In State of Decay, survival is a slow and difficult process. It's easy to get overwhelmed early on, as you slowly build up each character's skills and accumulate the resources necessary to survive long-term.
State of Decay 2 is no different, although I did notice one significant quality-of-life change.
Vehicles were an invaluable commodity in State of Decay. A fresh SUV or hatchback was really just an opportunity to go full Demolition Derby on incoming zombie hordes. It was a quick and efficient way of protecting home base, and the safest form of travel.
That hasn't changed in State of Decay 2. The sequel, due out May 22 on Xbox and PC, has retained the spirit and formula of the original. The main difference is scale: base building mechanics have been expanded, the in-game maps have more NPCs to discover, more zombie nests to rat out, and the looting and crafting is more involved.
Take the base building. Having a generator will power essential services at home, but it makes more noise, therefore putting the base at risk. You can minimise that risk by taking out nearby plague hearts. That's essential for longer term survival, especially if you want to minimise the risk of special plague zombies around the map.
Plague zombies have a special infection that requires a certain amount of materials to cure. There's not that many plague zombies on the map, and you always need a handful, so getting infected is hugely problematic. Take too long and the infected character won't just die, they'll turn. Usually while they're lying in bed at home base, which results in them attacking the other survivors.
Put simply: there's a lot more hoops to jump through.
A shot of State of Decay 2's in-game menu, with the main resource counter in the top right. It displays your available food, medical supplies, ammunition, fuel, building materials and more.
Encumbrance is a bigger factor too. There was always a weight limit in the original State of Decay. The sequel brings those mechanics over while adding a few more: you only have one slot for rucksacks, and there's also degrees of encumbrance. Survivors will run slower once their load reaches half of their maximum capacity, and not being able to run semi-constantly isn't just a right pain in the arse, it's practically a death sentence.
And you'll need to be carrying some heavy stuff just as a matter of course. Repair kits for vehicles, for instance, are an absolute essential. It might not seem like it, particularly since there was always a crappy hatchback nearby in State of Decay. Maybe not so much in the plains or fields of corn, but every homestead would generally have a car you could hop into even if they weren't fuelled.
But State of Decay 2 has no such generosity. Over the course of three hours, I found one spare vehicle on the road. Which is a bit of a problem, because vehicles aren't as durable as they used to be.
Trying to plow down zombies, especially juggernauts when they appear, only works for so long. Your basic cars and vans deteriorate much faster now. So to prolong the joy of Grand Undead Auto, Undead Labs have added the ability to hold a door open while you drive past. The player can actively hold one door open; a co-op partner or AI, if you bring them along, will instinctively hold open the other.
It's a neat addition that prolongs the longevity of your drive-by apocalypse, but once you get past ten zombies you'll be driving without a car door. Having a repair kit on handy will help, and it's streets ahead of how the original game handled repairs. In the original game: you had to park your car back at base, have a workshop built, and then you had to wait for the car to be fixed overnight. The Power Tools speciality would repair body, engine and tire damage, while the "real workshop" only repaired wear and tear on the body and tires.
With extra restrictions on every addition to your base, the limits on stamina the longer survivors are active for, and the lack of extra vehicles in general, it makes State of Decay 2 a bigger war of attrition. That fits the spirit of the original game, but it makes it slower too.
Something else that doesn't help matters: once nightfall hits, State of Decay 2 becomes incredibly dark. I'm talking almost pitch black levels. Your character is equipped with a torch, but the range of vision is really bugger all.
So just like the original game, you really need to stock up before heading out. The start of State of Decay was a grind until you'd gotten your survivors and base into a sustainable, reinforced position. State of Decay 2 is the same: there's just a lot more to do before getting to that point. So take care of your vehicles, and if you can go through the slow grind to run over to one only to drive it back to base, do so. It'll make life a lot easier. (Alternatively, just get a co-op partner and get them to drive the car back for you.)