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State of Decay 2 Journal: Lethal Zone

Note: I wrote this during quarantine in late 2020 when I had literally nothing better to do and apparently never published it. Chronologically starts from the bottom.

December 15 2020

Well I've just completed my first legacy on Lethal. It wasn't as straightforward as I'd hoped, and I had to make a few concessions to a game that is borderline broken in places but I got through and my veterans got out. First, let me say that if the Trade Summit mission was bugged on Nightmare it's outright broken on Lethal. I must have tried a dozen times to complete it, but the dumbass AI survivors got themselves mobbed and killed every single time. On the last two attempts I even scoured the map for every single vehicle I could find and used them to physically block the four entrances to the flooded factory. Collecting the vehicles was a two day job in itself. Zombies couldn't get in, but somehow these idiots found a way to get out, and again got themselves killed. Eventually I ran out of scent-block and had to switch gears. Blevins got demoted, Clyde got promoted and I finished out the builder legacy. Defending the police station with a sniper tower and the built in defenses was a piece of cake in the end. I've now filled my 50-character legacy pool and I think I'm going to take a break for a while. Maybe try something that's a little easier on the blood-pressure. No Man's Sky perhaps? Or maybe I'll just start a long-run campaign on Dread to get the 100 days achievement. That should be positively relaxing by contrast.

December 14 2020

I've done it. It's done. All 34 plague hearts have been destroyed. What a Herculean effort it was. I finally learned the optimal strategy wasn't guns at all but a combination of scent-block, road flares (or fireworks) and bloater gas grenades. Setting 3 of those bad boys on fire will take them down quickly, and won't draw too much unwanted attention. I'd take a stealth character and park centrally between 2-3 closely packed hearts, then pop a scent block and lob the stuff through the windows. Once that cluster was done I'd drive out of there with a bunch of ferals on my tail and come back for the loot later. I'm on the home stretch now and have finished all but the final builder legacy quest. Had a couple cracks at it but just can't seem to keep those twats alive. I've taken the extreme measure of parking cars across every entrypoint to limit the zombie clusters, hopefully that works. Doesn't help that the AI is so dumb it bumrushes the Z's, but I guess here we are. Hopefully tonight I'll finish my first Lethal Zone game!

December 12 2020

A lot has happened since the last update. Most notably I lost one of my mechanics to an otherwise-laughable series of glitches and bugs, as well as coming within 40 seconds of losing Blevins to blood plague on a botched heart assault mission. I'm also down to only 6/34 plague hearts left to destroy. Been an eventful couple of days.

Sean the mechanic was driving back to the site of a destroyed plague heart to mop up and collect the goodies and a blood plague horde literally spawned in as I was in the midst of them. The car was on fire after crashing headlong into a Juggernaut before I knew what was happening. Luckily I wasn't too far away from a friendly enclave so I legged it over there. After taking care of the Juggernaut and the Feral, and thinning the herd out a bit I had blood plague with the timer at 4 minutes or so. Fine I thought, I had an outpost with fully stocked cure less than 100m away. Unfortunately, the ruckus had drawn an additional 3 plague ferals, which I learned all too late. My timer was down to less than a minute by the time I had clambered on the back of a nearby pickup and was able to dispatch them. Sprinting to my outpost I had 15 seconds left to administer the cure as I threw open the door to the abandoned clinic and... crash to Home screen. Fuck. I was genuinely intrigued about how the game would handle this but on loading back in it dispelled all doubt - select a survivor screen was the first thing I saw. Double fuck. When Clyde went back to check on the scene sure enough, Sean was staggering around looking for brains. Undead Labs did you dirty Sean.

The Blevins situation was even more intense. Despite popping a scent-block prior to assaulting a plague heart in a building NEXT DOOR to one of my outposts, somehow the noise drew a platoon of ferals. By the time I'd evaded them and gotten onto the nearest rooftop I had the plague. Despite my outpost containing cure being literally 12m away, I couldn't get to it. I had to run to the opposite end of the building, bail off the roof and sprint for the car, getting tagged a couple times in the process. By the time I was able to lead them away in the car I had a little over a minute left, and next to no health. Driving like the wind I made it to another outpost with literal seconds to spare, thankfully without crashing the game this time. Blevins lives to fight another day. Key takeaway from each of these encounters - have plague cure on hand at all times on Lethal difficulty.

December 9 2020

Useless computer nerd is dead now. He complained and threatened to leave because "nobody was taking the time to get to know [him]". I thought I'd take him out the front of my base, run him around a bit to earn some XP and level him up to Citizen standing. What's the worst that could happen? He's covered by my rooftop guards with BFG's. Turns out his cardio rating maxxed out at 3 and literally 3 feet outside my base safe zone he was accosted by 3 plague ferals. He never stood a chance and it was over in less than 5 seconds.

I've now managed to stand up a trading post and have the resource crunch more-or-less under control. I've also managed to kill 6/34 plague hearts. I'm dreading how tough the rest are going to be, as I'm averaging 1 scent-block per heart as opposed to being able to knock off 2-3 per on Nightmare. At this rate I might be done by Christmas. I'm also dreading the inevitable confrontation with a trio of ferals in the wild. The group that killed my nerd broke into the base and wreaked havoc. Two of my community ended up with blood plague from that encounter.

December 8 2020

In the midst of the mid-game grind now. My community stands at 8 people, including 1 useless stay-at-home computer nerd/base guard who is the only leftover from the 3 folks I recruited as part of the questline that allows you to recruit a whole enclave. They were all useless, but I needed someone with computers to upgrade my command center, so I recruited them and quickly exiled the other two. They had blood plague anyway, they weren't long for this world. Finally got connected to power and water last night, this helped with the morale which is a huge problem on Lethal, as base morale level is set at -30. Resources are extremely hard to come by and I'm finding I need to take on and complete nearly every mission each day in order to be able to stay afloat by trading for resources with allies. Tried to destroy a plague heart by my base; they are ridiculously tough now. Emptied two full clips into it and it didn't seem to make a dent, but it did draw a couple of hordes and 3 plague ferals. Without scent block applied I would've lost my leader right there. I lucked into a trader with an advanced biochem station, so it looks like I'll be grinding for plague samples and using scent block as part of my heart-killing strategy.

December 7 2020

OK, so now the real fun begins. I've completed my final Nightmare run as a trader and started my proper Lethal run with 3 grizzled veterans. Let me introduce them.

A veteran of 3 campaigns, Clyde is a ninja warrior who gets up close and personal when dispatching zombies. Equipped with a professionally silenced sighted P-07, his specialization in munitions gives me 70 9mm rounds when crafting using the handgun press at the workshop, ensuring ammo for everyone.

Blevins was recruited from the crossbow murderer questline a few campaigns ago (as the crossbow murderer of course) and is almost a perfect skill roll; the only thing missing here was he got Discipline instead of Stealth, and missed out on Gunslinging. His traits give him an insane boost to carrying capacity - last night with an ultralight pack equipped, I was lightly encumbered when carrying my usual field loadout, a rucksack AND a portable generator. He can use a silenced RTX Stormbreaker as part of his field loadout and still sprint for free. Ridiculous. His advanced gardening skill with agriculture specialization also ensures that with a modded farm, food is never a problem.

Recruited Teodora on my final Nightmare run and she quickly became a mainstay. I rolled a near-perfect combo of Marathon, Stealth, Swordplay and Assault. With an ultralight axe and a handgun of some variety she's the perfect field agent. I added Fishing into her fifth skill slot to even further reduce the food consumption burden at high difficulties.

Over a few hours last night I was able to take these three into Meagher Valley and settle at the starter base, recruit a couple of newbies and relocate to the Police Station on Lethal difficulty without losing anybody. Literally the only close calls I had, given everyone was armed to the teeth coming in, was when I drove over a bloater that popped in at the last minute. Which happened at least 4 times. This feels like a technical issue that should have been resolved by now. Regardless, I'm on the cusp of having a self-sustaining base, the next goal is to connect to water and eventually power. I think I'm going to try and do a builder legacy, but as yet I don't have a builder leader. Might have to resort to Blevins as a trader if I can't recruit one. If I'm playing carefully, the only real risk I see is a group of 3 plague ferals. From what I can see they now need at least 2 headshots to bring down, and the blood plague escalates super quickly now. Might need to find a pickup truck as my primary vehicle as a backup cheese strategy for that exact scenario.

December 6 2020

Andy just died. Fucking Andy. On Nightmare difficulty no less. Veteran of 3 campaigns, expert auto-mechanic, jack of all trades, master of the quip, my sheriff leader and my Rick Grimes proxy. My absolute favourite legacy survivor. Kind of crazy how attached the game lets you get to these characters to be honest. It's actually devastating, with a hefty side of rage. Especially so since he fell victim to the ludicrously overpowered AI in one of the final Sheriff legacy quests. Scent-blocked and taking cover behind my vehicle I lobbed a couple Zombait into the midst of the 3 enemies clustered tightly outside their shitty house. The horde quickly descended and I started taking potshots. I assumed they'd be quickly overwhelmed by the Z's, and I waited to mop up once they pulled out their melee weapons. Except they never did. They shrugged off the literal dozens of basic bitch Z's, as well as the handful of screamers and the blood plague clouds generated by the bloaters that were drawn to the noise. I managed to down one, but he shrugged that off too. The entire time they were focusing fire on me and my companion. During a break in the attack they bum-rushed me, just as my scent-block wore off. I ran for my life but a single shot rang out and I was down, quickly mobbed by the Z's which conveniently ignored the guys firing their loud-ass fucking weapons. I struggled to my feet twice, but each time I ran no more than a couple of steps before I was plugged with an OP headshot and mobbed by Z's. At least it was over quickly I guess. The worst part about it was that the useless AI companion I'd hired clearly survived as she later ran by my base, on her way home I assume. Once I've emotionally recovered from this I guess I'll need to promote a new leader (probably a builder or trader this time to avoid the unbeatable AI human enemies) simply so I can extract my other 3 must-survive-at-all-costs characters from this literal Nightmare.

December 4, 2020

So I've been mildly obsessed with this game over the last month or two. I'm not sure how I missed it being released a couple of years ago, as I love the zombie apocalypse genre generally, but I didn't catch it. Picked it up on Xbox Gamepass and haven't really been able to put it down; it's an incredible time-sink. My hourly pre-bedtime gaming sessions have inadvertently turned into 3, 4 and in one case on a Saturday afternoon 8-hour binge sessions trying to keep my little community alive. Once I figured out the mechanics I quickly ratcheted up the difficulty to Nightmare and I'm currently aiming to finish my third playthrough with some grizzled veterans to earn my Sheriff boon bonus. My first Nightmare Zone run was exactly that - I'd brought 3 survivors that I considered to be veterans. One was quickly lost on a routine infestation sweep when he got mobbed by a horde with a couple of juggernauts in tow. Frankly he was an asthmatic troublemaker who was destined to die anyway, so I wasn't too cut up about it. At one point I thought all was lost when I was defending the bridge fort against an extended zombie siege that brought no-less that 3 juggernauts rampaging to my door. I lost another 2 fresh recruits in that battle. I think that was the turning point in my strategy, where I realized that stealth would play a much bigger part in any success at higher difficulties, along with leveraging strength in numbers, particularly when ferals were involved. My second Nightmare run was much smoother as a result, my crew easily defending the Police Station and I earned my builder Nightmare-level boon. This last run has actually been a breeze now that I've got my plague heart strategy in place (involving scent-block and a WW1 pack machine gun that uses 9mm ammo and simply shreds the plague hearts in a matter of seconds), though I'm still not looking forward to the final Sheriff-quest showdown with human enemies.

All this to say, I've been waiting on the release of Lethal Zone difficulty for a couple weeks now and last night had my first chance to give it a crack. I wanted to try it out with some freshly-rolled randos before I threw my vets to the wolves. First impressions have been pretty good so far. I'm a couple days in and nobody is dead yet, morale is in the green and resources haven't completely run out. By far the most difficult thing so far is the scarcity of weapons - it took me a full two days to scavenge a gun for each of my survivors. I also got mobbed by a gang of bloaters and a plague feral while in the process of settling my first base which made for an interesting few minutes of panic while we all tried to beat the damn thing to death with melee weapons. I've only had one near-death experience and I was able to leg-it to a local friendly enclave before shit really hit the fan. I've also seen a ton more freaks around, even though I'm yet to level anyone up to be leader-eligible. They're throwing juggernauts and lots of ferals at you really early here. First base assault didn't happen until I had a watchtower in place, thankfully, and it was pretty easy comparatively speaking. I also lucked into a car that just needed refueling rather than repairing so I'm at least more mobile now than I could've been. The devs also weren't kidding about how quickly gunfire draws EVERYTHING now; while looting an "abandoned" building site I had to cap a feral that snuck up on me and within seconds I was being mobbed. Had to bail to the car and only just got away in time.

I'm probably going to try two runs in parallel here, continuing this one using these fresh-faced newbies as an experimental sandbox and running a serious Lethal Zone campaign with 3 of my favourite veterans. I suspect the latter will be far easier given their maxxed out stats and kit. Just need to wrap my current Nightmare Zone run to send my vets to the real test.

Image from Microsoft

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