Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Post-Launch Review
Rebuild (Android version)
Developer: Sarah Northway
Released: October 2011 (browser version, Rebuild 2)


Rebuild is a turn-based strategy game set during the zombie apocalypse. A handful of survivors have secured a small (relatively) safe zone, and have begun the task of reclaiming the city from the undead. It's your job to beat back the zombie horde, construct defences, gather resources, recruit survivors, and rebuild the city.

At Launch

Rebuild received a 78% score from reviewers, but has a user score of 90% on both iOS and Android.

Post Launch

The version I'm reviewing is actually the third iteration of the game. The original version was a (relatively) simple browser-based game. Rebuild 2 expanded on the first and added more features and endings. The mobile version is Rebuild 2, but with more features and an additional ending to discover. There have been a few minor patches, I think.

The Good

Simple but Complex
The game is quite simple and easy to undertand, yet it offers a lot of depth and complexity. Survivors earn skills by undertaking missions linked to those skills - zombie killing, scavenging, leadership, science, and building. Survivors can find and equip all kinds of different gear which provides bonuses to one or two skills. You juggle several resources, including survivors, food, defence, and happiness. There are many different types of structures which each have their own benefits, including housing (suburbs and apartments), farms, defensible locations (malls, banks, police stations), happiness boosters (bars and churches), and a few useless structures that can be renovated into more useful ones.
There's one standard ending and something like 6 hidden endings which you can access through exploration and certain choices.

Manageable Randomness
Too much randomness can be detrimental to a game, but when you're allowed some control and choice over it, things can get interesting (like D&D!). You're affected by percentages as much as you want to be. You can play it safe and always send more people than you need to succeed, or you can take on more missions with a greater chance of failure. If you play smart you'll be able to weather the attacks, but if you send everyone out and don't leave anyone to defend the fort, well, you have only yourself to blame if the undead break through.
Difficulty Options
There are five standard difficulty settings, which affect the strength of the undead horde and the frequency of their attacks. That's fairly normal. What's cool is the more unique setting. You can choose to start your game in the spring or the winter. In the spring the game plays as normal. In the winter everything is covered in snow - just a visual difference - but more importantly you can't grow crops during the winter, so the only source of food is scavenging from abandoned structures (or hunting if you find empty fields).

Hard Choices
The best choices are the morally dubious ones. Do you allow a suspected suicide cult to set up in your church if it'll make your people happier? Would you change your mind if your survivors are so unhappy they refuse to do any work? 
The big one for me was when I tried a winter game. After my group grew too large I was constantly running out of food and survivors were occasionally starving to death. That's when the game starts going "So Steve died of starvation today... do you want to eat him?". I felt that I had no choice. If I declined, someone else would die the next day. And then when I recruit new survivors, the game starts going "You can't really support another person... do you want to eat her?". And again, I had to say yes to keep my group alive.
Eventually I made it through the winter, having eaten at least a dozen people. I'm not sure if I won or lost.

The Neutral

Things are relatively cartoony and there's no animation whatsoever. Perfectly functional, but not really a selling point.

Questionable Replayability
There are lots of options to mess with, and the random city generation and random events mean that you can play plenty of times with a different experience each time. But since gameplay consists entirely of selecting options from menus, you might get tired of it after a few games.

The Bad

I Can't Stop Playing
Once I start the game up I have a very hard time putting it down.
This isn't really a bad thing.

The Verdict

Recommendation: play it.
This is a great portable game. Since it's turn-based and nothing will happen without your say, you can easily play it in small chunks and put it aside, or pause to answer a call or something. But it's so addictive you won't want to. I've been playing on transit to and from work, and often when I get home I just drop my stuff and sit on the couch and keep fighting for the future of humanity.
Rebuild is available for Android and iOS for $1. SO WORTH IT.

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