If Actual Post-Apocalyptic Scavenging and Zombie Defense Is This Much Fun, I Can't Wait!
Rebuild 3: The Gangs of Deadsville is the latest masterpiece from Sarah Northway of Northway Games. Full disclosure: I have a soft spot for Colin and Sarah Northway, the husband and wife team that is Northway games. Not only are they an indie development house, but they also do their coding while traveling the world like a couple of geeky superspies. Regardless of their enviable lifestyle, the big reason that I'm so fond of them is because their games are consistently original, deep, and seriously fun to play.
Rebuild 3: The Gangs of Deadsville is a 4X game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) set in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. You begin the game with a small encampment, and a few team members; and your goal is to reclaim the city, one gruesome block at a time. To do this, you must fight zombies, scavenge supplies, restore infrastructure, build structures, farm, hunt, train, explore, and even contend with other factions who are trying to do the same thing but with wildly differing ideologies. Think: Civilization, but with hordes of undead. The game can be played in real-time, or with a turn-based structure. Real-time is a bit more efficient, as many tasks aren't completed right on the stroke of midnight so playing in turn-based mode, your team will always spend a few hours sitting idly while they wait for your next set of orders. Still, having grown up on turn-based games I prefer it over real-time, just because I don't want to feel rushed (don't worry, hybrid players; Rebuild 3 can be paused at any time in real-time mode).
Gameplay revolves around the idea of missions, which begin when you drag a team member (or yourself) onto a new space. This will bring up a wheel of options around the character, and setting them to task is as simple as selecting the one you want, such as scouting, clearing zombies, scavenging, reclaiming, building, etc. New zones must be scouted before other actions can be taken, and zombies must be cleared before any building can be claimed. Scavenging is somewhere in between, although it is more dangerous to hunt for supplies in areas where zombies are still lurking about. Only one action can be taken per square at any given time, so you are always prioritizing what to do based on your needs at the moment. It's the feeling that there is always more to do than you have time/personnel for, that gives Rebuild 3 that elusive, but all-important "just one more turn" feel. Do I have enough food to stop scavenging long enough to reclaim that big farm? I also have some previously reclaimed buildings that I still haven't scavenged, and they might contain some useful gear (which feels a lot like unopened birthday presents). This game is seriously difficult to walk away from, although you can save at any time when you absolutely must put it down. There is a story mode, which plays like a campaign with a bunched of linked cities with various victory conditions. It's surprisingly compelling, thanks to the excellent writing and character development. I still prefer the game's open play mode, however. Each time you play (even in story mode) the layout of the city is randomized, as well as the gear, resources, random events, and factions. This ticks off the final criteria for a game to earn a permanent place on my devices: endless replayability.
Although the premise is grim and gritty, the graphics of Rebuild 3 are most definitely not. Everything is vibrantly colorful in a cell-shaded way that reminds me of a graphic novel, and while animation is minimal, you never get the feeling that you're just looking at a static image. The audio is not overdone (thankfully), but it also has a nice level of polish that enhances gameplay without distracting.
Rebuild 3 is not a mobile game; it's a desktop game that is available on mobile. Those of you who know what I mean should be launching the App Store right now to purchase it. For you mobile gamers out there (and I know there are a LOT of you), just know that while games can stretch out into the wee hours of the morning, please know that Rebuild 3 is also perfectly suited for playing a few minutes at a time while waiting in line, or sitting on the bus, thanks to it's mobile-optimized interface and streamlined gameplay. Lastly, There are no microtransactions (in-app purchases).
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Great visuals for a 4X game. Sound: - 3 - Very good sound and music. Controls: - 5 - A lot of care went into designing the interface. It's intuitive, clean, and dead-simple. Gameplay: - 5 - My new favorite 4X game. I already own it for Mac, but love it enough to buy it a second time for my mobile devices.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Your first priority is to find a large farm. Focus on reclaiming whatever buildings necessary to achieve this. Not all buildings are worth reclaiming for their individual value. After your first farm, you should be looking for a school (training), hospital (healing), police station (security bonus), bank (vault provides security bonus), housing, warehouse (storage), and infrastructure (water/power). There are others, but I'll leave them for you to discover. Team members can only have one active skill so be aware of what they are good at before you start assigning missions (don't send a scavenger to kill zombies). Scavengers make the best farmers.