Ever wondered what it would be like to take the place of Rick Grimes or the Governor? How would you run things differently? What policies would your band of survivors have to get accustomed to? Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville is a series that allows you to decide just that. Lead your rag-tag band of survivors to take back the city from the dead. Fight the ravenous hordes, train your people in various skills and work to bring back the world of the living amidst the hordes of undead.
Developed across two previous titles by Northway Games, Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville is a title that I have been following for a couple years now. This latest incarnation is by far the cleanest version of the game, but because it is an early-access title, it is not without its issues. So don’t say you weren’t warned. Where previous games, available in browser or on iOS platforms, drove for a more serious tone with a soundtrack out of a horror movie, Gangs feels more like a video game. Rather than the realistic portrayals of survivors featured in Rebuild and Rebuild 2, Gangs uses vector graphics to portray its heroes. Personally, this makes it a lot easier to detach myself from them. If Rico Simms goes out for food and comes back holding his intestines, I will be more likely to just bury a hatchet in his head. No worries. That guy was annoying anyway. Though the characters are now a little more toony, this has allowed the developers to make the town itself look altogether better. Where before you had some simple doodles, now you have a more detailed and gritty map. Granted, sometimes the map feels more like a page out of “Where’s Waldo?” but that makes it fun and slightly nostalgic to pan the view and looks at your surroundings. One more major add-in for the city itself in Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville were rivers and coastlines. This way you can reimagine that famous trailer for another run-of-the-mill zombie-smashing RPG at E3 2014. Did you like this map? Good. Save the seed and you can regenerate it every time you play or take a random seed for endlessly replayable apocalypse action.
Gangs of Deadsville also features other players. In Rebuild 2 you had the possibility of running into a gang called The Last Judgement Gang. They would frequently harass the colony, attack, steal food and generally provide villains for the player. As your colony grows, it eventually becomes evident that you have to deal with them, and this culminates in a final showdown of epic proportions. In Gangs, you get to deal with other factions. As of yet, the only interaction I’ve had was with this russian guy named Gustav. He always comes by and tries to get my people to gamble away precious resources, buy hookers and accept food loans. That guy is more of an annoyance, really, but if you piss them off enough, their faction comes crashing in guns-blazing. This isn’t the only other faction, but it is the only one I have met so far. You can also run into enemy NPC colonies that basically end up battling you for dominance. Instead of having a typical cut-and-dried enemy, now you have a real us vs. them feeling with a battle for survival with a group of people you might have been best buddies with in another life.
When I started Gangs of Deadsville, I was given the standard options: make a character, pick a profession set town parameters. As I clicked through the random name generator, I noticed a few fun monikers I might take on. Among them were Johnny Dangerously, Arma Geddon and James Tyberius Kirk. Clearly the character I was concocting was a man of honor. As if that didn’t make it obvious enough, the selection of former occupations is spectacular: politician, Police Officer and Doctor are fairly well coveted in the real world, but more realistically, you can choose to play as a Retiree or a Shop Clerk. Each occupation starts your leader off with an item and a bonus quality, which makes them unique. Being clever and dashing, I chose the Shop Clerk occupation, which made scavenging easier and got me better deals when bartering and trading. And of course, started me off with the tool most favored by shop clerks worldwide: a crowbar. I would have pick a backpack or a flashlight, but shop clerk comes with a crowbar. I mean, I am not disputing the realism of a game where you spend your time fighting zombies, but every self-respecting gamer knows that the crowbar is default weapon of the scientist. Jeez.
Each survivor has their own story involving things ranging from baking and homelessness to gardening and shoulder-lizards. As your people level you will choose news perks for them, skill enhancements, equipment etc. Equipment becomes important, too. While your main source of food should start off angled toward farming, you will still need to avidly scavenge for weapons, tools, ammo, fuel, building materials and an array of other goods that are hard to come by and expensive to purchase. And with other factions and colonies searching for the same goods, you need to move fast.
But dedicating your people to one set of tasks constantly will leave other areas of your colony neglected. There are 5 classifications that survivors fall into: defender (red), leader(blue), builder(green), scavenger(yellow) and engineers (purple). Each of them play an integral role in the sustenance, expansion and strength of your colony. Sure, everyone likes to kill zombies, but not all your survivors are good at it. Send a builder out with a hammer to kill zombies, and he can get small groups, but as the numbers of walking dead rise, they will only be able to support the real fighters. Likewise, an engineer might be able to lend a hand with manpower when expanding the colony into new sectors of the environs, but he is much better suited in a laboratory. This is where the leader of the town comes in handy. Sure, you might be a shop clerk, but you are a special shop clerk. You are able to use your leader for any task and level him up in all skills, while your other survivors only level in their specific skills. Of course, that makes it so that you are the only non-drone in a colony of ants, but as long as you address them with titles and call them specialists, they shouldn’t rise up in revolt. I mean, doesn’t “Rage Specialist” sound so much better than “instrument of my own vengeance and violent will”? Yea, I know, has a sort of ‘I respect your autonomy and special snowflake-ness despite the fact I control your every action’ feel to it. Just what you need in a leader of men and women.
Cause you also need to keep those fuckers in high spirits, too. Now the aforementioned hiring of hookers is a good way but costs food and the dignity of many people involved. A better option is to renovate a nearby bar or church and let your people spend time there. They can also do ‘time off’ missions in their quarters, but hanging out in a run-down apartment complex is only fun to a point. There is more to life than seeing how many birds you can hit with your spit from above. Trust me. Another neat feature of this game are the random events. People show up at your gates, animals might attack, someone might find a fucking raccoon in the goddamn shed. Whatever, the odd-ball and.. uh.. RANDOM fucking nature of these events adds a tangential factor to the game, making it feel like it takes place in a real and changing world.
Now, there are zombies in this game. Did I mention that? Ok, good. Pay the fuck attention. Now, when the game starts you have a few straggling zed-heads, which are easily dispatched by your survivors, builders, scientists, defenders alike. But as you progress, your people, who presumably haven’t showered since the fall of modern civilization and can be smelled in the next state over, attract zombies like North Koreans to a bulgogi buffet. Thus, the zombies start to shamble toward you in ever-growing numbers like the rotting parade of stank-sniffing gut-munchers they are. This means you need to seriously amp up your game if you don’t want to end up as fertilizer. Zombies aren’t the only way to die, though. Go ahead, rely on scavenging as your main food source. Your people will die THE DAY AFTER YOUR FOOD RUNS OUT! And your people might die on a mission, get caught up in a random event or just catch a mother fucking fever. Still more neat mechanics exist, like the ability to switch between real-time and turn-based strategy. Seriously, the problem is choice! So reach out, expand your reach and get that technology research moving! Did I miss that too?
So as you expand you will encounter labs and drive-in movie theatres and other neat shit. Now, you could ignore the messages and subtle hints, but as you move your game along, you can even get technology up and going again. Like, refrigeration, movies, PORN! Christ’s sake PORN man! Is there a more noble cause to reach back into the annals of knowledge left by the ancients?! O, yea, there is also the ability farm more efficiently, build better walls, kill zombies more effectively, but shit, man, who doesn’t like to watch other people fuck on film? It’s purely for research.. and morale.. and stress relief.. or something..
All-in-all, this game allows you to live the fantasy of leading people to salvation through a gurgling masses of horrifying flesh-suckers, and Sarah, the developer, has done everything to make this a title worth your time and money. The best part is that the game is still coming out with more content. I mean, that is good news to me! It means that if the game’s state bothers you, come back to it in a few weeks and there should be another update to explore.
Above you will see an excessively accurate detail of how many massed zombies those guys were fighting. Evidence of the only thing that truly angers me about this game. Bugs. Of course, this is a PRE-RELEASE title available on Steam through the combined auspices of Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter. But that does not make it any less fucking frustrating when you have a memory error appear on your screen after about an hour and a half of non-stop gameplay. I mean I can’t even fucking binge-playon my favorite goddamn game! If I want to waste HOURS of my fucking time murdering zombies and micro-managing my people’s lives, I want it to be uninterrupted by binge-halting errors. The base game is $14.99, but fuck that. Don’t do that to yourself. You WILL love this title. Just spring for the extra 10$ and get the deluxe edition. You can even download that AFTER you decide whether you like the base game or not as it is listed as DLC! This DLC will bring you some neat art and such later, but will also grant purchasers 5 extra professions, each with their own unique item. So, you’ll be cursed with more fucking choices! And if you’re into that whole ‘instant-gratification’ thing, the DLC ‘deluxe’ version will also give you Rebuild 1 and Rebuild 2 in all their formerly browser-embedded glory. That way you can formulate your strategies on the earlier (but by no means easier) games. So go on Steam, and throw 24.99$ at getting this title moving. Its end state will be a title to make Sid Meier jealous. I mean, seriously, that guy is probably like making a title called Sid Meier’s Zombies! Too late, ya bastard! Too fucking late!