State of Decay 2 survivors, skills, and progression explained

Microsoft has debuted State of Decay 2, its latest zombie-themed survival game, with deeper systems under its revamped gameplay. Your community will be a major part of the experience, shaping how you survive again the merciless undead hordes. We've wrapped up everything we know about survivors and progression so far, getting you ready for release.

State of Decay 2 beginner's guide: Exploration, base building, and survival

Survivors are key in State of Decay 2

Like in the original game, survivors play a vital role in State of Decay 2. While many titles establish the main protagonist, State of Decay places an emphasis on your community and the survivors it encompasses. Gameplay requires players to cater to survivor needs, keeping their health, stamina, and morale in check.

The depth of the existing survival system has evolved for this successor, with each character granted a unique likeness, personality, and backstory in the world. Each of these combinations is procedurally generated from a handcrafted pool, ensuring diversity isn't sacrificed for depth. This creates substantial profiles for characters, with personal ambitions and motivators in the apocalypse.

While expanding your following, it's best to find a group of survivors that work well together, while delivering varied skillsets. Differing personalities can clash, resulting in fallouts, fights and decreased morale. Conversely, you should gather varied backgrounds to cover all major pillars of combat, survival and base building.

Skills and progression explained

Survivor are assigned an assortment of personal skills, inherited from their history. For example, an ex-auto dealer may have great knowledge of vehicles, while a rifle collector will have more firearms experience. Backstories seamlessly shape a survivor's skills, which translate to in-game advantages (and disadvantages).

When first enlisted into your community, survivors are assigned with up to five basic starter skills. New skills can also be obtained, by gaining knowledge through scavenged books and resources. Characters are locked to a maximum of five skills, enforcing limitations on a survivor's skillset.

Skills are accompanied by a rating, between zero to seven stars. The survivor's proficiency with a skill will increase when used, leveling up the skill's star ranking.

After fully leveling a survivor's skill, you'll need to choose a specialization for the character. A specialization provides the opportunity to further refine this trait, by choosing to focus upgrades in a specific area. Similarly to a skill tree, specializing your skills unlocks new moves and abilities for that character. For example, this can include improved stealth, scavenging, and various other bonuses.

Heroes, leaders and more

Survivors are also ranked, with rewards in place for leveling up. By completing activities that help the community, that member will be rewarded with increased standing among their allies. New community members will join the team as "recruits," before progressing to "citizens" and "heroes." By hitting hero, the survivor will gain special abilities tied to this status.

Communities can also have an elected leader, dictating how it approaches challenges going forward. Only one member can be promoted to leader status at a single time. Additionally, only certain survivors are eligible for a leader role, with their personality influencing how settlements are managed.

Each leader has a distinct leadership style, categorized under four leader types. "Warlords" show their strength to establish peace, while "sheriffs" allow ethics to play a heavier role in decisions. Alternatively, "builders" are ideal for construction and expanding your settlements, while "traders" are best at establishing deals with enclaves. Each leader type also gains access to exclusive base facilities, only accessible to that leader type.

Updated May 20, 2018: Updated following the launch of State of Decay 2.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.