Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux
Since Friday, I have spent 14 hours with RimWorld, give or take. I’m not sure what is more telling, the amount of time I’ve already invested, or the fact that I almost forgot to add the Early Access tag to the title of this post. RimWorld feels complete to me.
I guess it’s not a huge surprise – Ludeon Studios has been working on the game since 2013, and their approach seems to be to make it fun, then make it functional, and only then go back and make it more fun. While I imagine this is so much more work than just putting in everything they can think of, and then taking a quick polish cloth to it, the result is fantastic.
RimWorld is a top-down base builder, however, instead of nameless, faceless drones that are so prevalent in most games focused on building, each colonist is fleshed out, with their own skills and quirks. You must always be prepared for the unexpected, and adapt on the fly to whatever the game’s AI storyteller throws at you.
One of the things I love about RimWorld – and something that I think will give it near-infinite replay value – is that the game can always be just as hard as you want it to be. First, you chose your storyteller from three characters that have completely different styles. Phoebe Chillax will give you the most relaxed experience at any given difficulty level, Cassandra Classic keeps giving you greater challenges the longer you play, and Randy Random, well, he’s the type of guy who pushes buttons and flips switches just to see what they do.
Then each storyteller offers five different challenge levels, from the relatively challenge free Free Play to Extreme. If that’s not quite enough customization for you, RimWorld currently has three different scenarios with different starting conditions. Then you choose your map size and starting location, allowing the opportunity to try out different strategic approaches. Lastly, you choose your character or characters, depending on the scenario. And don’t think you’re getting away with building your own super-colonists. They’re a muddle of different skills and flaws and bonuses; if you crash land with three people who refuse to do any unskilled labor, your colony isn’t going to last long.
I cannot stress enough that you want to start with either base builder or free play – there is not tutorial level, just an adaptive learning system that will point out useful things you might not have noticed yet. However, it’s likely you will have several colonies fail in the early days, even on the lowest difficulty settings, because you missed something important. My first colony was abandoned after I used all the steel to build a shelter and beds, and then didn’t have any left to build critical production stations. I lost another to fire because it never occurred to me that I should probably put my energy-storing batteries inside so they didn’t fry in the rain. Don’t expect to get away with video game logic here.
Because everything feels like it works the way it’s supposed to, you get some really joyful moments, like in the screenshot above where the turkey my colonists tamed decided to sleep in the dog’s bed. Your people will get into fights, and they will fall in (and out of) love. They will make stupid decisions, and exhibit moments of pure brilliance. They’re not the robotic worker-bees that are such an integral, yet boring, feature in most building-focused games, and I feel like this is a huge factor in what makes RimWorld truly shine.
RimWorld has been available for purchase through the developer’s site for quite some time, and still, it skyrocketed to the top of the Steam sales charts in the few days since the Steam Early Access release. It’s a game that appeals to a lot of demographics and offers virtually endless replay value. Every colony is its own story. There’s a robust wiki and a very active subreddit, fostering a sense of community rarely seen outside of multiplayer-focused titles. I recommend RimWorld wholeheartedly, unless of course, you have sometime you really need to do in the next few days. Or weeks.