Rimworld First Impressions Review (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cannibalism)
(Full Disclosure: the writer has backed this game on its original Kickstarter project page which can be seen here [ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tynansylvester/rimworld ] and can be purchased here [ http://rimworldgame.com/ ] for $30+, with a variety of tiers depending on what you are willing to invest into the game’s future. This review uses the 8d build of the game.)
Rimworld, Dwarf Fortress… IN SPACE (sort of)
Rimworld’s gameplay, like other Dwarf Fortress clones, is controlled entirely from a completely top-down perspective. It is a semi-RTS, semi-The Sims life story generator and semi-Fortress builder. The game has no dearth of mishaps and tragedies to suffer upon your colonists. Some of the game’s AI Storytellers will gleefully use them to wreak havoc upon the colony at the worst possible times, while other AIs will allow your colony to grow and prosper for a more The Sims-like experience.
You designate tasks for your colonists to fulfill, and they will do them in a First In, Last Out task-line depending on each colonist’s particular skills and abilities. In this sense, it is very much like Dwarf Fortress, but, where in that game the controls are arcane and byzantine, the controls and GUI for Rimworld are much smoother and have far more recognizable graphics for those unwilling or unable to play Dwarf Fortress. That is not to say this game is less complex than Dwarf Fortress. It has its own difficulty spikes and curves, and it is played entirely along two dimensions. Compared to DF’s multiplane, multi-floor gameplay, this game is more focused on surviving as a smaller colony, rather than as a multigenerational dwarven community. Colonists live and die, creating their own little stories for you to remember and for them to pass on in the form of art. Making stories to tell others of your colonies is where Rimworld shines.
But first, let me tell you of a colony and its residents I chose specifically to make it harder on one particular playthrough.
Histories of Avarice & Diligence
You start with three colonists. Compared to other DF clones, this is a pittance. However, this is not a problem for this game because it makes you invest far more emotion into each individual as they go about the tasks that you set before them to ensure their survival. But the life of each colonist is fragile, and they will each get hurt, wounded, dismembered, and even die. Yet the colony will go on. Each has a group of backgrounds that determines their skillset and is completely randomized for each colonist, personalizing them further. Additionally, each has at least one trait or combination of up to two that makes them individuals.
In the colony I am doing for this review, all three share one trait in common: they are cannibals.
The first colonist, Arseny, was a caveworld tunneler before becoming an urbworld (in-game term for a 1st World Country-Esque World) entrepreneur. He is good at mining and social matters but completely incapable of scientific research. He is also a cannibal and the second eldest of the three.
The second is Cagla, or Canim as her nickname was chosen. She was a frightened child growing up and became a space miner. She is excellent at mining, construction, and cooking, but she is incapable of stopping fires. She is also a cannibal and the oldest of the three.
The third is Avila. She was a caveworld tender, growing mushrooms before she decided to become a bartender. She is excellent at mining, cooking, and growing food as a result of her background but is limited to not much else. She is steadfast, the least likely to break mentally out of all the colonists, and is a cannibal.
Strike the Earth Planet
Once Rimworld starts proper, with supplies, food, and weapons dropping all around you, your three colonists hit the planet in survival drop-pods and make planetfall. In my game, they made planetfall in a tundra zone, recently added in the latest update, and were rewarded with cold temperatures that caused them to nearly freeze to death. The game features full atmospheric temperatures; hot and cold and will penalize your colonist’s moods if they’re outside of their comfort zone.
As it is hard to break old habits, I immediately crafted a small cabin next to a mountainside and proceeded to burrow into it. With three miners, this proceeded well. Meanwhile, a fire was made in the cabin to keep the colonists from freezing to death.
Food is a concern, especially early on and especially in normally freezing areas. You only start with a few days to roughly a week of survival rations, and it is up to your colonists to secure further meals. In the tundra zone, meat is scarce and potatoes have difficulty growing. But, seeing as all three colonists were cannibals, this would be soon be rectified.
Security is a concern, so the colony must defend itself. Each colony starts with a number of weapons; in this case, a rifle, pistol, and knife. Three days after landing, a lone maniac pirate attempted to assault the colony by himself. He was promptly shot in the knee, and his adventuring days were over. Normally, at this point, you are supposed to capture your attackers and stuff them into a prison cell, and then proceed to use Stockholm Syndrome to convince the survivor to join the colony and defend it from further attacks. Normally. But today, the bartender killed him and the colony would be able to eat for another few weeks.
After establishing a meal dispenser, food became less of a problem. Thanks to the low colonist count, however, the game kept sending slave vessels and dropping off other survivors of other crashes in an effort to bump up my colonist count. However, I was strictly going to avoid the issue of other colonists suffering from joining up for three reasons:
1) Eating people makes any non-cannibals feel terrible and makes them more likely to go crazy or leave.
2) Having only three colonists makes for a terrible economy, with the only thing to trade being the weapons of dead attackers.
3) Why pay for cannibal take-out when the dead pile outside the base?
Despite this, Rimworld was adamant that I have another colonist and gave me Tina, a lazy, prosthophobic starship janitor who grew up as a scout. Not the worst of prospects—she was the only one that has so far started with crafting skills above three. The colony still needed winter clothes in the forms of parkas. This will be important in a little bit.
The game’s butchery and leather creation system are combined into a single action, allowing your hunters to spare a bit of time creating both food and clothing materials. However, the only meat and leather so far to have graced the colony in any large number at this point were pirates, natives, and outlanders that died due to unfortunate circumstances.
Long story short, this is how Tina, the only neurotypical member of the colony, became the first colonist to craft human leather parkas.
Gruesome crafting story aside, the game’s crafting system is wonderful. It is a simple point, click, and build affair that so far only allows the creation of a variety of melee weapons and clothing out of several materials grown, mined, and traded for via the simple trade system.
The soundtrack is a haunting, western-themed mileau that is varied enough to prevent irritation. It is all at once quirky, breathtaking, and astounding.
Rimworld is a story generator full of tragedy, triumph, and survival. One moment your entire base is covered in flames from a broken power conduit; the next a pod with a single survivor falls from the heavens (not at all) eager to be put to work. This is Rimworld in a nutshell.
Exploring the surrounding land yields rewards if you can survive the dangers. There are sometimes cryptopods (think the pods in Alien that the crew climbed out of) scattered across the landscape, and each one contains an ancient survivor of some long forgotten crash or colony. Or ravenous beetles. The survivors, having just escaped whatever tragedy had befallen them before entering the pods, are also notably concerned with being brought out of their ancient sleep and will react violently.
Rimworld has enough materials in its alpha state to ensure several hundred hours of gameplay. The controls are excellent, mostly relying on the mouse with some keyboard shortcuts as well. My biggest gripe with the game is that there isn’t an adventure mode. Further, having a well established colony makes one thing apparent: there needs to be a bit more for the colonists to do. Often I would spend hours with my colony just farming potatoes and fighting off pirates, with little else to do but wait. The creator has added in art crafting to help mitigate this, but it’s still apparent, especially with high colony numbers, that there needs to be a bit more to do.
There are tiers that one can purchase with the game as well, with bog standard allowing you to have the game (and all future updates), followed by adding your (or a character’s name) into the game for $45. Further tiers include adding more character names to the character database, including custom histories, and adding yourself as leader of a pirate group for the more adventurous investors.
Furthermore, there are issues with colonists not having seasonal wear schedules; a friend of mine’s colony has four distinct seasons, and he has found that it is a chore to switch out each colonist’s clothing to match the season.
These gripes aside, the combat system, crafting system, and trade system are excellent, and I would hope others making games in this sort of vein would take note of what has been accomplished in Rimworld—if only for the sake of the GUI favouring crowd of Dwarf Fortress gamers.
It is a graphically improved Dwarf Fortress clone with tactical melee/ranged combat and a mid-tier difficulty curve. It features a plethora of weapons ranging from the neolithic great bow to advanced plasma rifles and miniguns, and it features no less than four different enemy types (as of this writing) for your colony to be attacked by. The graphics are inspired by Prison Architect, with small amounts of visual personalization available to each colonist.
I must admit, I am looking forward to future updates from Tynan Sylvester, and I’m looking forward to a proper review for Rimworld.
Writer plays Dwarf Fortress, Majesty, Mount & Blade: warband and currently is playing attempting to culture-form Scandinavia through viking wizardry in Crusader Kings
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