State of Decay 2 ultimate beginner's starter guide

State of Decay 2 is by no means a perfect game, but for fans of the franchise, and fans of zombie media in general, it's an unmissable experience that will keep you hooked for hours and hours. It's also deceptively complex.

State of Decay 2 features base-building mechanics, a subtle, but rich role-playing game (RPG) layer, and various intersecting sim features that can either make or break your nascent survivor community. Here are some basic tips to help you get started, without spoiling the joy of discovery.


1. Pay attention to character stats and traits

In State of Decay 2, you manage a whole community of survivors, and each member has their own unique traits and stats. The way these systems intersect impacts the efficiency of your community, and while the game doesn't telegraph them too strongly, there are menu systems where you can view how a character's behavior might be impacting your community.

Despite playing for dozens of hours, I'm still discovering new bonus character traits and skills, but there are a few basics that come with every character:

  • Cardio governs your stamina levels and endurance.
  • Wits can improve your scavenging and stealth skills.
  • Fighting affects your capabilities in melee range combat.
  • Shooting improves your skills with guns.

Despite these base stats, each character might have different bonuses as a result of their personalities. For example, a rifle fanatic might gain specific bonuses to those types of guns, whereas an ex-forestry technician might have better proficiency with axes. Each skillset can be viewed in the community tab, describing how to level up and improve. Successful gunshots improve the shooting skill, sprinting improves cardio, and using a garden improves gardening skills.

There are additional bonuses to pay attention to as well, which impact how characters function within your base. A medic, for example, will provide bonuses that directly affect your infirmary, allowing it to be upgraded further, granting passive bonuses to your group. There are a range of passive morale-boosting skills too, like "comedy" from an ex-stand-up comedian, or "people skills" from a convention volunteer. Even these can have cascading effects, however. If you end up with a character who hates comedy, they might come into conflict frequently with your ex-comic character, resulting in fights, reduced morale, and all sorts of negative effects.

State of Decay 2 survivors, skills, and progression explained

2. Keep an eye on your base tab

It's easy to get lost in the mindlessness of State of Decay 2's loot-fight-loot-fight gameplay loop, but you'd be putting yourself at risk by neglecting the true core of the game: the simulation. At the center of this is your home base, which serves as your oasis in a world out to kill (and eat) you.

Get acquainted with the base-tab screen, which gives you an overview of your base's facilities. Some are built-in, meaning you can't change them, while others can be dismantled and replaced. When you first settle in a home, take a moment to remove the useless areas so you can build new facilities later.

Performing any type of "labor" action within your base produces noise, which increases the risk of being attacked by zeds. If you commit your base to too many actions at once, it can be extremely dangerous for your community, so pay attention to the threat level section on the left. Each community member adds one point of labor (disregarding bonuses), and to keep morale up, it's good to have a bed for each survivor. If you have too few beds it can impact morale. Performing construction activities takes anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes, so it's good to set one off every time you leave to go scavenging.

You can augment your base's stats using outposts, seen on the right of the screen. If you need more beds you can capture a house, and if you want a steady flow of fuel, you can capture a gas station. As you get further into the game, you'll find unique, extremely powerful outposts that can provide game-changing buffs. For example, I discovered a power station in one map that would provide blanket electricity to my base. Having power boosts morale, and is also a requirement for some higher-level upgrades. You can claim some of these more powerful features via facility mods either found or crafted, but having them as an outpost frees up those precious mod slots for something else.

State of Decay 2 base building, facilities, and upgrades explained

3. Advanced community management

In the same way outposts can impact your playstyle and focus, so too can your promoted leader. In State of Decay 2, you can promote one of your characters with appropriate standing (accrued by performing successful activities) to a leader. The character traits affect what type of leader you'll get, and also what type of powerful unique facility they'll offer the group.

In my main playthrough, I promoted an ex-trader to my leadership position. His focus is trade and influence, which has changed the way I play the game. I'm no longer as concerned with scavenging as I previously was, since his unique facility option, the trade depot, allows you to summon different types of traders directly to your base to provide all the resources you need. I'm more concerned with crafting powerful items to trade, or scavenging luxuries to sell.

Even when you're hitting your stride and have more powerful weapons, vehicles, and characters, morale and supply issues can impact your troupe. You can always view a log of your base's consumption and social interactions via the base tab, giving you an overview of what your daily needs are, and what characters are causing social problems or improvements.

4. Beware of the consequences

State of Decay 2 is a game where your choices can have subtle cascading effects on your gameplay, particularly if you're not paying attention.

As you play the game, you'll be given opportunities to undertake little missions and quests, either via random survivor enclaves passing through your town, or missions offered by your own survivors. For example, a local group of drunks in my game wanted to scavenge supplies to make an alcohol still, in exchange for some of the booze. Ethanol has crafting properties in the game, and getting a steady supply of it would mean I'd no longer have to find it out in the field. Helping them out proved more complex than I'd anticipated, however. Attempting to fight drunk isn't the best idea, and one of their group got infected by a plague zombie, which requires a special cure (including the relevant facilities and survivor medicine skills) to fix. I had the option of abandoning them, or giving up my last supplies of plague cure to help them out.

I ended up helping them, but later on their still got stolen by another group. I figured fighting humans would be easier than fighting hordes of undead. But I was wrong. Going in completely unprepared, one of my most powerful survivors almost died, and the quest NPC was killed. I failed the quest, which impacted community morale, and I wasted a ton of resources in the process.

State of Decay 2 is a game which saves frequently, and there's no way to dial back the clock. If your characters die, there's no coming back. If you end up with a plague-infected community member and you have no cure, you'll have to choose between kicking them out or euthanizing them.

5. General State of Decay 2 tips and tricks

Without spoiling the joy of discovery, here are a few other gameplay tips to help you get going with State of Decay 2.

  • Take a look through the settings menu to see if there are features you'd like to tweak. I disabled tutorial messages pretty early on. You can enable the ability to pause too by setting multiplayer to "offline" in the settings menu.
  • If there's a zombie on the ground, executing them (LB + X on Xbox One) grants a momentary period of invincibility.
  • Cars are a precious resource. Make sure to keep them maintained with repair kits and gasoline, and utilize their trunks to transport large amounts of resources. With the right facilities and facility mods, cars can be upgraded into Mad Max-style death machines.

  • Try to ensure all of your characters get some time in the field to boost their skills, it'll improve their morale too.
  • When you hit maximum stars on a skill proficiency, you can level it up and take a talent. You can put your cursor over the skill to see what new passive skills you've gained, and any new combat moves.
  • When fighting zeds, always pay attention to your stamina. If you hit zero, you'll become fatigued, and unable to perform any serious actions for quite a while. This can be deadly
  • Always take time to clear out nearby infestations. It reduces the threat level against your base, and improves the morale of your base.
  • If you attack a plague heart, make sure you stock up for a fight. Plague hearts are powerful bullet sponges, protected by many infectious plague zombies. Every time you kill a plague heart, the other plague hearts on the map get stronger.

  • Sadly, State of Decay 2 doesn't have dedicated servers. So if you attempt multiplayer, try to do so with friends who live relatively near your physical location. If you're not hosting, the client-side lag will be unbearable over long distances.
  • Do. Not. Try. To. Run. Over. A. Juggernaught. With. A. Vehicle.

That's a wrap!

If you have any more questions about State of Decay 2, hit the comments below!

State of Decay 2 is expected to be released on May 22, 2018, for Xbox One and Windows 10, priced at $29.99 and with Xbox Play Anywhere support. You can also grab it on Xbox Game Pass for $9.99 per month.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!