Great pioneers like Christopher Columbus and Elon Musk really don’t get enough credit for what they do. As it transpires, colonizing isn’t as much of a walk in the park as you’d think. There is a lot of walking involved, but it’s usually hauling stuff somewhere, chasing down tonight’s dinner or often just plain fleeing for your life. I’ll admit that I made it tough for myself from the get-go, and you’ll see why later. After five and a half years of development, Rimworld 1.0 was released on October 17th – so it’s the perfect time to give a review.
We’re talking about the project of small indie developer Ludeon Studios, whose staff I could count on one hand and still have enough fingers left to shoot a passing traveller for his packed lunch. Three settlers crash on an unknown planet and it’s up to you, the eye-in-the-sky, to manage these lost souls and maintain a functioning colony. People who’ve played Prison Architect might find the style very familiar, and those who’ve seen Firely will recognise its sci-fi / western stench right away. It’s filling a nice gap in the market already, but the cherry on top is the ‘AI Storyteller’ that is so often boasted about.
A common issue I find with games like this is that I just run out of things to do. Rimworld makes things happen to you, and you’ve just got to deal with it. There are three settings of varying relaxation and then five settings of varying difficulty. I went with a lower one just to get myself established, as thankfully you can change at any time. Random events including forest fires, heatwaves, raids, mad animals and so on will happen intermittently. The severity and frequency is affected by your settings, and it’s surprising how quick an apparently thriving colony can be brought to heel by something as trivial as a mad rat attack.
Having crashed to the planet in escape pods, these aren’t great settlers. All characters have a role, presumably what they were doing before their planet / ship got destroyed. Donald Trump, James Bond and Bonnie McFarlane have complementary skills, passions and personalities. As a politician, Trump’s a great socialiser and builder. Bond’s naturally a fantastic shot, and does a lot of the digging and recruiting. Bonnie was a cave tender, so she’s out growing crops and doing the cooking for the small crew. I’ll mention at this point that I was using the Prepare Carefully mod to edit my starting characters, but the game’s default settings of randomizing settlers can produce far more entertaining and often challenging combinations.
So far as tutorials go, it’s easy to follow and does a good job of explaining the various parts of the game. The UI may seem a bit disorganized at first, but you soon get a handle on what to find where and what it all does. Set zones for storing your resources, construct walls and furniture, give out orders to mine and chop wood, it’s all fairly standard stuff. One thing I do find extremely satisfying is getting a walk-in freezer up and running. To stop your food from spoiling, you need a separate storage room with a temperature cooler. Once you’ve got power flowing, temperature is set manually and it’s weirdly enjoyable seeing all your food freeze as you turn the thermostat down.
Standard maps are a bit small for my liking, but there are advanced options to use larger (and less stable) map sizes. I’d argue against my own point and say that if your colony is large enough to be worrying about running out of space, you’ll have bigger problems by then anyway. More settlers can be recruited by visiting nearby settlements, rescuing them from crash pods, or even capturing them in battle. More colonists means you’ll need more food, beds, space, defenses. In winter, you’ll need someone who can make warm clothes. With skills being randomized, you might not get anybody who’s any good at tailoring; and people’s mood drops quickly when they’re cold. Or hot. To be fair, Rimworld’s inhabitants are very easily upset.
The Cool Guy Brigade was doing quite well for itself. There was plenty of food and resources to go around. My main goal was to dig out the nearby mountain, and I realised I was a bit bored. It was then I made the fatal error of switching up the difficulty to ‘Randy Random’ on ‘Savage’. Receiving the ‘Raid’ notification usually means one or two opportunistic attackers making a play at what you’ve got, but on such a high setting this was not the case. I was also recovering from a fire. Bonnie McFarlane was wounded during the siege, our freezer was set alight, but somehow they didn’t breach Trump’s wall. I wondered why nobody was giving our farmer any first aid. Apparently, she was the only one with medical skill on the colony. She bled to death in bed beside James Bond, the way we all want to go, really.
Down to only two men, it became clear that there were more gaps in my skill market than I knew. Neither of them could cook, so were forced to eat raw meat which didn’t put them in a great mood. The fact that their friend died also got them upset. Morale at an all time low, the lads needed a miracle to cheer them up. This came in the form of a ‘Thrumbo’, an enormous horned animal that is extremely rare. Thinking I could sell the beast’s horn and make warm clothes from its fur, I decided to take advantage and bring it down. Having learned from my previous battles, I built a corridor of death to funnel my powerful prey down toward certain doom.
What I reckon:
Rimworld is GREAT
I’ve been playing for a long time, having backed a while ago. So many changes have been made, and still a lot I don’t even know about. That’s the indicator of a good game to me, that I can play so much but still A) enjoy it this much and B) not have done everything there is to do. If you like Dwarf Fortress, Prison Architect, colonies, cowboys, micro-managing the lives of settlers or even just having fun; then buy Rimworld. It’s good to play at the same time as a friend, and see how wildly different your two colonies go.