by Robert Thomas
reviewed on PC
The Third in the Series?
Great, a new assignment. I'm reviewing Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville! Ehm... Where are the other Rebuild games? Who are the Gangs of Deadsville? Researching the game turned out to be something of a game itself: nothing on Steam, nothing on Wikipedia. My search led me to a Kickstarter page for Rebuild 3 which explained that the previous two were Flash games and that this was the first commercially released Rebuild game for PC. Being my first game in the series, I was eager to see what it had in store for me.
Rebuild is a strategy city-building game that the developer describes as "Walking Dead meets Sim City", which is a little generous but not too far off. Customization of your character comes first, with a decent variety of designs for your avatar; body type, hair, and clothes. You also pick your character's previous job, which influences their skill levels and starting items. Once you're finished with personalization, the introduction to the narrative is shown as text accompanied by a few still images. The classic Zombie apocalypse hits the world and your character is a regular civilian who gets caught up in it. After the initial hit of the apocalypse, he or she ventures out into the city, but before long they're bitten by a zombie. Mysteriously, your character doesn't transform into one of the living dead. With this knowledge, your character travels for several years before they meet Diane Moon. It is then that you decide that the world needs to be rebuilt.
You start with an overhead view of a walled-off couple of city blocks in a much larger town, with a some icons showing your team of survivors. Each survivor has one of five specializations, making them a soldier, a builder, a scavenger, an engineer, or a leader. Soldiers fight zombies, builders build walls and new buildings, scavengers scavenge for goods as well as farm, engineers research and craft, and leaders recruit survivors and boost morale. All characters can do any task, but it takes longer for them to accomplish those that fall outside their specialization.
You'll move the survivors to city blocks inside and outside of your walls to perform jobs. You could start with eliminating zombies around your perimeter, then expanding your area to control new blocks of land. Inside your walls, you'll tear down old, useless buildings to make houses, farms, and other more efficient structures. Making buildings costs resources that can be found by scavenging or going into parks or the forest outside the city limits. Research, among other things, allows you to communicate with your survivors, which means once in a while a speech symbol will appear on a character icon, allowing you to hear their stories as a prelude to leveling up. The writing here is exceptional, bringing the small character portraits to life with interesting story-telling and witty dialogue.
Keeping Things Interesting
Once your newly founded city of survivors begins to show some promise, a government needs to be established. A city hall can be built, your character is elected leader and you are ready to draft a constitution, ultimately determining what the group's goal is; repopulation, military, religion, or trading, all offering a unique perk. The game really opens up from here, adding diplomatic relations with other groups to the already busy schedule of a city manager.
Random events keep the game from becoming monotonous. If you don't kill Zombies regularly, they cluster and pile up at your walls until they are ready to attack. People will also appear at your walls, with ensuing text and options on how to react, sometimes creating an opportunity to recruit new survivors, or lose resources when you take a chance and luck runs out. These events are rarely kind, sometimes injuring survivors on missions, or giving you a difficult ultimatum. In the long run, all these events take their toll on survivors, lowering their happiness.
In what I found to be a weird, but interesting move, you leave the city after you've established it, travelling to the next city. This happens quite a few times in the story, building a civilization, then leaving it to rebuild a new group somewhere else. As you move, you'll meet new factions that can help or hinder your group's survival. They'll trade or attack depending on your interactions with them, which due to some of their beliefs will be guided by your own conscience. The story advances with each new city, until you reach your final destination and figure out the cause of the zombie virus.
The art design of Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville is very pleasing to the eye, though not visually stunning. The game uses a vector art style, alongside iconic character design that blends together well. Since most of the story is told through text and still images, the visual design needed to be appealing, and the artists have managed to do so superbly. I have to say that the varying and interesting character portraits really helped me become more attached to my survivors.
Holes in the Wall
Music is an underappreciated feature of strategy games. If done well, it can contribute to a person playing a game for hours on end. If not, it's hard to lose yourself in the strategy. In Rebuild 3, I had to turn the music off pretty quick. The songs are an irritating combination of techno and grunge, with incredibly sharp piercing notes and loud metal guitar strums. Creating an anxious feeling in the player seems to have been the developer's goal, but in the end - gameplay - should create tension, not music. For me it just created headaches.
Rebuild 3 does have its fair share of other quirks too. One of the major problems I encountered was that it is impossible to set two characters to two different tasks on the same tile. You can't have one person defend a block while another builds or farms which becomes a major problem when zombies are readying themselves to attack the walls. They can threaten adjacent tiles for very long periods, making it difficult to use any special buildings they contain.. Along with this, it is a little lacking in depth. Gameplay slows down after a while, annoyingly so towards the end of a map.
Still, the good outweighs the bad in Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville. It's a fun strategy game that can be played for a few hours at a time. It's a "city builder light" that should appeal to zombie and strategy fans, alike. Look past the few gameplay quirks, turn off the music, and enjoy rebuilding a new civilization in the wake of the zombie apocalypse.
Interesting, compelling writing, with an easy-on-the-eyes art style. Fun gameplay for a few hour sessions.
Not a game for long sessions, as gameplay becomes dull. Awful music.