Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville is the third in the series of zombie-strategy flash games from Sarah Northway, of Northway Games. It’s the first actual PC-downloadable game in the series. (The others were released as flash games on free-to-play Kongregate, and Rebuild 2 also on iOS and Android).
The developers have dubbed Rebuild 3 as “Sim City meets The Walking Dead.” The comparison does seem apt. It’s a city builder / people manager with an interesting story, a pleasing art-style, and great gobs of humour.
At the beginning of each scenario, your leader starts out with a tiny fort and a handful of other survivors. Your early goal is, unsurprisingly, to organise a source of food and building materials, and to recruit others to help you defend your new home. The survivors have different skills, as well as their own likes and dislikes. Some may be friendly and great to have around, while others may bring people down, or even introduce weird religions to the group (even turning you all into zombie-worshiping cultists!). As leader, you’ll have to try and keep everyone fed, safe, and happy, as well as deal with different events and scenarios that will pop up from time-to-time, and make crucial decisions about how you want your fort to be run.
A Kickstarter campaign that met most of its stretch goals (it just failed to get enough to support voice acting, an element I’m not sure would have added that much, truth be told), the game was created with a large amount of support from fans of the earlier two Rebuild games. (There’s even a Rebuild 3 ideas wiki, featuring screeds of new features the players were hoping for.)
While Rebuild 1 and 2 are still available to play for free on Kongregate, you’re going to have to pay for Rebuild 3 (it’s available on Steam). But before you put your credit card away, bear in mind that Rebuild 3 boasts a heckuva lot of new features. Rebuild 3 now has NPC factions - or gangs, if you prefer - with whom you can interact through trade, diplomacy, or war. Each led by their own leaders with their own agendas and survival style. There are all sorts of different survivor interactions (including the ability for survivors to take a liking to each other and have children, or even get married). There’s a new interface (that for the most part keeps out of the way, but had a few quirks that I didn’t particularly like), tech to research, new buildings and equipment...the list goes on and on.
As for that I thought of it? The random events that your leader and survivors have to deal with are varied and interesting, and there’s a lot of humour in these, as well as the interactions with the other factions. The soundtrack is also fantastic, with a sort of grungy-electronic vibe that fits in perfectly with the game’s setting and theme. (You can catch a snippet of it here.) The campaign was also really interesting, as you follow your leader across the Pacific Northwest in search of a zombie cure, or at least some answers. I also really, really enjoyed the beginning part of the game, where you’re scrambling to reclaim farms and just get to the point where you can feed your survivors.
The random events that your leader and survivors have to deal with are varied and interesting, and there’s a lot of humour in these.
But Rebuild 3 wasn’t a perfect game for me. While the early stages of each campaign scenario were compelling, I found the later stages of the scenarios felt like they really got bogged down. Interacting with the different factions was interesting at first, but soon grew repetitive, and eventually felt like a slog. And while the random events were fun to play through initially, as these were used and re-used for each campaign scenario, I soon felt like I could play through these with my eyes closed.
People (and inventory) management also felt pretty unwieldy, especially once I’d amassed a large number of survivors. Clicking on each person, then clicking on a speech bubble over the head of their paper doll to talk to them, then more clicking to select between weapons and other objects… it all got to be too much, to the point where I would start avoiding the entire survivor branch of the tech tree so I could avoid having to talk to them all.
The game would move into full-slog at endgame, where you would invariably (with only a few exceptions) have to choose between wooing the other factions (by running around at their beck and call) or obliterating them. Getting factions up to 100% approval (or slowly retaking their territory, tile-by-tile) was an arduous, time-consuming process, which usually coincided with getting the fort to a very stable point where zombies were really no longer a problem. This meant that by this stage there was little challenge left in the game apart from racking up approval percentage points, nibble-by-nibble.
All of which is a bit of a shame, because despite all of this, Rebuild 3 still falls into that more-ish “just one more go” category, where you find yourself playing on, later than you intended. It’s a little like those half-zombies my leader recruited towards the end of my playthrough: good, as long as you can look past the squidgy bits.