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The Quick & Dirty Guide to: State of Decay 2

I’m going to assume you have played through the State of Decay 2 tutorial and have a general idea of basic game mechanics. This Quick & Dirty guide is meant to take that baseline knowledge and advance you to the mid-game without needing to waste energy on trial and error.

General Tips

SoDecay2_Transfer

One of the best tips in the game.

  • Blood Plague is only contracted when the Infection meter fills up all the way. If you cycle your characters regularly, Blood Plague shouldn’t really ever be a concern.
    • Keep an eye on any AI-controlled partners though, as it’s tougher to notice when they take a lot of Infection damage.
  • You can Dodge (“C” on PC) in any direction, and can pass through zombie models.
    • Dodge backwards through zombie behind you, immediately grapple and execute.
    • Dodging forward too early can result in still taking damage.
  • If you park a vehicle in a base parking spot, you can transfer duffel bags in the trunk by pressing “T.”
    • Save duffel bag turn-ins for characters that need the Standing gains.
  • Scoped weapons can zoom in with “Z.”
  • In single-player Offline mode, Exiting to Main Menu will despawn Freaks in the vicinity.
  • Shooting a Bloater in the head will reduce the toxic gas emitted, but the body still acts as a landmine.
  • Juggernauts can almost be meleed to death within the duration of one Smoke Grenade.

Base Selection/Planning

There are several different types of bases available, and the exact configurations of them are different between the different maps. Don’t stress too much about picking the perfect base the first time, as you receive a 100% refund of all resources when moving bases. The Facilities themselves will need to be rebuilt, but they are built faster for the first day, post-move.

That said, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • A Workshop, Infirmary, and Garden/Hydroponics are pretty much required in every base.
  • Each survivor eats 1 Food/day, and generally you’ll need 2 Medicine/day to heal.
  • Bases often come with “built-in” Facilities that cannot otherwise be replaced. Make sure you can take advantage of them, else they are wasted slots.
  • Dismantling a Facility results in a 100% refund of resources.
  • There is no reason to keep certain Large-slot Facilities around once you craft their specific items.
    • For example, get rid of Auto Shop after you craft Vehicle Upgrade kits.
    • No reason to keep Forge around once you crafted several melee weapons.
  • The Staging Area Facility can get extremely lucrative as you upgrade other Facilities – the one in my base “generates” +5 Materials per day by itself.
SoDecay2_Staging

Pictured: Staging Area pulling its weight.

It is possible to optimize the configuration of your base and Outposts to essentially achieve perfect homeostasis eventually. Don’t spend too much of your time worried about that, however, as it will require looting specific mods and recruiting survivors with good skills. What you should focus on is getting to a point where you can last several days without critically running out of specific resources – having a -2/day deficit of a resource is nothing if you already have 20 of that resource.

Outposts

Don’t worry too much about picking the “perfect one.” There are no special outposts – the list of possible benefits are standardized:

  • +1 Food/Fuel/Building Materials/Medicine/Ammo
  • +2 Beds
  • Base-wide Water (costs 1 Fuel/Day)
  • Base-wide Electricity (costs 1 Fuel/Day)
  • Morale Bonus
  • Morale Bonus + Espresso
  • Artillery Strike

In other words, there are no Outposts that give +2 Ammo, or +4 Beds, ect.

Ideally, you will want to have Outposts evenly distributed around the map, rather than bunched up in one part of town. That way, there will be an Outpost nearby at all times, so you can offload non-Duffel Bag loot and/or swap out a tired/injured character.

SoDecay2_Map

I should really move one of those Outposts into the circled areas.

If you can afford to, having one empty Outpost slot can take your looting game to the next level. As your inventory fills up, claim whatever building you are in as an Outpost and then offload your gear. Then, through the Base screen go ahead and abandon the Outpost. You get 100% of your Influence back when you abandon an Outpost, so you lose nothing by doing this, other than the opportunity cost of not getting +1 whatever.

Survivor Management

The key thing to understand is that not all survivors are worth keeping around. You should absolutely recruit every single person you can, but only because it’s easier to check their Skills/Traits that way. There is no penalty, Morale or otherwise, for Exiling a member, so be sure to do so when necessary (and after stripping them of all gear). You can have a maximum of 10 survivors at your base – nine would be better, if only because you lose the ability to recruit anyone once you have 10.

SoDecay2_Couch

Pictured: someone who won’t long survive the zombie apocalypse.

There are generally three things you want to look for in a survivor.

First, do they have any negative Traits? If they have something like “Lacks Boundaries” (-5 Morale to everyone), then think rather long and hard as to whether they have any other redeeming value.

Second, do they have any Skills without 7 (blank) stars? If so, it means that that particular Skill cannot be upgraded to a specialized version. For example, I had (emphasis on had) a survivor with the Used Car Salesman Trait, which meant that their Mechanics skill was permanently limited to three stars. That still counts enough to build an level 3 Workshop, but not enough to specialize in Automechanics and unlock the Auto Shop. Since the specialized skills can actually grant really good bonuses, there really isn’t a reason to keep any of these limited survivors around.

SoDecay2_Skills

Drop these useless survivors like they’re hot.

The only exceptions, on a case-by-case basis, would be those with 1-star skills. Sometimes those provide unique bonuses that can make it worth it.

The final consideration for survivors is their 5th skill slot. If that area is blank, then great! A blank slot will allow you to teach the survivor any particular skill you have a book for, giving you the opportunity to plug any skill gaps in your base. If not blank, make sure it’s actually a skill you need.

As a bonus note, new survivors start out with the Recruit rank. After earning enough Influence, they become Citizens, which then tells you what bonuses they provide should they achieve the Hero rank. Some of these bonuses are so-so, like +3 Morale. Others are straight-up bonkers, like Tough Negotiator granting +30% Influence gain. Which, by the way, affects how much Influence you get by selling things – Bulk Plague Cure goes from 500 Influence to 650. So, if a particular survivor is borderline, it’s worth sending them out long enough to hit Citizen level, and check their Hero bonus.

Recruiting survivors

If you’re looking for more people, there are basically two ways to get them. First is helping survivors out in the world, e.g. answering all those inane radio messages every 5 minutes.

The second method is recruiting directly from Enclaves. Talk with each member of an Enclave, and look at their stats by choosing “Learn more about Survivor.” Their specific Traits will be hidden, but their Skill list will not. If you find one you like, keep in mind that recruiting them will effectively disband the Enclave. There will always be more Enclaves popping up, but you’ll need to help them out again and the bonuses they provide aren’t always the same.

Skills

As your survivors level up, they will have the opportunity to specialize their Skills. At a minimum, you always get two choices. One key note about Skills is the fact that they have a “hidden” bonus effect once you max them out. Sometimes that is enough to make or break your decision.

There aren’t many Wikis out there at the moment, but here’s the best I could find.

Some specific notes:

Cardio–>Powerhouse is incredibly strong. While it grants the ability to Drop Kick right away, once you hit 7 stars you unlock the ability to Grapple from the front. This move not only interrupts zombie attack animations, it essentially allows you to chain kill entire mobs of zombies, given how you get a few invincibility frames performing the move.

Fighting –> Endurance grants you the Slam move right away, which will vastly increase your survivability. Basically, the Slam move interrupts zombie attack animations, and leaves them on the ground behind you for an easy execution.

Shooting –> Gunslinger is unique in that “Aim Snap” basically allows you to instantly and perfectly track the head of zombies (at the cost of Stamina). Note: it is currently broken as of patch 2.0.

Wits –> Stealth is better than it sounds, and certainly better than Scouting. Stealth allows you to sprint while crouched, and silently open stuck doors.

Gaining Influence

For the most part, gaining Influence is a slow, incremental process. You get some for completing quests, but most of your gains will be from killing zombies:

  • Kill X zombies = +5
  • Kill Screamer = +5
  • Kill Bloater = +10
  • Kill Feral = +20
  • Kill Juggernaut = +50

I’m not 100% sure of those values, as I have a +30% bonus to Influence gain from a survivor, so I’m working backwards.

Beyond that, you can get Influence from selling things. The absolute best gain comes from crafting and selling Bulk Plague Cure, which defaults to +500 Influence (or +650 with bonuses) from spending 20 Plague Samples and 8 Meds. This means each Plague Sample laying around is worth about 25 Influence by itself, considering Meds can be produced by a Garden. So, yeah, pick them up.

Somewhat surprisingly, traders actually care about those random notes you can occasionally loot. If you bothered holding onto them, they will sell for 10-15 Influence apiece. Backpacks are also nice items to sell, especially as you cycle through survivors and slowly upgrade them to 8-slot ones.

Taking Out Plague Hearts

e.g. beating the game.

While scary at first, Plague Hearts are almost comically easy to destroy. You will essentially handle them the same way you (eventually) handle all zombie groups.

  1. Get a visual on the target, preferably from outside the building.
  2. Toss a roll of Firecrackers near the target.
  3. Toss 3-6 Fuel Canisters/Molatovs at target.
  4. ???
  5. Profit.

This isn’t the only way to take them out. You can get fancy by crafting some C4, sneaking in to plant it, then blowing it up. Regular grenades technically work, but not as well as fire. If you happen across a 50-caliber rifle, several shots (recently nerfed to 6) from that will kill it too. Entire clips of gunfire will work in a pinch as well, but there’s no such thing as a Plague Heart “pinch” – just leave and come back with molatovs, because the Plague Heart isn’t going anywhere.

SoDecay2_DroneOption

Missed the Plague Heart though, because it was in the back.

One of my favorites though? Drone Strike. Get a survivor with Computers –> Programming. Spend 25 Parts and wait ~20 minutes for drones to come online. Spend 75 Influence to get the targeting smoke. Toss the smoke near the outside wall closest to the Plague Heart, then run away. Instant death, +150 Influence. The blast ignores walls and is fairly large, although not quiet large enough to hit a Plague Heart at the back of a house if the smoke is on the front porch. The smoke doesn’t register indoors, by the way, so don’t toss it too close to the eaves either.

Drone strikes are a great way to clear hostile Enclaves too, without needing to put yourself at risk.

Impressions: Conan: Exiles

Conan: Exiles (hereafter Conan) is basically ARK where the dinosaurs are people.

Not really… but kinda.

ConanSandbox_Sunrise

It can be a very pretty game too.

The first thing I want to say about Conan is that this is perhaps the first survival game I have played that has completely nailed the setting and tone. In a lot of these games, you are a faceless protagonist, or a random nobody who just suddenly is completely fine with butchering cannibals within minutes of regaining consciousness. In this game, you are a barbarian, in a barbarian land, doing some very barbaric things. And it fits.

In ARK, you tame dinosaurs by beating them unconscious with clubs, rocks, or narcotics. Then you… put food and more narcotics into their inventories. In Conan, you beat warriors/cooks/etc unconscious with a club. Then you… tie a rope to their legs and drag them along the ground back to your camp, and lash them to your Wheel of Pain, feeding them gruel or even human flesh, until their will to resist finally breaks and they join you. Crom would be pleased.

ConanSandbox_Thrall

Just another future Thrall, about to be lashed to the Wheel of Pain.

Like I said, it fits the theme and tone of the game. All of that is further reinforced by the demonic mobs, corruption of mad gods, and other sort of weirdness that permeates the land. It feels right.

Having said all that, there is a lot of jankiness all over the place. I’m not just talking about the typical survival game tropes like carrying 500+ stones in your loincloth inventory, or how your Thralls will sometimes unequip themselves of their weapons. I mean the very consistent outright bugs, like how attacks don’t register if you are fighting under a tent. Or the overall jarring inconsistencies in progression, like the ridiculous hoops you have to go through to complete the early-game Journal task of “skinning a creature with a knife” (literally a dozen+ steps). Or the general incongruent nature of a more “realistic” game in which you cannot simply loot the items that NPCs are wearing, or interact with any of the set pieces that dot the land.

ConanSandbox_Bug1

Pictured: no damage being taken, because standing next to a rope.

I think that, more than anything, there is one thought that is draining most of my enthusiasm away from playing Conan: “Elder Scrolls Online did it better.” Can you slaughter a camp of people and drain the Unfulfilled Desires from their corpses to fuel your ritual offerings to Derketo in TESO? No. You can, however, interact with the world in a meaningful way, like… you know, sitting in a chair, opening a crate, stealing a bowl. Certainly the whole dungeon thing works a hell of a lot better when death does not send you back across the map, naked and alone.

For the record, my experiences in Conan have been from the viewpoint of someone playing it single-player on a local server. I ended up cranking up the resource gain to x4 rate, which is probably too high, but farming iron ore for days and days is just dumb. It was dumb in ARK too, but that was on purpose: you were meant to tame dinosaurs to make collecting resources more efficient. In Conan, it’s just mindless labor meant to create PvP opportunities in which someone jacks all your stuff.

ConanSandbox_Base

My current base, sans defenses.

We’ll see how long interest lasts. I tried my first dungeon the other day, and was slaughtered by the boss all the way at the end. Despite having admin powers and the ability to spawn all my equipment back on my body and teleport back to the area, there was a very tangible part of me that felt like that was an interest-terminating loss. I never felt deprived in ARK for not seeing the bosses there while playing single-player, but dungeons in Conan are more of a thing. Probably because there are less “things” in the world otherwise.

Impressions: State of Decay 2

As mentioned, I buckled down and bought State of Decay 2 (SoD2) recently.

SoDecay2_PyramidHead

Pyramid Head

It is difficult for me to directly compare this game to the original, because I last played it in 2014. Based on that review, a lot of things have stayed the same. You are still selecting base locations at predetermined places, you are still looting all the places for supplies, you are still recruiting survivors, and are still faced with Ironman mode – auto-saving checkpoints and permadeath.

Let’s assume you haven’t played this series at all before. What’s it like?

After the (extended) tutorial, you are basically given a base and four survivors. Your survivors are going to consume certain resources every in-game day, such as 1 Food/person, 2 Medicine when healing from injuries, etc. Missing those resources will lead to negative morale, which leads to in-fighting, which leads to survivors leaving and/or dying. Thus, you need to keep supplies high.

SoDecay2_Base

Current, fairly successful base.

To keep supplies high, you can scavenge for them. Each building will typically have 1-5 spots where you can look for stuff. Some of those things will be individual items/upgrade materials, and others will be the duffel bags of base supplies that you are really looking for. Your character can only carry one duffel bag at a time, so extended scavenging is best done with a vehicle that has decent trunk space. Of course, that vehicle will need to be gassed up from time to time, which requires you to scavenge for Fuel too.

Another way to get supplies is leveraging base upgrades. Building a Garden, for example, will grant you +1 Food/day. That Garden can be upgraded if you have a survivor with the Gardening skill, and it can also be modded (say with a Compost Bin or Fertilizer) and temporarily boosted at the cost of Seeds. Doing all of those things, including providing your base with water somehow, can boost the Garden into providing 9+ Food/day. You can also turn the Garden into a Medicine factory by switching the yields to herbs.

Bases also allow you to claim Outposts. You start off with two possible slots (up to 5, I think), and you can essentially claim almost any building anywhere as an Outpost. All Outposts will create a zone where zombies won’t spawn, and will allow access to to your storage area and the ability to swap out characters. Additionally, certain Outposts can passively give you resources – Ammo Stores give Ammo, fast food joints give Food, etc. Some just give you more bed slots, and others actually give you base-wide power or water, at the cost of daily Fuel.

SoDecay2_Drone

Heroes never look at the explosion.

I mentioned all of the above rather than getting into the meat of the actual gameplay because the above essentially creates the gameplay. You need to scavenge for materials to make your base more self-sufficient, or scavenge to make up for the deficiency. You recruit more survivors because the one you are currently controlling has gotten injured, or is exhausted. There are quite a few guns and explosives and different melee weapons in the game, but zombies don’t drop loot and are best avoided in general. Technically, killing them will periodically grant you Influence, which is a catch-all currency in the game, but eventually weapons wear out and you’ll likely be spending that Influence on spare parts to repair said weapons.

Don’t get me wrong, the game is a lot of fun for me. But if you don’t like the base management and/or resource management side of things, SoD2 is definitely not for you. This is not Dying Light or even Dead Island. There are quests to follow, but since any member can permanently die at any time, there isn’t really a strict narrative going on. The overaching “point” of the game is to destroy all the Plague Hearts, which involves tossing a bunch of molatovs inside a building while waves of red zombies attack you. That’s… basically it.

Like I said: fun. For me, for now. For you? Maybe, maybe not.