Welcome to Susan Arendt's latest column on Pocket Gamer. In 2018 we've recruited the best writers and most experienced gamers in the industry and asked them to inspire us. Today Susan takes a look at Rebuild 3, and sacrifices her own morality for the greater good...
The thing I used to really like about watching The Walking Dead, before it became obsessed with baseball bats and tigers and shockingly bad CGI deer, was that it understood there were many layers to surviving the zombie apocalypse.
You had to be able to kill zombies, of course, but you also needed food and shelter. Assuming you could achieve that, then you have to think about developing rules of conduct not just for yourself, but for anyone you might run into. Maybe not everyone has considered what their guiding principles would be after the fall of civilization, but I sure have.
And so, apparently, have the developers of Rebuild 3, in which you must consider all of the above and more as you struggle to carve a small corner of normality out of the broken remains of what once was.
You're the leader of a small group of survivors, so it's down to you to decide how best grow your community. There’s defense to worry about, naturally, as zombies continually throw themselves at you, but you also need to scavenge for food, medicine, and supplies.
That all takes time, and some of your crew are better at it than others. Is it better to send out the person who's - let's be honest - expendable, or the person who's good at everything and whose loss would really hurt the group's chances of surviving?
What I've found is that those decisions are all pretty easy when you’re just starting out and simply making it through the night is a major victory. Once you've rebuilt some of the buildings in town and achieved a base level of comfort, however, things get a bit more thorny.
Your town will grow as you find other survivors and persuade them to join up; the game demands you reach a certain minimum population, otherwise I'd just advise you to kill them all because hoo boy, are they annoying.
They get sulky when they have to go on guard duty. They don't like being paired up with certain other members of the community. Or they complain because you haven't spent enough time scavenging for booze. It's amazing how quickly people get bitchy, even in the apocalypse.
But managing those personalities is what makes Rebuild 3 such an interesting, and perhaps even accurate (who knows?) take on a zombie game. Moral questions are easy to answer when it’s a matter of life and death, but more murky when it's a matter of emotional comfort.
Is there even a place for morals in this new world? If watching a traveling showman torture zombies cheers up some of your group, that's a good thing...isn't it?
Then there are the other camps you'll encounter as your community grows, some of whose ethics will align nicely with yours and some that won't. The extremes are easy to navigate, but it’s those in-between areas that trip you up, like the hippies who insist you stop using technology in exchange for their help.
They've got food, and lots of it, but is that worth giving up your generator? Are they even right to ask that of you? Rebuild 3 is cartoony in appearance, but creates surprisingly savvy scenarios that dig deep into human nature.
Rebuild 3 lets you indulge all your zombie-fighting urges without letting you forget that the whole reason you fight is to maintain humanity. Whether you do that by being a rule-embracing dictator or a kumbaya-singing camp counselor is up to you, but regardless of your style, the game never gets so grim that you'll feel ashamed of your choices.
Actions have repercussions and you'll undoubtedly lose some friends along the way, but Rebuild 3 isn't trying to beat you over the head with the severed limb of guilt should you choose to be a murdering tyrant. This is your apocalypse, after all, so you're the one making the rules.
Read more of Susan Arendt's columns on Pocket Gamer, and find out more about Rebuild 3 at the game's official site. If you're looking for more columns, then check out Harry Slater and Jon Jordan, who are always on-hand with sharp, tasty opinions too.