Right after his massively successful release of Bioshock Infinite, Ken Levine talked about a new concept in videogames: storyblocks. The idea is that a videogame narrative could potentially fit together like legos; by creating the same endpoints and start points you could create endlessly replayable narratives. Ken hasn’t released a game since 2013 and nobody that I know of is talking about storyblocks anymore except one developer: Undead Labs in their much anticipated sequel State of Decay 2.
It’s this idea of storyblocks that made State of Decay 2 such a unique experience for me in the 100 hours I played of it in May 2018.
Yes, the characters are randomly generated from pre-defined sets (names, voices, features). Yes, the map is randomly chosen from one of 3 maps. But its actually pretty brilliant how Undead Labs made the different possible stories unfold the same with so many different possible variables. The four “story campaigns” of the game align with what specialization you make your main character. They are Sheriff, Builder, Warlord, and Trader. Once you complete the game with each specialization you get a permanent perk you can use in future playthroughs, encouraging you to keep playing the game. With Sheriff you get power and water at your home base with no cost. With Warlord you start the game with tons of free guns and ammo. I completed all 4 playthroughs over the 100 hours. I even did a “no cars” playthrough because I enjoyed the difficulty of it and role-played the idea that there was no gasoline left in my world.
How does this tie into the title of this article? Well it was just too easy. I admired people in the group treating this game like a Dungeons & Dragons game but I saw no need to. “Oh I can’t upgrade my tech wing because I’ve already maxed out that characters gardening skill so I can build hydroponics.” Why would I care about all that when the game was so easy to beat anyway?
But then…. nightmare mode.
Jontrelle and Marianne and Vick are the survivors I started with. The first night was an absolute disaster. 10 zombies in helmets were pouring in. Marianne went into the down animation several times. Their weapons broke almost immediately. I thought “Ok this is it” multiple times. The next morning we had somehow all made it. Vick hadn’t gotten any sleep and was threatening to leave the community. “Ok dude, you sleep while we go out and look for meds and food which we desperately need.”
It seems like any hit by a low level zombie does permanent damage to your health, which is insane. Right now I’m trying to get Level 2 infirmary up so I can get additional passive healing going. I have 3 characters and don’t have the option of taking out 2 at a time because the 2 others at any point need to heal up at home and sleep. Right now all I can do is essentially build a fortress and hunker down for the next attack. Once I have my home base in a good place I will feel like I can venture out and make moves but we are about to fall apart at any moment.
I had another community ask about plague cure. Getting plague samples is very hard. Do I really want to give plague cure to another community just based on the POSSIBILITY of them wanting to recruit to our community? I had to ignore them and move on. Right now my cars are so fragile that I can only afford to use them to run over plague zombies with the possibility of them dropping plague samples. Cars are simply too precious to run over regular zombies with them anymore so I will zig zag through a field looking for the plague zombies.
The next group that asked for help were the mechanics. They had a relatively easy task. No possibility to recruit yet but it was much easier than giving that other group plague cure. We’re only on Day 2 and the forecast is looking dark. Vick was complaining and so I had to exile him from the group. We just don’t have the resources for 3 people yet.
Sneaking around the map has been incredible. I’m noticing details more. On the “Welcome To Town” sign a human or zombie corpse was pinned up against the sign with knives. Warning people to stay out I guess? I never noticed subtle details like this when I blasted through the game before.