The second paid content drop for State of Decay 2 launches today. In the "Daybreak Pack," players will team up with up to three others and fight off wave after wave of the undead onslaught in the game's new horde mode. I recently got to go hands-on with Daybreak and came away with several observations — and more than a few bite marks. Here's what I learned and what you should know ahead of your first session with the new game mode.
For starters, consider this a preview from a limited session with the mode. This is not, by any means, a full review, so please don't read it as such. Additionally, some may recall I, rather controversially, adored State of Decay 2 when it launched in May, giving it one of the most praising reviews anywhere, so if you already disagreed strongly with my assessment then, this new mode likely won't be the content drop that changes your mind.
In the full release, players have seven rounds to survive and, of course, they get much harder as you go. For my hands-on time, the difficulty spiked more quickly as it was adjusted to a three-round demo. Devs from Undead Labs explained to me that only one group of people, across hundreds of attempts at Gamescom and PAX West, had successfully completed the three rounds. That was a great motivator for me and my group to give it our best shot.
The game mode starts out with your squad taking up shelter in a makeshift base camp not unlike that in the original game's military DLC, "Lifeline." Walls surround your safe zone and you must fortify them and keep the zombies off the back of your technician. If he's eaten up by the horde before the end of round seven, you lose. He can fight back, but barely, so it's really up to your team to meet the zombies outside of the walls at first, and keep them on that side for as long as you can. Once they get inside, it becomes a mad dash to keep them away from the technician by any means necessary. Rounds were especially hectic in my time with the game. With such a short time to learn the new rules of engagement while teaming up with strangers who may or may not know how to play, I found myself determined to be among the second group to win it all.
We're gonna build a wall and the zombies are gonna pay for it!
Supply caches offer several health, weapon, and fortification items at the start, but these aren't meant to last you too long. Instead, between each round of zombie slaying, you're meant to run into the land surrounding your safe zone and search for CLEO (the story's paramilitary group) supply drops offering huge boons to your lockers back in the safe zone. You'll only have a moment to do this and the game doesn't exactly telegraph where the drops will be, so there's a great sense of urgency in these moments, even as they're zombie-free. Get out, find supplies, heal up, and build stronger walls — and do it fast. Any missteps and you're likely dead soon thereafter when the next wave approaches. It really felt like if anyone wasn't pulling their weight and collecting supplies in between waves, it would guarantee swift defeat. If that kind of reliance on other people scares you off, know that you can also play this mode with bots. Maybe you like that better.
New to this mode is also a Blood Plague Juggernaut, which truly combines the two most dangerous enemy types in the game into one gigantic problem. I ran into a few of them in my time, but I found the bigger issue was the number of Bloaters constantly strolling into the action. As players may recall, being near their noxious gas when they explode is a terrible health hazard, and that's exacerbated in Daybreak where they can come in groups of two or three at a time in fairly tight spaces. It's obvious Undead Labs isn't going easy on players with this new mode, but when have they ever?
The best part of the DLC, in my opinion, is how winning a full seven rounds awards you with new powerful supplies in both Daybreak mode and the main story mode. As a horde mode naturally always feels secondary to the main event, it's good to know every moment you spend in Daybreak is also ancillary to the main story. If that's not enough, it also comes with 29 new achievements for 250 gamerscore.
My group didn't end up beating the three rounds. We died with under a minute to go in the final bout, unfortunately, but dying has always been a key part of the experience in State of Decay. Without the looming threat of permadeath in the story mode, a lot of what makes the series so fun for people like me would be lost. Here in Daybreak, that same sense of the walls caving in around you is everpresent, only now that's to be taken literally.
The "Daybreak Pack" can be purchased for $9.99 starting today, or it comes included with the game's Ultimate Edition at no additional cost.
Check out our Best Xbox Horror Games Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
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