Indie Focus: Rimworld

I just can’t get enough of strategy games lately. Anything in the same vein as Dwarf Fortress, where losing is fun and your defenses don’t matter, is likely to pique my interest. It will then subsequently devour hours of my time until I come to my senses three days later in a strategy induced haze as my latest masterpiece of a colony crumbles because I forgot to cull all the squirrels. The latest in my masochistic obsession is sci-fi Dwarf Fortress-like Rimworld, a game that was Kickstarted at the beginning of this month and released its first pre-alpha version a few days later.

The thing that is really surprising about Rimworld is that, despite its early state at the moment, what is here is already playable and thoroughly enjoyable, not to mention somehow bug-free. Before beginning your game you must choose an AI storyteller, which will decide what happens to you and when. The storytellers on offer present a different type of challenge depending on your choice, from the steadily increasing difficulty of Cassandra Classic to the unpredictable challenges of Randy Random, whatever you choose won’t only affect the game, but rule it.

Rimworld 01

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You then randomly generate three colonists until you are happy with them and begin the game. Your colonists are stranded on a rimworld – a planet on the edge of the galaxy that is largely uninhabited. You have to guide them in the construction of a colony to ensure their survival. As you might expect, this is easier said than done as you will encounter a variety of challenges that will try and destroy your colony, kill your colonists, and otherwise try to ruin your day.

Being in pre-alpha, the game is a little light on content at the moment, but there is enough here to keep you occupied for hours already. You have two ways of generating electricity: solar generators and geothermal generators that have to be placed on a steam geyser, as well as batteries for storing it in case your generators are taken out of action. A solar eclipse will render your solar generators useless for a few days and could happen at any moment depending how your storyteller is feeling, so backup power is essential. Of course, then one of your batteries could suddenly develop a serious fault and explode, taking all the others with it, so backup batteries may be required.

You will also need to grow food, which means some growing areas and a colonist who is good at growing is helpful. You can also place a sun lamp to keep those crops lit during night time if you want them growing around the clock, but if it rains there is a chance your sun lamp will short circuit and set fire to its surroundings so it might be best to build it some shelter. You can always research hydroponics at a research table and then you can grow rapidly and inside! All you have to worry about then is power outages and blights, which will destroy all your crops, making you replant them all.

Of course, to build your research table, sun lamps, and power generators you will need metal. You will start with a decent amount but it will soon run dry if you don’t start replenishing your supply. Fortunately, there is usually a good amount readily available, provided you send someone to dig it up. Just be careful for cave-ins, because they have a bad habit of killing people who are caught under them. Once the metal has been mined out of the earth all you have to do is have it hauled to your stockpile and you can use it to build all sorts of things.

A good early investment to make is setting apart a few little rooms for prisoners, as they are your primary way of acquiring new colonists. There’s no frequent immigration in Rimworld, you have to capture prisoners and have your warden “convince” them to join your colony. Convincing them is a matter of either making them happy or making them so scared that they join you anyway. A friendly chat will accomplish the former, while the latter is encouraged by withholding food or by beating them up. If you have other prisoners you can even execute one, scaring everyone else – they won’t step out of line if they know you are willing to make an example of them.

There are a few sources for potential colonists. If they don’t die when you are fighting them, then you can capture raiders who will invade when the storyteller decides it would be most inconvenient, probably while all your defensive turrets aren’t working due to a solar flare. Rarely, someone will turn up and join your colony straight away, no persuasion necessary, though you can always arrest them anyway if you feel like it.

Rimworld 02

If you’ve built a comms unit and a drop beacon, then you can purchase people from passing slavers to boost your population provided you have the funds. You can earn cash by selling food, metal, or the weapons the last unfortunate raiders had before you shot their faces off. You’ll get a better price if the colonist you send to the comms has a higher social skill, so perhaps bear that in mind.

Of course, you can buy these things from passing ships as well, and sell your prisoners to the slavers if you are in need of the cash for them. Trade isn’t always reliable though as the ships only pass based on the whims of the storyteller. 50 days into my latest colony I am still yet to see a slaver and have seen only three travelers, so increasing my workers has been a challenge.

Rimworld combines the wonderful unpredictability of Dwarf Fortress with sci-fi, bringing with it a sleek mouse-driven UI and pretty (temporarily Prison Architect-inspired) graphics. The possible additions are endless and with such an impressively polished product so early in the development cycle it is easy to get excited for where the game will go. As a fan of the genre I feel like I have hit the jackpot and will be eagerly awaiting each version while keeping an eye out for insane squirrels.

You can buy Rimworld from its official website with prices starting at $30. You will get instant access to the pre-alpha, a Steam key when it releases on Steam (it’s already been greenlit), as well as access to the prototypes that eventually became Rimworld.

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8 Comments

  1. So many comments… Must resist.. Could get banned… Arghhhh.

  2. I’m going to complain to Trading Standards, this is false advertising!

  3. I can’t help thinking Tuffcub should’ve reviewed this!

    • OK I will. Here we go..

      Pixels. Meh. 0/10

      • Not a pixel-art game… did you even look?

      • Lol Tuff. I’m guessing you didn’t get much gaming in before ’94 ;)

  4. This is a very different game to what I expected. Judging by the title I expected innovative use of the Vita touchpad

  5. I think it looks really good, it’ll be interesting to see where they go with it. I dont really think the graphics make much differance in a game ike this as its all about the gameplay

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