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State of Decay 2 beginner’s guide

10 tips to help you survive

Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios

Just describing State of Decay 2’s genre takes a lot of words — it’s a survival horror resource management base-building stealth(ish) role-playing game. All of the individual pieces are easy enough to understand, but it’s difficult to wrap your head around the whole. At its most basic, the point of the State of Decay 2 is to survive in a post-apocalyptic zombie world. But to get good at the game, to win, or even just to have fun playing, you’ll have to do a lot more than just survive.

You’re largely left alone to figure out how to go about your game and, with everything that’s going on and all the people and resources to manage, that’s a daunting task. We spent some time with State of Decay 2 and we’re here to help. Below are 10 things to think about, remember and consider. They’ll help you understand State of Decay 2 and survive the apocalypse.

It’s all about survival (Life, uh, finds a way”)

It’s right there in the genre’s name, but State of Decay 2 is a survival horror game. You’re not here to Rambo your way through the apocalypse. You’re here to make sure you and your merry band of survivors, well, survive. It’s as much (or more) about managing people and resources as it is about caving in zombie skulls.

There are win conditions, of course — it is a video game, after all. Eventually, you’ll make a territory safe, promote someone to leader and cement their Legacy for future generations. But that’s a long way off, and getting there takes a lot of surviving and surviving means getting good at resource management.

You’re always out of something

Keeping a community of survivors alive, fed, healthy and happy (or as happy as they can be during an apocalypse) means making sure everyone has everything they need — food, medicine, a bed and a neighborhood free from unsightly zombie infestations. And that’s a constant struggle.

Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

Your community has daily needs like how much food they eat and how many beds there are. Sometimes, there are unexpected drains on your resources like a zombie horde attacking the base that drains your ammo, or a band of thieves that steal some of your fuel. You can see your current stockpiles, how fast you passively restore them and your community’s drain on them from the Resources box on the Base tab of your menu.

For (what feels like) a long time, this is going to be a losing battle. You’ll have more mouths to feed than you have food and more bodies than you have beds. Your job when you’re struggling against that is to maintain your supplies (so you all survive) until you get yourself a cushion. Then you can start expanding and planning ahead.

Going out

At some point, you’re going to have to leave your base. You’ll have to make food or medicine runs, you’ll have to go help out a neighbor besieged by zombies, you’ll have to find a few extra beds for all your new recruits, or maybe you’re just going stir crazy. Regardless, you’re going to have to head out into the zombie-filled world and that means you need to carry what you’ll be using.

Here are the things we’ve found we can never do without:

  • The biggest backpack available. You start State of Decay 2 with a six-slot backpack. Over time, you’ll find additional backpacks and bigger, seven- and eight-slot backpacks in containers that you find out in the world. Every time you leave your base, chances are you’re going to fill every item slot you have, so always take the biggest backpack you can. (Sometimes this means taking a backpack off of a community member as you cycle them out of active service.)
  • Healing and stamina. Ideally, you should always take some painkillers to restore your health and coffee to replenish your stamina. Early on, you might not have these items (see Consumables, below), so take bandages and snacks — these do the same things, just not as well or as quickly.
  • A melee weapon. You should always have a melee weapon. Which one you take is kind of up to you — they all kill zombies. As a survivor uses a weapon more and more, they’ll get better with that weapon and, eventually, unlock a specialization — a skill that makes them better with that weapon. Try to match your survivors to their preferred weapons, but never leave your survivor unarmed just because the weapon isn’t perfect.
  • A gun and some ammo. Taking a gun on an excursion is optional — you can do a lot of damage with a melee weapon (assuming your stamina isn’t drained) — but we’re of the opinion that it’s better to have one and not need than to need it and not have it. Guns are loud and will draw zombies (more on noise below), but they’re also great for taking out tough zombies — like screamers — from a distance. Sure, you can sneak up on them, but a bullet is usually a safer and simpler solution.
  • Don’t take more than you need. Like any game with limited inventory space, you’ll be constantly constrained. You won’t have enough space to pick up everything you want and you won’t want to leave anything behind. When you take the largest backpack you can, don’t immediately fill it with things you don’t actually need or things you only might need.

Resources versus consumables

There are two kinds of things you need to survive the apocalypse in State of Decay: consumables and resources. Consumables are things that you use as an individual survivor. This is everything from espresso to bandages to ammo. Resources are more general things that the base your survivors live in consumes.

Consumables are items that take up a slot in your pocket or backpack. The big thing to remember is that you can turn resources into consumables, but you can’t turn consumables into resources. That means that you’ll keep getting an “Ammo Stockpile Low” warning from your base no matter how many stacks of 9mm bullets you have — 9mm bullets are a consumable, not a (stockpile-able) resource.

Rucksacks — the other backpack

You’ll maintain your stockpiles of resources — food, medicine, ammo, fuel and building materials — by going out into the territory and gathering rucksacks. (Later, you’ll be able to claim outposts that supply these Resources passively.)

Rucksacks are big bags of stuff that you can take back to your base (and only your base) to add to your stockpile. They have a dedicated slot in your inventory, and you can only carry one at a time, so that usually means a food run is only a food run and an ammo run is only an ammo run.

You can find rucksacks in potential outposts by searching through every available container, and you’ll often get them as rewards for helping out your neighbors.

“Get in, loser, we’re going shopping.”

And that brings us to cars. Because resource rucksacks take up their own dedicated slot, a food run will only ever result in one rucksack of food. That works, but it’s just not sustainable — you’ll constantly be running and you’ll run out of resources before you get ahead — so you’ll have to start surviving smarter.

Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

When you approach the rear of most vehicles, you can open the trunk. If the car is drivable, these extra few slots are helpful in general — you can put a gas can in there or an extra gun — but their most useful quality is that each slot of a vehicle’s trunk space can hold a rucksack. This means that taking a car on a resource gathering run lets you bring back as many rucksacks as you can fit in the trunk (plus one on your back). You’ll still need to spend a few minutes shuttling them from the car to the storage room in your base, though.

A quiet place

Stealth — or more accurately, sound — plays a huge role in avoiding zombie attacks. Sure, zombies’ll spot you if you march right up to them while they’re facing you, but their eyesight isn’t great, and you’ll get a way with a lot more than you expect.

What you can’t get away with, though, is making too much noise. Walking (while not crouching), sprinting, shooting a gun, failing at quick searching and driving a car all make noise. And noise draws zombies.

The white ripples indicate how much sound your powder blue Stanza is making.
Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

You get visual information about how much noise you’re making on your minimap in the bottom left corner of your HUD. When you’re making noise, a white circle will ripple outward from your location — when you’re walking, it’ll be a small circle; when you’re blowing something up (or failing a quick search), it’ll be a big one.

Crouching is a good way to quickly and quietly take out zombies without alerting others.
Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

There’s a lot of time where you can’t actually do anything about how much noise you’re making (or when it just doesn’t matter). It’s always good to be aware of it, though, because it’ll let you make some quick decisions about how to enter some conflicts. If you crouch while walking, you move slower, but you can sneak up behind zombies and take them out silently. This is an invaluable way to thin their numbers as you explore your territory.

Expand with purpose

As you explore and add community members, you’ll need to claim new outposts and locations. These cost (a lot of) Influence — the game’s only currency. Influence is a pretty limited resource — you’ll get five points here and there. That adds up, but it takes dedicated work to earn a lot. The few hundred Influence it costs to claim a new outpost is a big investment.

Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

Especially early on, that just means you have to be smart about your Influence investments — and smart about choosing your outposts. Avoid things like billboards or cell towers until you’ve got enough food-producing outposts to feed your community.

Start with the essentials like food (pizza icon) and medicine (plus sign/cross icon). These are the things you’ll consume the most regularly. After that, look for outposts that give an added benefit — like a radio tower that reduces radio call cooldowns or a gun shop that supplies daily ammo.

As you expand your community, you’ll also need to have beds for everyone. Some houses will add beds when you turn them into outposts. These beds aren’t quite as important as, say, food, but not having enough beds will really hurt morale and might even lead to fights or people leaving your community.

Your community

You’re only in control of one of your survivors at a time, but you can invite one other survivor to come along with you for backup. Your survivors are just people, though. They get tired and hurt and, sometimes, infected with blood plague. They need downtime between supply runs and fights — or at least healing in an infirmary.

Gonzalez and Jon aren’t doing too great, but Ali’s ready to go.
Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

This makes your community members another resource you’ll have to manage. Their fatigue and health will regenerate over time (or as you send them to bed or the infirmary), so it’s best to cycle them in and out of service. As your runs get more taxing, you might even want to add more survivors to your community — which means you need more food and beds.

Your neighbors

Your community isn’t the only one to survive the apocalypse. The territory is dotted with enclaves of survivors, and all of them need or want something. The zombie apocalypse has a shocking number of options for filling your time.

Undead Labs/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

Managing your neighbors — on top of managing your community — is overwhelming. Your radio will feel like a constant stream of distractions and pleas. Helping your neighbors earns you some Influence and some good-will. Not helping them leads to them either leaving the territory or actively disliking you (with guns).

Balancing everyone else’s needs along with your own is a constant struggle. It benefits you to help everyone you’re able to — but it’s important to emphasize the “able to” part. If you’re out of food, the neighbor who needs a couch moved is just going to have to wait. If, however, your base is pretty stable, seeking out neighbors to help is a good way to earn some Influence and find potential recruits for your base.

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