Rimworld review (alpha 17)

Sorry for the lack of posting here of late, I had 2-3 posts in draft form and they just never came together. I’ll likely combine them into one “update on games I’m playing” post ‘soon’.

Anyway, today lets talk about Rimworld, a game I recently picked up and am very happy I did. Rimworld is a colony simulator game inspired by Dwarf Fortress, with a heavy dose of random events and interesting situations.

The first thing that REALLY jumped out to me was that Rimworld looks almost exactly like Prison Architect. So much so that I googled “Why does Rimworld look like Prison Architect” and got this, from back in 2013. It’s 2017 now and they still look similar, so I guess that’s not going to change. Which isn’t a bad thing exactly, the graphics look fun and get the job done, but still a bit odd.

Another aspect to come at you very quickly is that Rimworld is an Early Access title still in alpha, though that’s the 2017 definition of ‘alpha’, meaning the game fully works, has a ton of features, and isn’t full of bugs or crashes. Given that the above post is from 2013, and it’s 2017 today, you can see that Rimworld has been in development for a while, and there is still no release date. I’m personally fine with that, since as of right now Rimworld is more than good enough, but I know some really hate the EA tag regardless.

With those two things out of the way, here is why I’m really enjoying Rimworld over a game like Prison Architect; in PA there are random elements, but they don’t factor in enough to make you greatly alter your strategy. Once you have some of the basics figured out, PA becomes more about repeating what works to expand the jail, and that ‘mastery’ phase comes a little too quickly IMO (note: PA is still a fun game worth buying).

In RW, because the events are so random, and have such a huge impact, I’m finding that even once you have the basics down (food supply, decent shelter setup), there is still so much more going on, and many of the events are total game-changers. A quick example: I had a colonist who was my expert farmer and miner, but on his 41st birthday, we got a disease (happy birthday!). The disease started out as a minor annoyance that impacted his performance but could be managed with treatment, but later grew and got worse. I had him get surgery, but the surgery went terribly wrong, and he died.

Since I only had six colonists, losing one was a big deal. It was also a big deal to lose someone with his skills, because he was significantly faster at mining, and when he harvested crops he got higher results out of them, meaning more food per farming spot. The trickle down effect was a slower working colony, and one who’s food supply was now reduced. It also meant that people who would previously be busy doing research or expanding the colony now had to stop and do the mining/growing, which made reacting to new things that the colony needed a lot harder.

Shortly after that event, I had a positive event where two new people joined the colony. This was great overall, but unfortunately neither of them had the skills to replace the lost colonist, so while they brought different skills (one was an art expert), the whole colony’s balance was still off, and it was a big challenge to get it back into basic stability.

A cool feature in RW is that people can develop skills from doing those activities, so for instance even if someone starts as a bad cook, the more meals they make, the higher their skill will increase. This is further expanded in that each colonist has interests, such as a passion for mining, and if they do things they have a passion for, that skill improves faster. Naturally you want to assign people that have a passion to that activity, but passions don’t always align with starting skills. For example, I have someone who has a passion for crafting, but their skill in crafting is terrible low, so if they do craft, they produce low quality items, which is basically a waste of materials compared to allowing my high-skill crafter to do the job, even if they don’t have a passion for it. In the long-run, the passionate newbie would gain crafting skill faster (passions = faster skill gain and increased happiness), but in the short-term, the expert makes the stuff. If/when I have extra time and resources, maybe that newbie will get some practice.

Combat is also interesting, both because positioning is key between melee and ranged fighters, and because even when you win (don’t die), if you take a bad injury to a key person (and early on, basically everyone is kinda key), that might send your colony into rough times. Example: in a fight with some wild animals, my doctor got an injury to his hand. This was a problem for two reasons. One, he couldn’t treat himself for the injury very well, so a lesser-skilled colonist had to do it, which produced a less-than-excellent result (the doctor lost his hand). A one-handed doctor isn’t as effective, so now the colony had to work on a replacement for him, and he was now more of a drag on the community since he was such a slow worker and terrible fighter.

Not all injuries are as drastic, but even minor scars can add up, as characters with too many old injuries are in constant pain and so are less happy, and previously damaged limbs can have lingering performance impacts, such as a character with leg scars will walk slower. As the game progresses, if you don’t handle combat well, or just get in over your head with something, slowly your people become less effective, unhappy, and you might spiral into failure.

Overall, Rimworld has a lot of extra ‘stuff’ that happens almost daily in addition to the work you expect to get done (cooking, cleaning, building, gathering, hunting), and how you react to these events, and what the ultimate results are, is what keeps it so interesting. Things might be going terribly and suddenly a positive event happens and you get rolling again. Or you might be in a great spot and a plague hits, you lose half your food, and suddenly the whole colony has to react and recover. It’s a lot of fun, and while it can be punishing, so far it hasn’t felt outright unfair in a ‘gotcha, game over’ type of event.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys these types of games, especially as Rimworld is a better, more complete game than many others in the genre.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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5 Responses to Rimworld review (alpha 17)

  1. I saw you on Steam this past weekend playing. Rimworld has been on my wish list for a while now, but I am not as inclined to hand money to Early Access tagged games as I might have once been. A long stretch in EA triggers suspicion in me. Still, if there is a price break at the expected Steam Summer Sale I might pick it up.

    • SynCaine says:

      They should just leave EA, its doing more harm then good right now. Sure, they have plans to add more ‘stuff’, but as the game stands right now its already solid, and I can’t imagine someone doing a review and coming to the conclusion that Rimworld is bad because it lacks features/depth, or that its overly buggy or has performance issues.

  2. Amalec says:

    How would you compare this to Dwarf Fortress itself? I’ve tried a number of the games it inspired and have bounced off all of them so far. The general trend is that they’ve been worse/less interesting, but far more accessible. Having played a ton of DF way back, accessibility is a bridge I’ve already crossed.

    • SynCaine says:

      I was never able to cross the bridge with DF sadly. I’ve tried it a number of times, but I never pushed far enough to ‘get it’ and really get going. Every time I thought I had a decent thing going, something would go horribly wrong that didn’t make sense or I couldn’t explain.

      That said, I think Rimworld has a fair level of complexity to it, and the random event system keeps mixing things up for you. There are also multiple difficulty levels, as well as the option to have events ramp up or be more random (so you might get a really hard one early).

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