7 essential State of Decay 2 tips to know before you play

State of Decay 2 is not the kind of game that’s going to coast you through the end of the world. You slip up, or forget to pay attention to a small but crucial detail, then something bad is going to happen to either yourself, one of your followers, or an entire settlement that’s been relying on your leadership this whole time. It’s kind of like juggling several balls at once, but if you drop one, you’re probably going to get eaten alive by the living dead, so it’s best to learn how to juggle, so to speak. 

That means getting familiar with State of Decay 2’s complex arrangement of survival systems and figuring out the best strategies to keep you one step ahead of the apocalypse, including the things that the game doesn’t necessarily communicate to you in its tutorials. Having spent a fair deal of time with Undead Lab’s nightmarish sequel, here’s seven of the essential State of Decay 2 tips you should know before you start playing.

1. Survey Points are less fun (but more important) versions of Ubisoft towers 

Players of the original State of Decay will be familiar with the Survey Points that are scattered around the world of both games, but for those jumping into the sequel without that foreknowledge, here’s what you should know. Climbing up each tower and using the height advantage to manually scout out all nearby points of interest by zooming in on them doesn’t sound like a makings of a leisurely pastime, but it’s always worth scaling every Survey Point you come across. 

Time management is a key aspect of staying alive in State of Decay 2, and distinguishing the important locales (such as plague hearts or vehicles) from the less critical scavenging spots is one of the best ways to stay on schedule. You’ll also often find a stash or two filled with resources at each Survey Point, and climbing up them is a great way to take a breather and heal yourself in safety, since no zombie is going to be able to follow you up its peak. At least, it hasn’t happened so far…

2. It helps to play nice with the neighbours 

It's not just the dead who are roaming around the wasted American hinterlands in State of Decay 2, but you'll come across plenty of other human communities struggling to get by in these trying times just like you. Be a good neighbour by helping them out with errands or trading goods for mutual gain, and they might tip you off with information about a nearby stash or, better yet, let you recruit some of their members into your own community.

What you don't want to do is make enemies with these enclaves, as anyone who watches The Walking Dead will know that an angry human is far more dangerous than an angry zombie. For a start, they have guns, and will happily use them against you if you, say, start shooting at them first or happen to possess an item that they're keen on taking for themselves. If you thought the zombies were tough, wait until you're surrounding by an armed gang of desperate thugs. The long and short of it is that you ought to make as many friends as you can in State of Decay 2, because life's going to be a lot harder for you if you don't.

3. How to destroy plague hearts 

Plague hearts are the source of the new blood plague that’s galvanizing the zombies of State of Decay 2, and you’re going to want to take out as many as you can to keep the virus at bay. You’ll find these giant, malformed hearts cooped up in buildings marked by a eerie red haze, but they represent one of the most difficult challenges the game has to offer, so it’s best to follow a strategy that works. 

First, you’re going to want to make sure you’re well stocked in ammo, meds, and explosives, and I’d advise venturing out when it’s daytime, so you can actually tell what’s going on during the fight. Once you’re at the building, take out the blood plague zombies surrounding the area first, and preferably as quietly as possible to avoid alerting any more hordes. After that, you can deal with the plague heart itself by chucking explosives like molotovs or soda can bombs at its centre, while keeping a safe distance to avoid the blowback. If you run out of throwables, pump a few more bullets into it with your gun, and it should be destroyed in no time. Pick up any resources it leaves behind, then scarper before any more zombies that show up. After that, it's a well deserved pat on the back for ridding the world of one more horrific zombie flesh mound.

4. Euthanizing your followers is often as effective as saving them 

I’m sorry that I had to be the one to tell you this, but it’s the hard truth you need to hear. Say one of your followers gets blood plague, placing them firmly out of action and on death’s door (a.k.a. your settlement’s infirmary) until you bring them back to health with the cure. You could go out into the fold, risking your life and wasting valuable time by collecting samples from blood plague zombies to concoct the antidote while they continue to use up precious meds at the infirmary, ooooor…. 

While killing a former ally in cold blood isn’t exactly going to win you any Nobel Peace Prize nominations, from a purely pragmatic perspective, you’re saving yourself a lot of time, effort, and resources if you just spared everyone the hassle and finished them off with a painless gunshot to the head. You can always recruit another follower from a nearby enclave to replace them as a community member, and better yet, all of that loot they were carrying can now be pried off their bloodied corpse and claimed as your own. Sorry Maria, no hard feelings.

5. Your radio is your best friend 

Need to recover your health? Call your radio. Want help from a nearby follower? Call your radio. Looking for a particular type of resource but not sure where to start looking? Seriously, call your radio. The all purpose communication device is the next best thing to a soulmate in State of Decay 2’s American apocalypse, useful for a whole range of services, from teleporting your character out of an unfortunate clipping glitch to calling in a full blown airstrike. 

You can also use the radio to volunteer your services and matchmake with other players online, or equally allow others to join your game and help you out. Certain radio services, like asking for medical advice, will cost you influence points, the game's main form of currency, so it’s not an exploitable life hack by any means, but State of Decay 2’s handheld walkie talkie is a nifty little feature that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

6. Base building is a game unto itself 

You could probably spend your entire time managing settlements in State of Decay 2. In fact, you probably will spend most of your time doing just that, as the denizens of each established community will continually pester you with demands for more resources, morale, and protection. The base building system has been massively elaborated since the original game, with lots of little details to make note of beyond the obvious gameplay loop of gathering resources to build new structures. 

For example, did you know that the amount of facilities you build will determine the noise level that each settlement makes, which in turn can affect its threat level to increase or decrease the likelihood of a zombie attack? Then there’s the fact that only certain survivors have the know how to build particular things like advanced infirmaries or gardens. Using the new Base menu gives you a clear breakdown of everything going on in a settlement, and I’d suggest spending some time looking at each tab in detail to understand what’s going wrong and what’s going right at each of your community outposts.   

7. If your community dies, it’s game over 

Most people will have already heard about State of Decay 2’s unforgiving nature as a roguelike game, but this can’t be stressed enough. When one of your playable community members die in game, they’re gone for good, and if you lose all of those members, that’s it. The game ends. Done. Finalement. Finito. You’ll be met with a message telling you that you’ve lost your community and will have to try it all over again with another procedurally generated bunch of survivors from scratch. 

Don’t learn this the hard way. Pay attention to each of your survivor’s needs, and only let one of them bite the bullet if you’re sure that your community can take the hit. You can recruit more community members by gaining loyalty with followers you meet in the world, and this will help make sure your numbers never dwindle to dangerous levels. No one, after all, wants to be minutes away from completing a community’s story only to watch their last surviving member succumb to the blood plague.  

Alex Avard

I'm GamesRadar's Features Writer, which makes me responsible for gracing the internet with as many of my words as possible, including reviews, previews, interviews, and more. Lucky internet!