I mentioned RimWorld back at the end of the Steam Summer Sale this year as one of the games I picked up.
It had been on my wishlist for a while as something interesting to look into, but the early access label kept me at a distance until I saw SynCaine’s write-up on it. That was enough to flag it as safe to buy, but even a little while with it told me it was a game which needed some time devoted to it, a good game to while away the hours with once the weather turned chill enough to have a legit reason to stay inside.
Now, as the nights have grown longer and the weather a bit more chilly, I have finally gotten around to RimWorld.
My elevator pitch for the game is that it has all the sticking power of early SimCity at a more micro level. Like SimCity it moves along constantly (though you can pause or speed things up) and you don’t control the people in the game directly. Instead you setup tasks for them to do. And, of course, keeping them happy is important lest they face a mental breakdown which, best case, will have them huddled in a corner for a while. If they have the pyromaniac trait they might start setting fire to everything instead.
The game itself looks somewhat like Prison Architect and Escapist 2 and probably a few other indie games with stylized characters.
The default scenario starts off with three people in a wrecked spaceship landing in their survival pods on a semi-tamed planet, a world on the rim of explored space. Once down on the planet your three stranded characters have limited survival gear so must setup a camp in order to survive.
Each character has certain skills (e.g. shooting, melee combat, cooking, crafting, medical, etc.) they bring to the mix, but nobody is strong all over. (Though skills improve through use, so that person who is only level 1 in cooking may become a chef some day.) They also have some traits, things they enjoy, things they will never do, biases and weaknesses.
That first mix with three characters is pretty vital because once you are down you’ll need to build shelter, defend yourselves, and start working on a food supply. Wood will get you shelter, beds, and some covered storage, while the bits and pieces from the ship will let you setup some basic electrical network. With electricity the first thing I always build is a freezer to store food indefinitely.
I tend to over-focus on food. But the first few runs food became a problem, so now I end up with excess rice and potatoes. You can hunt as well, but there is a bit of risk in that and you need a butchering table to process the prey into raw food to be cooked and skins for clothing, so I start with rice, which grows quickly, along with harvesting the local berries.
Another setting you get at the start of the game is placed in the context of telling the story of your adventure. You can choose what sort of story it will be. You can have a tale where nothing bad ever really comes your way, or when events like packs of wolves or raids by nearby settlements come at regular intervals, all the way up to facing a series of ever more powerful kaiju attacking your base.
Well, maybe not kaiju, though there are a lot of mods out there for the game, so there might be a kaiju option. There is certainly a Star Wars option… but when there are mods there is always a Star Wars option.
Meanwhile your characters need to go on surviving day to day while you try to keep them happy and on task. Their mood and ability to go on are keyed into what is going on. Some things are easy, like keeping the housing area clean. Living in a dump is depressing. So it having your sleep disturbed, so you have to split up sleeping quarters to make sure the early risers don’t end up next to the night owls.
And then some of your characters are boosted by specific things.
If they grow too unhappy they may wander off or have a psychological break. I had one character who would start setting fires around the base when her mood got too low.
Their relationships count as well. Sometimes they bond or become lovers or hate each other and will start fighting and need medical care.
And then there is their past history. I had one guy who had a smokeweed dependence going in, so eventually I grew some and he became happier. But then other characters started smoking too and I ended up with one guy who would go off and binge on the stuff for a day at a stretch.
Likewise I grew hops to brew beer and ended up with a character who ended up disabled from alcohol abuse. She had to stay in a medical cot all the time and have people feed her.
So, while there is an end to the game, a winning and losing scenario where you either escape the planet or all die off, I spend lots and lots of time just managing the day to day operations and expansion of the base, managing supplies, setting tasks, dealing with bandit raids, mad animals, and trading caravans, and just generally making sure things are getting done.
It all ends up being something in which you can lose yourself for hours at a stretch. This is probably the first game in a while where I have sat down in the evening to play for a bit then realized hours later that everybody else in the house has gone to bed and I am up way past my own bed time on a work night. I have played little else over the last few weeks, save for my time at EVE Vegas.
So it has that going for it. You can just keep going with one crew for ages, adding new people to your group as you find them and expanding. Even when you suffer a set back, like that time I had everybody bunched up for defense and I found out about grenades when the raider attacking us threw one into the crowed killing two and maiming another, the colony goes on and you can rebuild.
On the other hand, sometimes you hit a dull stretch. People are happy-ish, but you are just waiting for tech to be researched or you’re short of some supply… for me usually components for building complex items… and and the random number generator just won’t send a trade caravan your way, and things suddenly lose their luster and you quit.
Still, for a Steam Summer Sale purchase I have already gotten a lot of play value out of it and I haven’t even started exploring the mods available for it in the Steam workshop.
So if you’re into the whole God-like control game where you set your people to work, this might be a winner for you.
Also, hunting with a light machine gun is totally a thing in the game. Hell, machine guns in general are pretty cool in RimWorld.