How do you meaningfully add to a game that’s been in players’ hands for five years? In the case of State of Decay 2, you throw a curveball. This new update, coming to players for free on September 18, is a landmark moment for the game – not just offering a swathe of new content for the game’s most dedicated players and newcomers alike, but marking a new era in State of Decay 2’s development through the work of Wushu Studios.
Wushu, from Liverpool, England, will continue providing support to State of Decay 2 as much of original studio Undead Labs transitions to work on the next entry in the series – but where you might expect that support to be incremental, Wushu is making a very big splash. Curveball is a major update, touching almost every element of the game, and designed to consistently offer brand new challenges, even to those who have been playing State of Decay 2 since release.
Available after the fifth in-game day, curveballs can change the world around your settlement in some very interesting ways. Housed in a new menu, curveballs will periodically appear – each with their own narrative attached – offering new objectives, rewards, enemy types and much more. Curveballs can be positive (like finding increased loot) or negative (like buffing regular zombies in multiple ways); they can be timed or objective based; they can affect enemies, your survivors, or other NPCs. Effectively, any element of the game you may have gotten comfortable with can, and often will, change.
“We basically wanted to address the feedback that over time the game became a bit repetitive relatively quickly,” Undead Labs’ Meg Chaney and Eric Anderson tell me, “so we wanted to introduce something that would shake things up and keep the game changing as players spend more time with the game.”
“For experienced players, the later stages of State of Decay 2 can get a little predictable,” adds Wushu’s John Hollingworth. “That’s why we are introducing curveballs. This feature is designed to keep you on your toes by adding random events and world-changing modifiers to the game. It introduces new layers of challenge and unpredictability to keep the wasteland fresh, exciting and dangerous. These new scenarios help to develop more unique stories around your survivors, so whether you’re a seasoned survivor or just starting out, each session and playthrough will feel different to the last.”
To enforce that unpredictability, curveballs are fairly random – while a few are tied directly to actions you take in the game, many can appear completely unexpectedly – and you can even have multiple curveballs active at the same time. “We think it’s going to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride for seasoned players,” Chaney and Anderson explain. “Some of the curveballs may only require minor adjustments to tackle or will provide new opportunities, but some of them can be pretty vicious and require major adjustments to their tactics.”
Of course, the most obvious of those changes comes in how curveballs can affect your most frequent targets: zombies. “Zombies were the first and most obvious target for modifiers,” Hollingworth tells me. “We wanted to lean into the idea that there is an ebb and flow of mutational outbreaks within the population as a result of events occurring in the world, or the Plague attempting to push back and fight the enclaves.
“Zombie side effects can include lethal physiological changes or heightened senses. Some examples can be things like stronger zombie attacks, improved eyesight, hearing and even smell to zero in on survivors out of sight. Zombies may explode with decomposed bile gunk when killed or carry a stench that suffocates and drains the stamina of any survivor up close. These are just some of the challenging mutational modifiers. However, zombies may also carry side effects that make them weaker. They can become frail, slow down, and in turn be easier to behead and knock down by affecting their center of balance.”
To put this into context, all of this can happen to just a single enemy type – with so many modifiers on the table, it’s clear how wildly different the form of curveballs could be from one player’s game to another. But the point is that curveballs shouldn’t make it feel like you’re suddenly playing a different game, just a warped one (and you can even turn the feature off entirely if you’d prefer to play the base game as it was). “We have touched on a lot of different systems but only to an extent which complements the current gameplay,” explains Hollingworth. “We wanted to ensure it narratively fit and could be justified within the simulation as to not break the immersion.”
And the curveballs don’t end with what’s coming to the game on September 18. “We also are hoping to introduce more player control over the feature over time, so ultimately it should be up to the player to determine how much of an impact they want curveballs to make,” Chaney and Anderson tell me.
This is just the start of Wushu’s work on State of Decay 2, and you can expect the game to see more updates as time goes on – but the team wants to spend some time after its big new feature making sure that its players are feeling heard, too: “We’ll be putting a bit more time into tackling some items from the player wishlist and addressing existing player concerns,” says Hollingworth of the near future. “Some of them may require extensive overhauls to existing systems, but mostly I think we’ll be focusing on improving what’s already there and making sure it matches players’ expectations.”
It’s rare to see such a significant new idea added to a game after five years, and it seems Undead Labs and Wushu have more plans to come: “SoD2 has an incredibly loyal player base and a phenomenal community,” says Chaney, “so our primary goal is to continue to provide them with meaningful content and gameplay updates! This game is 5 years sexy and we’re going to keep the party rolling…”
Make sure to check out the Curveball update when it arrives in State of Decay 2 on September 18.
State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition
Xbox Game Studios