RimWorld Review - An Exercise In Colonization And Randomization
- Platform - Linux, Mac, PC (Reviewed)
- Players – 1
- Achievements – No
- Steam Trading Cards - No
- Controller Support - No
- Retail Price - $29.99 for the Alpha Version (Early Access)
High Level Premise: Attempt to colonize and and thrive on an outer rim planet, up against starvation, enemy raids, raging fauna, unbearable temperatures and ancient slumbering terrors in a 2D game environment that puts all object details under a high-powered microscope.
Graphics/Style: 2D maps and sprites, an upgrade from Dwarf Fortress’ ASCII graphic layout.
Music/Soundtrack: Basic, ambient, ethereal BGM.
Story: The story is build-as-you-go, and that is definitely one of the highlights of this game. It has three AI storytellers that will liven things up and keep you on your toes. Each one can be set at a specific difficulty level. One of them will pepper events, mishaps, berserking wildlife and much, much more into the mix in a predictable and ever-increasing manner, while one will keep things quiet, so you can concentrate on the perfect layout. And then we have Randy Random, whose name says it all...
Replay-ability: Endless. No two games are the same, and with the added challenge of permadeath, you are only given one save file, which autosaves once a day by default, never allowing you to go back more than approximately 23h in-game hours. Note: Permadeath is not automatically enabled.
Time Commitment: To get a scenario up and running, it takes about 5 - 10 minutes. This largely depends on the size of the maps you want and the % of the world you want to be generated. It also might take longer for some players who might like to pore over every detail of their initial characters and biomes. While you can pause or save at any time, I would say you should expect to play no less than 30 minutes of RimWorld at a time.
Value: Groan-inducing for most casual players, who don’t see the point of paying $30 for a single player, 2D survival sandbox. But, for the ones that know exactly the potential of this style game, it is entirely worth it, and almost makes that $370 Pirate King DLC seem like it might be a good idea too...
Favorite Element(s): The disgusting attention to detail and how no two experiences in this game are alike.
What’s that you say? It’s like Dwarf Fortress in outer space? And did you say it features actual artwork and 2D environments and not just “@” symbols for trees? Take every cent I own. Every cent. Here are my shoes too. I won’t need them.
I fired it up the second it finished downloading and jumped in as I normally do, without looking up strategies, cheats, hacks or spoilers. I don’t know how many others do the same thing, but that’s my norm. Upon starting a new game, you’re asked to randomly pick a “seed” which gets a dictionary-ish common name and you’re supposed to pick the percentage of the planet that you want to generate. I didn’t like the idea of only generating 30% of the planet, despite how much I’d ever actually see, so I chose the full monty (100%) and it only took about 3 - 4 minutes to generate on both my 2 month old laptop and my 6 year old gaming rig. You get to pick your starting scenario and your storyteller after that, as I made mention of above. The scenario is a choice that allows you to play a community created starting setup, or one of the three pre-builts. If you go with one of the pre-builts, you will start with either 1, 3 or 5 colonists. If you start with 1, you’d be a very wealthy self-exile from a Glitterworld planet (which I only assume is a megawealthy, overabundant, technologically advanced planet). If you start with 3, you’re a group of 3 random shipmates who “gilliganned” on a far off planet and have to work together to survive with limited starting resources and technologies. One of you might be a former coma survivor, the other a back alley surgeon, and the last might have been a roving drifter in their previous lives. If you start with 5 colonists, you’re barely colonists at all, and more like a tribe or a primitive family with little to no advanced resources (Swiss Family Will Robinson?).
I decided to lone wolf it up, and what’s more, I decide to click on the permadeath setting. No mercy! I’m brought to a character select screen, although nothing like I’ve ever seen. Your characters can start with existing injuries that prevent them from being able to take as much damage to their various body parts as a perfectly healthy colonist could. Your characters could have traits where they would refuse to do certain types of work. For instance, common gruntwork might be beneath them, which would mean good luck getting them to clean up a bloodstain that was alarming other colonists, or haul a pile of perishable goods to your temperature controlled storage facility. They might have positive traits, for example, being able to work more efficiently, and thus reducing the time it takes them to complete all tasks. Or perhaps they are an optimist, which allows them to have a permanent mood boost, which can be absolutely critical to prevent them from going postal or ignoring commands. Other factors that are involved in character creation are age, sex, skill proficiencies (such as mining, growing, construction), and a mini childhood and adult backstory (both of which have a significant impact on your skills).
I ask my girlfriend for a random number between 1 and 10, she says 4, so I hit the “random” button 4 times and launch off into the unknown.
Before I know it, the shuttle of Luds, the Coma Child (Ludeon Studios easter egg, anyone?) intentionally lands in a comfortable, temperate forest biome with his generous pack of starter supplies. I immediately look to create shelter. There is a “C” shaped indent in the side of a mountain, and I decide to use that to form my first shelter, as I will only have to build a single wall to be fully enclosed. 60 pieces of my Glitterworld wood later, and I have a wall and a door. Home sweet home. Apparently, colonists don’t like being in the dark, so I throw a little torch up in the corner, build myself a four post bed and just in the nick of time, as the sun is starting to set on my first day.
As I, Luds, awoke on my second day, I decided I would need to secure a food source as to not deplete my very dependable and hearty packaged survival meals. Not knowing the best way to go about this, I shouldered my trusty charge rifle, and set off into the wild to look for a nice, meaty breakfast. Just outside of my settlement, I happen upon a female rat. “This should be a good starting point for hunting”, I think to myself, as I ready myself to slaughter this poor creature. A few ion blasts from my rifle and the rat is but a lifeless corpse. Without a moment’s hesitation, I eat it. I eat the hairy rat corpse. Right there, in the dirt. I eat it all. Not surprisingly, my character’s mood takes a hit for eating a corpse, unbutchered, uncooked. Lesson learned.
On the third day, I choose not to go hunting anymore. Maybe I could recruit someone else to do that for me. I notice that the northern wall of my cave-home looks more like a manmade structure and less like a natural mountain wall. I move closer to inspect and I’m bombarded by a bright red warning message, essentially informing me that I’ve built my residence directly next to a pile of ancient ruins and that something might stir within. Fan-tas-tic. As long as there’s a wall there I should be okay, right? Right?
Over the course of the next week, I end up developing a strong bond with my faithful Yorkshire terrier, “Spanky” and making the cave a little more hospitable. You see, everything in the game has a happiness rating. That dirt floor? -1 happiness. If you throw down some nice limestone tiles, it changes to a +2 instead. That bloodstain outside near your potato patch? -30 happiness, give or take. Colonists don’t like the sight of blood. That boulder in the middle of your living room? Guess what? That boulder belongs somewhere, but it isn’t next to the table and chairs. I decorate with some plants, and tidy up a bit, and all of the sudden, I have a bedroom that’s not awful. Except, my bed, which I just realized was “shoddy” quality. I guess I’ll need to boost my construction skill to be able to make better items.
So after a week of being on my own, I start to realize that I could really use a friend. Maybe someone who specializes in shooting, to help me hunt? Or someone who is really good at mining, so I can gather steel more efficiently? As if Randy Random could hear my prayers, I get a notification that a trader from a neighboring faction is passing through my territory! “Hey you! Do you want to hang out? No, I don’t want to buy your stuff, I want you to stay and live with me and help me raise Spanky…”. It’s no use. “Skunk” the trader from the League of Minoca is unswayable (maybe all traders are). They live to buy and sell. I’ll have to find my companionship elsewhere. Maybe I’ll go tame that nice Megasloth down the way…
Restless, and with an irrevocable pioneer spirit, I decide to do the only logical thing that could be done after two weeks of being alone. I decide to break down the wall to the unknown alien dungeon that borders my bedroom. Talk about kicking a hornets nest. As soon as the wall is down, I’m zapped by something extremely unpleasant. Some kind of an alien, called “Scyther” (please don’t sue them, Nintendo, it’s also a verb). Out of sheer reflex, I fire back with my charge rifle. Pap! Pap! Pap! I’ve done it! The alien is dead, or dying at least. But wait, so am I. Good thing I was a Glitterworld surgeon in my past life! Let me just grab this fancy, sterile Glitterworld medicine and… what? I can’t operate on myself? The irony of it all is staggering. This is how it all ends. At least let me peek inside this ancient ruin, now my mausoleum. All there is to be found is some bizarre, foreign machinery and a pile of Luciferum. I examine the red substance more closely, and it appears to be a performance enhancing drug with extreme, always fatal side effects. Great. Just what I need. I prop myself up in my shoddy bed one last time, light up a final smokeleaf cigarette and fade to black.
Curiosity killed Luds. Killed him good. I guess that’s the downside of a solo game.
Time to start over!