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State of Decay 2’s next free update is a huge overhaul

Tutorial improvements, quality-of-life changes — and the game’s coming to Steam, too

State of Decay 2 - a player faces down a fearsome juggernaut zombie. Image: Undead Labs/Microsoft
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

State of Decay 2 is getting a big, free update that veers closer to a No Man’s Sky-style overhaul than a run-of-the-mill content patch.

Developer Undead Labs is calling the update the “Juggernaut Edition,” and it’s a wide-ranging remaster of State of Decay 2’s graphics and audio. In addition, there are numerous other changes aimed at improving the game’s quality of life, from the tutorial (which is now expanded significantly to make the base-building elements clearer), to cleaning up combat, and smoothing out the pacing of legacy runs. The Juggernaut Edition also packs in previous expansions, including the side campaign Heartland, and makes them free to everyone, too.

Other new details, like a new weapon class, new events, new variables, a new map based in the Pacific Northwest, and weather effects like fog, make the game a “State of Decay 2.5”, according to developers. The current game has a great premise, but struggles hard with onboarding and end-game variety. The Juggernaut Edition addresses both of those weaknesses.

State of Decay 2 (with its Juggernaut Edition update) is also coming to Steam; it had been exclusive to the Windows 10 Store on PC and the Xbox Game Pass. Co-op players don’t need to worry; State of Decay 2 is still cross-platform across different stores and consoles.

Making things clear

“One of the biggest problems we had with explaining [State of Decay 2] to players is that it wasn’t quite a linear campaign, and it wasn’t quite a daily grind,” Henry Goffin, product lead at Undead Labs, told Polygon. “Players had a really hard time understanding the scope of the sandbox and how they should play with it.”

Thus, Undead Labs has gone through and cleaned the experience up for new players. The tutorial previously covered combat and exploration in a small squad, but those lessons weren’t very helpful once players got into the open world.

“We have a lot of player telemetry,” says Goffin. “We can see where they aggregate, how many people reach what parts of the world, where they spend time, where they shoot bullets. One of the things we realized is we have a pretty steep drop-off of players who get into the open world.”

When players find their base, get settled in, and are asked to build an infirmary, many of them choose to log off and try something else, Goffin said. Their open-world adventure seems to have turned into a base-building, community management simulator. State of Decay 2 will now set clearer expectations from the start, to avoid the initial overflow of information and investment.

State of Decay 2 - a player’s sports car is mobbed by zombies in a grassy field with wind turbines in the distance. Image: Undead Labs / Microsoft

Mission statement

Heartland, an expansion based around a structured narrative and pre-made characters, was a “good exploration,” and a chunk of State of Decay 2’s audience dug the more rigid structure. While Heartland will “inform a lot of future franchise plans,” the developers are going to be leaning on the sandbox and randomly generated structure moving forward.

“We’re interested in the community simulation,” says Goffin. State of Decay 2 randomly generates encounters among its characters, for example one NPC enjoys singing, while another in the community finds it grating.

The community management is getting cleaned up a little more, with UI improvements. One neat inclusion will make the community’s morale visible to the player. For example, when a community is in dire straits and people are struggling, everyone is dirtier across the board. But when things are looking up, characters look neat and clean. Players will be able to spot the malcontents easily now — just look for the grubby and grimy characters.

State of Decay 2’s Juggernaut Edition update will go live on March 13, and it is free to all players who own any copy of State of Decay 2.

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