Zombies emerged from a global pandemic. Pandemic killed Deacon St. John’s wife, but cause unknown. People are far fewer than infected after two years. Zombies and infected share little besides eating humans. Fast, ferocious animals move in packs or hordes, have different types, and kill without a head shot. The drifter Deacon lives with his old biker gang friend Boozer. Scavenging and other tasks sustain them. Human gangs and bandits are scarier than infected. All main and side quests tell stories. Each story has a progress tree with completed and ongoing tasks. Missions and events affect multiple stories. Some world map story events expire if not engaged. The main storyline has several playable pre-pandemic flashbacks.
First, one-third of the map is shown. Story opens up the remaining two thirds south of the initial area. Only visited locations appear on the dark map. Visitors see refugee camps, bandit camps, NERO checkpoints, and more. Bandit camps and NERO checkpoints must be cleared before use, but refugee camps are fast travel points. Active missions display pre-set or manually placed paths. Upgraded skills can show mini-map items.
Skills and Upgrading
Deacon gains experience by killing bandits and infected and completing quests. Characters gain new skills after leveling up. Each Melee, Ranged, and Survival skill tree has five tiers with three unlockable skills. Choose two of three skills from tier one to unlock the next. Close combat with blunt weapons and stealth kills are melee skills. Ranged skills involve shooting and damaging with firearms or crossbows. Survival skills include trap-building, resource gathering, stealth, and conflict avoidance.
Upgrades differ for bikes. Every settlement in the game has its own currency and trust level. Settlement credits can be earned by selling infected ears. Settlement tasks boost Deacon’s trust and give players more credits to spend. Bike upgrades, changes, and repairs are done by each settlement mechanic. However, each settlement offers different parts and accepts its own currency, so doing a task for one earns you nothing at others.
Combat & Scavenging
Only four weapons are allowed for deacons. Hammers, baseball bats, 2-by-4 boards, stool legs, and blades are blunt weapons Deacon can use anywhere. Each blunt weapon is sturdy. Skilled deacon can fix them. He uses a boot knife for stealth kills or when he has no blunt weapon. Pistols and UZIs do the least damage but are used when other weapons are empty and when biking. Machine guns and rifles fight groups of enemies with accuracy and speed. Crossbow or sniper rifle is the fourth weapon. Crossbows are silent but have small arcs, but sniper rifles do the most damage. Molotovs can be made with the right materials, but only settlements sell grenades.
Scavenging goes beyond weapons and tools. Need more parts. One molotov requires an empty glass bottle, gas can, and cloth. Arrows may require a specific branch type. They must be found in the wilderness and assembled on site, not bought in settlements. Motorcycles need gas and repairs. Old gas stations, gas canisters, and motorcycle parts that fix blunt weapons are everywhere. Find or make bandages, bandaids, and medkits. Materials respawn, so there’s no shortage. Deacon can open car hoods and remove engine parts with his boot knife.