isn’t a review of SoD2, but I’ll just say it’s a zombie apocalypse game that gives off a pretty strong Walking Dead vibe in that your goal is more about building a community than exterminating zombies, because the zombies are just endless. The game has action-based combat mixed with menu-driven base building. You have various materials (medicine, food, ammo, etc) that you have to maintain a stockpile of, while providing your group of survivors with beds and amenities that keep their morale up. That’s the 10,000 foot view anyway.
Fairly early in the game you’ll assign a leader. There are 4 classes of leader. I played a Builder. There’s also Warrior, Sherriff and… one I’ve forgotten. You get a specific benefit depending on the type of leader you choose.
Then you spend a bunch of hours fighting zombies, building your base, probably moving your base to a new location, making friends, recruiting friends, making enemies, probably killing enemies, and in particular destroying Plague Hearts which are these big nasty masses of flesh that pollute the area around them and produce zombies that carry a plague. Along the way your survivors level up various skills like Medicine, Farming, Mechanics and so forth.
Once you eliminate all the Plague Hearts on the map, the endgame starts. You’ll have a few more missions to do and then the campaign ends. There’s not a huge narrative drive through all of this. I played on the ‘normal’ difficulty and through the course of the game I lost one survivor. Two technically but the 2nd one I sacrificed in an attempt to get an achievement. Long story, not worth re-telling. Point being, I didn’t find it to be a particularly hard game, or maybe I was lucky.
So game over. Now what? First, you can keep up to 50 survivors in a kind of ‘people bank’ that persists between games (your band in any one game is 8-10 people so this is a lot of guys and gals to save for later). Second you get a “Boon” based on the type of leader you beat the game as. Third, the “save” you just completed goes Poof. There’s no going back to it.
When you start a new campaign you can choose up to 3 of your saved survivors to act as your starting crew on a new map. You can also take up to two Boons. Since I played as a Leader I have a boon that gives my base electricity and water, which seems like a huge benefit that would make the game even easier (setting those up in Campaign #1 took quite some time). The idea, I guess, is to play a campaign as a different kind of leader in order to earn a different Boon at the end that campaign. Eventually if you’re a super fan you’ll play all 4 leader types and have 4 boons to choose from in Campaign #5.
When the new campaign starts, your characters will have the same inventory they had when you put them in cold storage, which is good to know since, just prior to finishing your old campaign, you could load them down with high value items to make the next start even easier. Sadly I didn’t know about this. They also retain all their skills. The stockpile of goods you had in your prior campaign does not come forward with you. The fictional conceit is that a few of you left your old ‘town’ and set out to start a new one, so all you have is what you could carry in your backpacks.
And that’s about all I know so far. All the above applies to the basic “Campaign” game. There’s also now a mode called Heartland which I believe is a more narrative-driven experience, and one called Daybreak which, I think, is a kind of horde mode primarily meant for multiplayer.
Oh, and worth noting that if you don’t want a Campaign to end, you can travel to a fresh map and keep playing. This is important because resources don’t respawn on a map so eventually you could completely exhaust a map you’re playing on. New maps have a new set of Plague Hearts and of course all new resources to collect. I’m not sure why you’d do this but some people do. I saw on reddit someone say they were on day 121 or something in their game. I think I was on day 15 or 20 when I finished my game (I wasn’t really paying attention and now that save is gone so I can’t check).
I enjoyed State of Decay 2 but I don’t think I’m ready to dive right back into a 2nd game just now. Maybe at some point down the road though. Perhaps I’ll nudge up the difficulty some the next time around. I was kind of expecting a narrative-driven game but what I got instead was more akin of something like Civilization, only (mostly) action based. The developers intend you to play it over and over and they’ve added some nice systems to make that interesting for you.