Even though I’ve been playing State of Decay 2 on and off for years, I’ve never had the full State of Decay 2 experience. More specifically, I’ve never had a character die.
With the game’s most recent update, it feels like an inevitability.
That’s because the latest “Homecoming” update for State of Decay 2 makes plague hearts, and thus plague zombies, a much more prominent threat. Not only are plague hearts now more numerous when you start a new map, but their area of influence is much wider, meaning plague zombies are a more common sight.
Plague zombies are my favorite thing about State of Decay 2. Regular and special zombies can hurt and kill your characters, but they can’t turn them. Plague zombies are the only ones that fulfill the role of regular zombies in most zombie media, which is to pose the existential threat of losing your soul and turning into an empty, flesh-consuming vehicle for an unstoppable force of nature. In that sense, they are the only true zombies in the game.
Seeing that plague meter fill up every time you take a hit from a plague zombie in State of Decay 2 is essentially the same thing as seeing your health bar tick down, but when it fills up, it creates the best moments in the game: frantically trying to get your infected character back to base so you can cure them. The Homecoming update ups the potential for these kinds of events to happen, and the threat of that makes every step you take in the game feel more purposeful than ever before.
The update also makes it so that you can’t claim outposts in territories infected by plague hearts, while simultaneously letting you upgrade outposts once they are secured. There’s a give and take in the update that makes the players work for it, and I like having to work for it. I like being stranded in plague heart territory without the ability to simply claim a random outpost to call in a new character or retrieve some much-needed supplies. I like the constant sense of danger.
So far, I’ve destroyed two of the 13 plague hearts that have taken root in the new map I started. Doing so took its toll. My characters are on their last legs. The new landmark outpost is across the entire map. I don’t have enough gas to make the trip, so I have to travel into plague heart territory to get gas and a repair kit to fix my car. I haven’t gathered enough plague samples to make a cure for my semi-infected residents. I have no food resources and no health items. My characters can carry a rifle and a sidearm now, but there’s no ammo. Life is dire for my community, and I’m loving it.
Do I want my characters to turn into zombies? No. I’ve literally been playing with some of these characters for three years now. But I love how high the stakes are now. If this is the baseline for State of Decay 3, then the future is looking bright for the series—and bleak for my characters.