Early Access Review: Rimworld (Alpha 16)

Having launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, Rimworld set some very high expectations for itself. I’m often quite weary of Kickstarter and Early Access Steam games, and avoid playing them until many of the kinks have been smoothed out. This time around I decided to give it a try due to the fact that it reminded me a lot of Prison Architect, and seemed like a fantastic idea for a game. Rimworld is a sandbox simulation/strategy/base-management game where you must build shelter, grow food, hunt, and trade to survive in  a hostile environment. This small description hardly does any justice to the sheer amount of things you can actually do in this game. Even though Rimworld is still missing content and is unfinished, I’m already finding myself obsessed with the gameplay and am very anxious for the final release.


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Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Developer: Ludeon Studios

Publisher: Ludeon Studios

Release Date: July 15, 2016 (Still in Early Access)

Price: $29.99 (on Steam)


 

The Gameplay:

Before getting down to business, the first thing you must do is choose a scenario. This adds a lot of variety to each new game. I was very excited to see how customizable the scenario options were.  Rimworld offers three generic scenarios to start with: Crashlanded, The Rich Explorer, and Lost Tribe. Each option offers unique starting conditions. In the Crashlanded scenario, you take control of three colonists who have crash-landed on an unfamiliar world. The Rich Explorer scenario puts you in control of a single rich entrepreneur who yearns to see the stars and finds themselves stranded alone. Last but not least, is the Lost Tribe scenario which starts you off in control of five tribal people who have been driven from their homes and must rebuild a new life from scratch. Each scenario grants a different amount of starting materials and offers a unique experience. If none of these options please you, you can open up the scenario editor and create your own starting conditions!

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Thanks to the scenario editor, I was able to alter the Lost Tribe scenario to my liking. The first thing I did was issue each of my tribespeople one wooden spear and one wooden bow. I also changed the starting amount of colonists from five to three. The next step I took was to limit the age range of potential tribespeople to avoid having any old geezers in my group. The last thing I decided to do was add 100% chance for my tribespeople to have the psychopath and cannibal traits. There was no real reason for doing this at the time but I wanted to test the limits of the scenario editor. The results were so much more satisfying than expected, but I’ll continue that story in a moment.

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The next step involves choosing an AI storyteller and deciding how difficult the game will be. There are three different storytellers: Cassandra Classic, Phoebe Chillax, and Randy Random. As their names suggest, Cassandra Classic is the classic storyteller who offers gradual difficulty progression, Phoebe Chillax offers a much more relaxed experience, while Randy Random offers a randomize experience for players who like to live on the edge. Being the sissy that I am, I chose Phoebe Chillax during my playthrough to avoid any unnecessary roughness. After choosing the storyteller, you must choose from one of six difficulties. These basically just increase the amount of horrible events that plague your colonists/tribespeople. There is also a permadeath option for players who want a hardcore survival experience. With Permadeath Mode activated, you will only have one available save that can only be used when quitting. If your colony dies with this option turned on, it’s a wrap. Game over.

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After you’ve finished choosing a difficulty, you must generate a playable map. Before the alpha 16 release, Rimworld generated a smaller flat map. Now with the new update, a whole spherical planet is generated. Once the map finishes generation, It’s up to you to choose where to start. Different areas have different types of terrain, temperature, weather conditions, environmental hazards, and various forms of wildlife. Starting your adventure in a Jungle will be drastically different than choosing to set up camp in the artic tundra. Areas can also be mountainous, hilly, or flatland. Hills and mountains can be mined for resources or turned into shelter. Choosing a jungle increases the chance to transmit disease and cause heatstroke, whereas settling in a boreal forest will increase chances of frostbite and slow movement during snowy seasons.

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Selecting your colonists comes next. Sadly, there is no character creation in Rimworld (yet, at least). Colonists are randomly generated but can be re-rolled until you get a group with a decent spread of skills. Each colonist has their own backstory, traits, skills, and sometimes even health problems and relationships. Colonists can be anything from bloodthirsty tribal chieftains to optimistic mad scientists. Each colonist also has a certain amount of skill in each of the twelve available skills. Some excel in combat but refuse to do labor work. Others may have lower skills but are fast learners. I loved the variety of possible personalities this system created.  The character generation reminded me a lot of re-rolling stats in Baldur’s Gate. A lot of the time the game generates lousy colonists, so I definitely spent too much re-rolling them until I got a somewhat desirable crew. Once you’re satisfied, it’s finally time to begin the game.

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Similar to Prison Tycoon, you rarely take direct control of the colonists. Instead, you give out orders for the colonists to follow. You have the ability to define their schedule, set the priority of each task, and completely design the base layout. This may sound rather limiting, but it takes a lot of time to fine-tune a schedule, find a good work flow, plan a suitable layout for shelter, plan to grow enough food, and tend to each colonist’s mental health needs, and prepare to deal with anything else the world might throw at you. You will also have to choose which technologies to research, which was made easy with the new skill tree introduced in update 16. There are tooltips that work as a tutorial of sorts, but there are no missions or quests to complete. The goal in Rimworld is survival. You are set loose in the world and get to choose the best way for your group to survive. The results are often disastrous.

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Throughout the game, you will also encounter visitors from other colonies. Some visitors will be friendly and willing to trade, other times you may be raided by tribal man-hunters or pirates. You can even be given the choice to save a refugee fleeing from their captors and let them join your colony. Maintaining good relationships with other colonies will cause them to visit more frequently or come to your aid in times of need. Attacking friendly visitors will cause their faction to turn hostile. Keeping good relations with your neighbors can mean the difference between life and death. You are also given the opportunity to take prisoners. This, combined with the ability for colonists to perform surgery creates some pretty gruesome possibilities.

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There is so much to do in this game, I think the easiest way to sum it up would be to give brief rundown of my most current playthrough. On the first day, my colonists discovered an area that displayed an “ancient danger” warning. I decided to pop it open and discover what was waiting inside. When my tribe member was finished deconstructing part of the exterior to create an entrance, the rest of the tribe entered to find no danger, but instead three cryo-sleep pods. Since it was still only the first day, I decided to leave them be while I renovated the space into a livable shelter. To do accomplish that, I chopped down a few trees to create beds and a door to close the hole I had created in the wall. Meanwhile, my other tribespeople were busy planting a large field of potato plants, plants with healing properties, and also some “smokeleaf”. This plant was rolled up into medicine that was smoked to keep colonists happy but also made them lazy. Once I that was finished planting I hollowed out a small hill to create a small room to hold whatever came out of the cryo-sleep pods.

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I decided to risk it and open the cryo-sleep pods the next morning. To my surprise, the contents of the pods were human. Two of them were dead, one was unconscious. This was a delight to my starving group of cannibals who had been living off of foraged berries up until this point. I immediately butchered the dead and prepared their meat into a food called pemmican so that it would last for the rest of the year and not spoil. The unconscious man was dragged to the empty room I had dug out of the hill and taken prisoner. In order to keep his meat as fresh as possible and also to eliminate the risk of escape, I had my most medically-gifted tribeswoman install two peg legs and a prosthetic jaw. After that I removed them all so that the prisoner couldn’t run or talk. Then I removed one kidney, and one lung for kicks. Turns out organs sell for big money! While the prisoner was unconscious, I realized that they could be placed back into cryo-sleep. Thus began the tale of my psychopathic, cannibalistic, organ-harvesting tribe of savages. From then on, they continued to capture and consume anyone who dared to visit what came to be known as “Corpse Rot Cavern”. This all came to an abrupt end when one tribesman went hunting for elephants. After downing the giant beast, the rest of it’s herd went on a warpath of revenge, rammed down my walls, and murdered every last cannibal.

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Final Judgment: 76% (Subject to change due to Early Access)

If you enjoyed Prison Architect, there is little doubt that you will not enjoy Rimworld, even in it’s current state. There is so much potential in this game and each update has added tons of fixes and content. If Ludeon Studios continues to deliver at this rate, Rimworld will be an almost guaranteed success. I loved nearly every moment of it. This truly is a sandbox experience with few boundaries. I loved that they (intentionally or not) gave me the freedom to create a tribe of cannibals and harvest organs for profit. There are tons of items, weapons, clothing types, technologies to research, and challenges to overcome. Rimworld really offers enough replay value to keep me busy for quite a while. I can’t wait to see what else Ludeon Studios has in store for us.

Pros:

  • Challenging and realistic survival elements
  • Completely sandbox
  • Lots of scenario customization and difficulty options
  • Tons of weapons, clothing, and items to craft and trade
  • Organ harvesting
  • Cannibalism
  • Fun setting
  • Lots of different personality traits and health conditions
  • Replay Value
  • Randomly generated characters and maps
  • Large modding community
  • Base building
  • Resource Management
  • Realistic heating/cooling and weather systems.

Cons:

  • Basic graphics
  • Soundtrack is nothing special
  • No character customization
  • Learning curve
  • Weird combat controls/commands
  • Strange progression for tribes

 

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