Spotlight on RimWorld

I love indie games. Supporting up-and-coming developers can be really rewarding, experiencing first-hand how a game evolves and improves with every update. For these reasons I’ve an ever-growing game library crammed with hidden gems and sprinkled with disappointing duds. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

One diamond is RimWorld, a survival colony management game with heavy sci-fi influences and seemingly endless possibilities. Developed by Ludeon Studios, RimWorld has been in early access since 2013, but in recent posts from producer Tynan Sylvester it seems that a release date is finally on the horizon. Sylvester states ‘the final price will be higher than the early access price’, not out of the norm for many early access games on release, but definitely something to keep in mind if you haven’t already snagged a copy. So here are three reasons why I keep returning to RimWorld, and why I think you should definitely invest.

1. Multiple starting scenarios, Storytellers and difficulty levels

One key element which keeps me coming back is the variety of options you have when starting a new game. There are currently four different starting scenarios you can choose from, each with its perks and handicaps, providing something for everyone depending on how you like to play. Currently available are:

Crashlanded – (easy) Three colonists fall to RimWorld in escape capsules, supplied with a good amount of starting resources, decent clothes, guns, food and medicine

Lost Tribe -(not so easy) After your tribe has been destroyed by blood machines, five colonists attempt to rebuild. Due to a low starting tech level, be prepared to research everything you need.

The Rich Explorer – (challenging) A lone, loaded Glitterworld explorer, seeks adventure on a distant RimWorld.

Naked Brutality – (Insane mode) You wake naked and alone with no supplies. Basically you’re screwed. You don’t even have a pet.

Four starting modes might not seem like a lot, but when combined with your chosen Storyteller the game play is subtly changed, providing added variation and replay value. Each Storyteller dictates random events which occur throughout the game. Some are fun, like the joy of a group of Labradors joining your base. Some are helpful, such as meteorite strikes loaded with chunks of precious resources. Some are just mechanised aliens attacking your base and killing everyone. Storytellers can be changed at any point throughout the game and there also five different difficulty levels to further refine your RimWorld experience: Peaceful, Builder, Medium, Rough, and Savage. These are self-explanatory. I’m yet to try Savage; I’m too scared.

2. Diverse, complex colonists – It’s hard being human…

The most important resource in RimWorld are the colonists themselves. Choosing your team is a delicate operation which dramatically impacts your game. New colonists will also join the colony throughout the game, either as an escape from raiders (if you choose to rescue escapees, be prepared to fight off whoever is chasing them), to random escape pods falling from space or, if you have enough gold, you can liberate them from a life of slavery when traders come to visit. Although expanding your group can be great, as many hands make light work, you potentially risk putting your colony in danger if it turns out their personality sucks.

Each colonist has a backstory, traits and skills. There are over 60 different traits and you can spend a long time trying to achieve the perfect starting team. I think it’s more fun to just choose at random and see how a creepy pyromaniac, a volatile cannibal and an ugly nudist with an annoying voice will get along when you strand them together on a random planet.

Colonists have feelings and build up relationships with each other over time. This is influenced by their personality traits which can clash with dramatic consequences. I once had a colonist try to kill his friends because the floor was dirty. I’m sure he had other reasons too but, in times of stress, it really doesn’t take much to tip these little animated people over the edge. You can look away from your screen for ten minutes and return to find someone killing/setting fire to everything in sight, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

There is so much raw humanity in these pixelated people, it’s impossible to not feel attached to them and responsible for their fates. With all the variety of personalities available it would take a long time to run out of combinations. The colonists in RimWorld will write their own history whilst you watch. It’s just up to you whether you help or hinder them.

3. Workshop wonders – With creative modders, Rimworld is your oyster

RimWorld is undeniably a great game. There is so much content to explore that it’s easy to binge for several hours at a time. But if you do start to want more for your colony, go check out the Steam Workshop page. The RimWorld workshop community has created so much excellent free content that you are bound to find something that enhances your experience in just the way you want. Don’t forget to subscribe to HugsLib first as it provides shared functionality for other mods.

One of my favourite mods is ‘EbD Prepare Carefully’ by edbmods. It’s top of the most subscribed list and is a top recommendation from me. As the name suggests, this mod allows you to take the random out of re-rolling and just create your starting colonists whatever way you fancy. You want a colony of beautiful, lazy, wimps? Go for it. Or maybe a family of neurotic, trigger happy, joggers? Why not. This mod takes RimWorld to a whole new level. It adds a certain Sims-esque feel; you could create your friends, family, favourite characters, celebrities, or whoever, and then watch how they (hopefully) survive. Or not – it’s up to you.

Another mod to look out for if you want a deeper sociological experience is [B18] Psychology by The Word-Mule. This mod adds further colonist characterisation including, psych, social, sexuality and romance, mayorship, mental illness and treatment. It’s a well-executed, popular mod that shakes up the existing social system in RimWorld and adds depth to colonist interactions and behaviours. When combined with Prepare Carefully you can get scarily close to recreating anyone you know, from appearance to their personality traits. There is so much potential in RimWorld and I’m sure new content will be created by both the developers themselves and modders alike for years to come.

I will keep returning to the wild, wonderful wasteland of RimWorld for many, many hours to come. The game may still be in early access, but if you have a dark sense of humour, enjoy anything sci-fi or love a complex colony management game, this could be just the game you’re searching for, and I recommend investing. There is a whole world of unique adventures just waiting to be played and although £20+ is a lot to spend on an early access game, RimWorld is definitely worth it.

If you have played Rimworld, I’d love to hear your best stories (the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly) in the comments below.

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