Preview: RimWorld

RimWorldis a building/management simulator game developed and published by Ludeon Studios. So, I received a review copy of this game last Wednesday in the evening, and recently today emerged finally from within the clutches of the game to find out that I had been declared MIA. Okay, not really, of course, but RimWorld is a strangely compelling game, and a game hasn't gotten this kind of time and attention from me since the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. So, if there's nothing else you read as a recommendation in this preview, well, there's that.

Here's the thing about RimWorld - it's about how well everything comes together that makes this the absorbing experience it is, rather than any single strength. Nothing is done in a particularly amazing way, and I could pick nits until the cows come home, but most that is there is done well, and it coalesces just brilliantly.

So what is RimWorld about? Well, RimWorld's initial setup, much like DwarfFortress, begins with you creating a world, and then deciding upon a place in that world to set up your fledlging colony. Unique to RimWorld, you choose a difficulty and a "storyteller" which is basically an AI personality that determines random events that occur, allowing you to choose a general flavour of the game that appeals to you. After tweaking your three starting colonists how you see fit, you are then jettisoned into the world to try to survive.

The comparisons to both Prison Architect and DwarfFortress seem quite apt when you play - it almost feels using a Prison Architect type tileset on top of a DwarfFortress style game, which is a fairly winning marriage of two games if I ever head of one. The simulation has its own particular feels though, and RimWorld feels much more tactical a world than DwarfFortress. Where DF revels in the death and mayhem that can happen with it's random events, RimWorld has a much more real feel. Chances are if you're paying attention your colonists won't die in an accident - but they will get wounded and require treatment, and might even get a limb blown off or the like which necessitates replacement with prosthetics. It's simultaneously more lenient and harsher - because while you will much more rarely lose those colonists, you are often faced with hard choices regarding them. Do you keep that fearless defended alive when he is incapacitated having had a leg blown off with no real replacement or medicine in sight, or do you euthanise him? These are the kind of choices you make ever game day in RimWorld, and it's an absolutely gripping game for it.

The more mundane things of everyday life are fairly deeply-simulated as well: you can grow a variety of plants, some for food and others for things like cotton or the like, there's a variety of building materials to be harvested of varying 'aesthetic appeal' and hardness/resilience, such as wood, stone, metal, etc, and each of the colonists will have a variety of traits and skills that meaningfully change how they interact with others. You can play this game for a while and still not come to terms with all the various little things it has to offer, and indeed part of the lasting appeal of RimWorld to me has been how much there is to find as I go along.

The one thing I found pretty finicky, however, was that colonist AI, or rather, trying to override it. The game gives you the ability to prioritise tasks to make a colonist do something specific first, but it;s a very loose control. When they do things they do it over a particular area, and you will have to override the AI behaviour for each task. Let's illustrate this with an anecdote from my own play. I was being attacked by two different groups of pirates, and had a base mostly in a mountain and then surrounded by a sandbag perimeter with turrets. So, when the pirates came, I locked the entry points and had my colonists hole up inside. A mortar from the pirates, however, managed to damage both the exterior wall, and the wall opposite. In trying to get a colonist to quickly fix the breach so the pirates couldn't then enter my colony, I overrode the AI to prioritise the repair, but despite my specifying the exterior breach, the colonist began fixing the interior wall first. It's pretty much the one frustrating element in the game for me, but it's still leagues better than Spacebase DF-9 that gives you no direct control at all.

All in all, RimWorld is one of the rare few games I suspect I will be playing long after I review it, when it comes time for that. It's a deep and captivating colony building sim that even in its current state is a pretty brilliant game.