Rimworld finally came to Steam this month. I say finally because for those of us drain-pipe trouser-wearing, moustache-twiddling video game hipsters, Rimworld has been available online for sometime. Yeah, I loved it before it was cool. Hang on, I need to change the ribbon in my typewriter.
Set on the very outskirts of a very distant galaxy, Rimworld is a survival simulation game that sees you trying to to survive on an outer-rim planet. The graphics are very similar to Prison Architect but the gameplay is straight-up Dark Souls. Don’t let the simplistic graphics fool you. Rimworld is hardcore.
The graphics are very similar to Prison Architect but the gameplay is straight up Dark Souls.
Your team of survivors awaken from their cryo-sleep in the year 5500 as their spaceship disintegrates around them. Ejected onto the face of an unknown M-class planet they must work against the elements, starvation, deranged animals, raiders and their own backwards messed-up personality traits to survive long enough to build another space rocket and get back into space. Possibly to then crash on another planet further into the known universe in an never ending cycle.
There are so many variables in Rimworld that no two games are ever really the same. First off, your team of survivors all have different skill sets, personalities and emotional baggage that will either help or hinder them in their day to day activities. Some can be hard working, beautiful, industrious types who only see the good in people and want to build a new utopia. And then others are psychopathic, one-eyed medieval lordlings incapable of any kind of ‘dumb’ labour (cleaning, hauling, mining – y’know, the useful stuff) who only want to watch the new world burn. How they interact together is the beauty of the game.
On top of their personality traits they may also have old injuries and illnesses that you need to contend with. Some have scars, some have asthma, some are just really old and their hearts are likely to give out any minute. Medicine and decent doctoring skills are essential, as if you don’t arrive with sickness or injury in tow then it is sure to find you. Sadly, medicine is in pretty short supply until you are wealthy enough to start trading for more. Amputations happen more often than you think and not always by choice. Look out for rampaging elephants.
However more likely that they are trapped in a cryo-sleep chamber with their abusive ex-partner and haranguing mother-in-law.
Survivors can now also have relationships, either prior to the descent or developed over time on the planet. This is a newer addition to the game. They can be related. They can fall in love and make beautiful love. However more likely that they are trapped in a cryo-sleep chamber with their abusive ex-partner and haranguing mother-in-law. It all makes for interesting dynamics when you trying to work together to survive and winter is oh so rapidly coming.
During character generation you can either keep hitting that random button on your three primary characters traits until you find the best combination of madness, illness and break-ups to feel secure or if you feeling hardcore you can take whatever you get straight out of the gate and pray for the best. Random can sometimes be fun.
Speaking of random, the game has three ‘storytellers’ who manage the order and frequency of in-game events that will either help or hinder your settlement growth. Good to neutral events can be occasional passing traders or cargo pod drops. Whereas the challenging events might be encounters such as a passing pack of feral cyber-enhanced wargs seeking the taste of human flesh or a psychic drone that makes all the men in your encampment go crazy. Fun stuff like that.
The storytellers are cruel and entirely indifferent to your suffering each in their own individual ways. Cassandra, is the classic AI slowly ramping up the frequency and difficulty of the events as your progress. Phoebe is the preferred choice if you want infrequent gentler events to give you time to build your base. Whereas, as his name suggests, Randy Random is an utterly mad bastard that produces completely random events in frequency and difficulty. He could send you nothing for an entire season swiftly followed by a simultaneous attack by a blood-lusting pack of boomrats right next to an exploding power converter just as your medicine supply depletes. Your tears only complete him. On top of this, each storyteller also has a difficulty level depending on just how masochistic you are feeling.
If it isn’t clear yet then let me assure you, Rimworld can be a difficult game. Difficult but so worthwhile. It is still in an early access state but please don’t let that put you off as it is lovingly developed, there’s a massively active modding community and there are tons of new bits of content being added all the time. One thing that is missing is a real in-depth tutorial. Guided advice has been added which does get you started but there is little to no hand holding. You live, die, learn and start again.
Another recent addition to the game are two more game modes. The classic game mode is working as a team of three crash landed survivors from space. However you can now play a mode that I have dubbed the ‘Richard Branson mode’ where you play with only one character, a wealthy space traveller exploring the outer rim. He has plenty of supplies, good weapons and medicine but he is utterly alone. There are opportunities throughout all of the game modes to recruit other settlers or capture human raiders or even befriend llamas. So he or she doesn’t have to remain alone forever.
The other added mode is the ‘Lost Tribe’ where you play as five members of a pre-industrial tribe that has lost its homelands to robot invaders. You have more people to play with, more bodies on the ground, but your level of technology is very limited. Still, there is a great sense of achievement if you mange to get one of your five bobbleheaded neolithic settlers into space… I imagine.
But therein lies the challenge and also the lure of Rimworld. The reason that it is such a massive time-suck, and such an enjoyable one. You just want to give it one more try. Each time you try and fail, and there will be many, you learn something new and want to apply it. So you launch another ship of wounded psychopaths into the depths of space and try, try all over again.