State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition has arrived, and with it comes one of the game’s biggest updates in its nearly two years since launch. The 14 GB update makes a long list of quality-of-life changes that will please longtime fans, while some marquee new additions are meant to attract new players as the zombie sim makes its debut on Steam and Epic Games Store. In total, if you were actively not a fan before, the Juggernaut Edition isn’t going to sway you, but if you’ve yet to try it out or you’ve been playing for years already, this is the best State of Decay has ever been.
The Juggernaut Edition is more of an iteration than an innovation — as seen in its massive patch notes — but having poured countless hours into the game since 2018, I’m impressed with many of the changes Undead Labs has made for the sequel. The highlight of the Juggernaut Edition is the new map, Providence Ridge. While it keeps things rural like the other maps, it does add an impressive level of verticality to the series that’s never been seen before. As I first descended down from my firewatch tower encampment, I was excited to see just how different the new map felt. Winding roads led me descending down the mountainside as I passed abandoned safe houses on both sides, with new sights to see too, like an overturned trailer with no way of entering or exiting echoing the groans of a zed inside. Providence Ridge is the game’s most atmospheric map, and it’s a more atmospheric game in general after this update.
The bars for both the audio and visual fidelity have been raised. State of Decay has never been much of a looker, and I’m not saying it dazzles now like genre mates like Days Gone, but to the relatively small Seattle team’s credit, the series has never looked or sounded this good. The audio mix allows for a more realistic ranged experience, where threats within earshot can be heard earlier and directional audio seems to have been improved across the board. It really sells the time and place of the deserted, post-apocalyptic world better than ever.
While I didn’t notice much improvement in textures as advertised by Undead Labs, the day/night cycle is now a greater part of the story players carve out for themselves thanks to improved lighting mechanics. Sunset skyboxes look awesome in 4K, and while the nighttime hours are still virtually pitch black and better for it, improved moonlight effects have delivered an eerier horizon. Flashlight adjustments were made and now they light the way more realistically. Diehard fans who notice the differences will love them.
Overall, State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition‘s coloring feels like it got a new filter. Before the maps felt sun-bleached, dry and cracked and yellowish. Now each map has adopted a cooler palette of blues. Combined with the woodsy new map, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if Undead Labs were inspired by its Pacific Northwest counterpart at Sony’s Bend Studio, recent creator of Days Gone.
The soundtrack from talented composer Jesper Kyd (Assassin’s Creed, Hitman) has roughly doubled in size, to great effect. Right out of the gate, I was hearing new ambient tracks, and the game’s way of dynamically changing the tune to go with your actions is more effective with all the excellent new music.
From a gameplay standpoint, the major changes come down to smart default controller map tweaks (with full remapping available), as well as new heavy weapons, which give the game a light Dark Souls flair in its melee combat. Stamina has always been important, but with these 10 new weapons — one of which is a guarded secret to be discovered in the coming days — the timing of your attacks is now more important than ever.
The game had already released several DLC packs, including a horde mode in Daybreak and a nostalgic new storyline set on the original game’s Trumbull County map. And with the new update, these packs and more have been made free for everyone, which is a great bonus for fans who didn’t get them yet or the many new PC players the series will attract.
All of these aspects come together to enhance what I believe was already the most thoughtful zombie apocalypse simulation ever made, and if you’re a big fan like me, you’re going to really enjoy this makeover. It only makes the game bigger and better, even providing many bug fixes.
For the new crowd coming over from Steam and Epic Games Store for their first time, and for anyone who may be new to Xbox Game Pass, the Juggernaut Edition is unquestionably the best version of State of Decay in its seven-year series history. After a rough launch, the game has maintained a passionate, if niche, community of fans on Game Pass and elsewhere, and with more platforms coming in now two years later, I’m hopeful this brilliant franchise finds new life in its undead aspirations. State of Decay 3 seems like it’s still within reach, and the Juggernaut Edition is an exciting step in that direction.