Basic InformationTitle: RimWorld
Status: Early Access
Developer: Ludeon Studios
Publisher: Ludeon Studios
Genre: Survival Strategy
Release Date: 16th of July, 2016
General ImpressionI grew up playing Starcraft and Startopia. PC games which shaped the strategy genre at the turn of the new millennium. Both games portray Sci-Fi colonial ambitions and Startopia does take it further into detail than Starcraft which focuses more on the initial defense of settlements. More than a decade and a half later, the prospect of simulating humanity’s colonization efforts are still a captivating subject in both the film and gaming industries. RimWorld may not look as flashy as Startopia, but it has surpassed it by far in sheer complexity and freedom of choice. A pleasant surprise being only enhanced by the fact that its dev team has just debuted onto Steam. I did notice that some compare RW with Dwarf Fortress or The Sims series, but c’mon just take a look at those and you’ll find more complexity in Prison Architect (which shares even the visual style with RimWorld). All in all, the game I’m reviewing today is unique enough to fit into its own subgenre. So let’s focus on the colony survival strategy at hand!
I strongly advise you play the game’s tutorial first since even if it barely scratches the surface, it will set you on the right path. RW does prefer the teaching method involving as much freedom as the situation warrants it. And those instances shall be plenty and quite random. You will have to learn from this game while actively playing it and through the many mistakes you may commit. Not entirely the player’s fault but no one said that founding and maintaining a colony in a more or less inhospitable environment, would be easy. Much of the RimWorld’s appeal stems just from how unpredictable it can be, thanks to procedural generation on a widespread scale. No playthrough could ever be similar, even with the exact same starting supplies and terrain which to settle. That may also have contributed to the lack of a storyline per se. You get to spin the tale, so to speak. In real time (with the excellent option of pausing the action whenever you please) and as a direct consequence of your activity.
With trial & error taken into account, you can at least influence the severity of the events which will put your management and survival skills to the test, through the game’s Storytellers. Think of it as the Artificial Intelligence governing the less predictable part of this strategic simulation. HAL 9000 throwing the dice for you. You can choose the more relaxed nature of a storyteller which will allow you to build up your base, see your colony prosper unchallenged by raids or cruel weather effects and once you feel like you’re ready to up the ante, switch to a storyteller of increased difficulty and more random behaviour. RimWorld is first and foremost, a game about variables. It is not easy and it was never meant to properly cater to more casual strategy fans. But at least you are given a fair chance to adapt and overcome the odds stacked against you. Real life is never as kind.
The gameplay when you hit that “New colony” button, allows you to choose an origin for your first “lucky” few colonists while also simulating the scale of your planet’s forced exile. Players are free to pick the location of their colony, in regards of proximity to AI-controlled settlements and terrain type. The latter will certainly influence the game to a large extent since the resources you may harvest and make use of, are dependent on soil, presence of animal and plant life as well as the temperature itself. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out just how much of a great idea would be to settle near deserts or frozen wastelands. At the very least pick arid or tundra, if you desire a decent challenge. For most players wanting to grasp RimWorld’s mechanics without the feeling of accomplishing a chore, pick locations within a temperate climate.
Once you pinpointed the colonial foundation it is time to build, survive and prosper through constant expansion on the map and especially through trade with the neighbouring settlements. I’ve yet to reach that final stage, since it’s obviously a time consuming process which also involves careful planning. But I shall definitely never surrender without a fight. Against the savage pirates/slavers which gleefully stare at my colonists and even against the forces of nature, you have to firmly stand your ground. RimWorld’s also tackling more mature themes than its similar counterparts on Steam. Touchy subjects or even taboos, such as true gender equality, sexuality, slavery, tyranny and last but not least, cannibalism. You didn’t expect an idyllic colonial life, did you? Much like the Overseer within a Fallout Shelter, how you treat your subjects/employees/friends is up to you to decide. Extreme circumstances may or may not warrant equally extreme measures to be understaken just for the survival of your settlement.
If only such complex strategic simulations could be rendered within a fully 3D game engine. I’m never one to shun a game just for its plain looks, but RimWorld certainly deserved more than just a 2D bird’s eye view. From a pure gameplay perspective, it accomplished its intended purpose but it can still hinder the game’s appeal to new players, as if the overwhelming variables and sheer amount of displayed information wasn’t enough. Sounds are also just decent enough while not standing out in any way. Alas, the game has plenty of merits which are sadly not accompanied by Achievements and Trading Cards either. Perhaps in a future update. RimWorld’s ambitions need to reflect themselves in a price tag that is most appropriate. So far you’d best wait for a Steam Seasonal Sale, before picking it up. I’m curious what can Ludeon Studios implement in the base game from the many additions that the Steam Workshop features already. Will your colony thrive or fall prey to a cruelly random event? Only time will tell…
Strong Points+ Complex colony simulation.
+ Freedom of choice and replay value from procedurally generated assets & events.
+ Massive third-party support through the Steam Workshop.
Weak Points- Slightly overpriced for an Early Access title.
– No Steam Trading Cards nor Achievements.
This review was submitted for ReviewExperts, through the generous contribution of Daniël – REX Gaming.
OVERVIEWNote: RimWorld is currently in Early Access. The version reviewed was 0.16.1393.
RimWorld is a science-fiction village simulator and survival game from independent developer, Ludeon Studios.
In RimWorld, you take control of a small group of colonists trying to survive on a frontier planet. You have to manage not only their use of natural resources while they establish and grow fledgling colony, but also their psychological state and social interactions.
GraphicsThe graphics in RimWorld are an odd mix that I wasn’t sure about to begin with, but I’ve decided that I like them. Characters are represented by these funny little ‘pawns’ with no animations, that just sort of glide across the ground, pausing every now and then to perform an assigned task. They’re very basic, but also presumably very low in resource usage, and there’s something appealing about them once you get used to them.
The world is presented in overhead view, with a useful zoom range, and looks very nice. Map tiles are well textured and blended together. Some of the objects don’t look fantastic (for example, the wood-powered generator didn’t really look like anything to me), but generally the game looks good. Weather effects and the day-night cycle look very nice, too.
The interface took a little getting used to as well, but it’s consistent and works well. I’d suggest renaming the ‘Architect’ menu, though; a great amount of the items within it have nothing to do with architecture. Depending on your screen resolution, you can scale the UI significantly; I played in 1920×1080 and the default 1x scale was fine. There are no other graphics options.
SoundThe music in the game is very nice, indeed. I’m not sure about the number of tracks, but they all have a consistent feel to them that really suits the game. It’s very relaxing.
Sound effects are well normalised, but nothing really jumped out at me as being particularly good or bad about them.
There are no voices, or at least I haven’t heard any yet.
GameplayRimWorld is a village simulator in a science-fiction setting. The game gives you three scenarios, three ‘AI Storytellers’ (essentially event generators), and a range of different difficulty levels, then generates a planet for you. You select a landing point on the planet based on a number of variables, such as climate and topography, and then you’re on your own, with between one and five colonists under your control, ready to start a new life.
Colonists are individuals, with individual backgrounds, needs, and psychoses. These are done very well, and there’s a great range of variables. You don’t have any direct control over your group, though; you can only randomise the variables and hope for a good combination.
On Day One, you need to focus on the simple things: shelter, food, defence, and that sort of thing. The game gives you some resources with which to begin, but you need to make sure your colony is self-sufficient in at least the basics before your starting stash runs out.
Basic gameplay consists of designating objects or structures to build, lists of tasks to complete (called ‘bills’ in RimWorld), and setting up ‘zones’ in which activities are to be undertaken, or from which activities are restricted. You don’t normally directly allocate colonists to take actions, but rather you control them indirectly through the work roster, where you can prioritise certain actions over others separately for each colonist.
Defence is handled differently, with an option available to draft each colonist individually to a defence activity. In this case, you can take direct control over moving each colonist — behind cover is a good idea! — but they will still actively fire on interlopers at will, so there’s not too much micromanagement required.
As the days pass your colony begins to thrive — or not — and your colonists develop happy relationships — or not! There’s a research technology tree and a good range of things to build, grow, and maintain. It all takes quite a while, but the basic time controls let you pause and issue commands (very useful for defence), as well as speed up time by a large factor, so you’re never waiting too long for something to happen.
It’s all very well balanced and a lot of fun.
RimWorld isn’t perfect, though. It’s still in Early Access, so I have hopes for further improvements and additions. It does seem very stable and playable even now, but there are a few issues I’d very much like to see addressed.
First, colonists often just ignore their work assignments. I haven’t managed to work out why this happens, but often they’ll just ignore something I’ve designated, or I’ll have one of my colonists do nothing, with a UI message telling me they are idle, even when there’s plenty of work for them to do based on their work priorities. Even creating more new high-priority work doesn’t get them out of this state, with the only way I’ve found to force them to do something being to manually prioritise a particular task. Even then, though, they’ll often revert to their idle state afterwards.
Second, the behaviour of wild animals is completely unnatural. Bears will happily wander around ignoring other animals and colonists alike, with only random ‘aggro’ events or failed animal handling attempts causing them to attack anything — and then they just attack wildly until they die. I’d love to see some more realistic animal behaviour implemented in the game.
And third, there’s just not enough ‘stuff’ to make! I don’t know if it’s because the UI is only designed to allow one row of options in each menu, but the options available are rather limited. Sure, there’s enough to keep you busy, but I want more, more, more!
The game also has an active modding community and makes use of Steam Workshop, so if you want to head off the beaten track into user-made territory, then that’s an option.
PROS AND CONSPros:
+ In-depth survival simulation in an interesting setting, and it’s FUN!
+ Excellent game design and balancing
+ Great music
– Colonists sometimes ignore work
– Animals don’t behave naturally
– We need more of everything!
CONCLUSIONAt the moment, RimWorld is an excellent game. I hope it becomes even better before it leaves Early Access.
SaveSave for Later
Note: I received this game for free for review purposes. This did not influence my review.
For more game reviews, visit Save or Quit.