It was a friend of mine that got me into Rust for the first time. He was building a PC and we were looking for good co-op games, and he loves crafting games of the Minecraft/Terraria variety. When he first brought Rust to me, my first thought was “ok, this is an Early Access game, so it’s probably broken.” Despite my better judgement, I agreed to plop down the cash for it and we dove in head first.
I knew what Rust was before seeing it in action for the first time, but the reputation that was being passed around prior to me playing it didn’t pan out the way I thought it would when I went hands on. Granted, this is modern Rust, and it sounds like the legacy versions were a little more rough around the edges and a little more unforgiving when it came to interacting with other players and fortifying your position.
In the Rust of today, you spawn on a beach on the outskirts of the island. You’re given a rock and torch to start with, and nothing more. No map, no navigation tools and no idea of where you are other than one of three biomes that exist on each island. The torch will obviously help you see at night but it doesn’t really have any other practical purpose. The rock, on the other hand, is crucial in the first few moments of play. You use it to hit other rocks for the purpose of mining metal, sulfur and stone, as well as trees to mine wood.
From there, you reach the first layer of crafting and the second layer of mining. It’s best to spend your first resources on better tools so you can mine more efficiently. The stone, metal and wood tools all have a specific resource they’re best at mining, and figuring out what they are means not only more resources at a faster clip, but the durability of your tools will greatly increase. If they break, then you pretty much have to toss them and craft new ones (at least in the beginning). It’s best to try and look ahead while doing this, as every item you create takes time to craft.
Once you’ve evolved your tool-set and you’ve gathered a smattering of resources, it’s time to build a structure. You do this via a building plan and construction hammer, both of which can be created with basic resources. I can’t possibly stress enough how important the location of your building is. Other people in the game might decide they want your collection of goods and/or your life (more on that later), so it’s best to hide your structure in a not so obvious place, or in a location that isn’t heavily traveled or is at least tough to get to.
When first constructing your home, it’s pretty much a rickety pile of wood that looks like it’s held together by spit and hope. That’s not far from the truth, but it’s easily upgradable to sturdier wood, stone, sheet metal or even armor plating. I had the misconception early on that an armored building was impervious, but a lovely group of raiders were nice enough to show me the error in my assumption. They also showed me the frustration of losing everything I had and starting over, which kind of brings this talk about buildings full circle. Build it out of the way, and make upgrading its integrity and crafting a lock for the door your first priority.
Once you find yourself a nice plot of land and get your structure up and running, the real fun of Rust begins – exploring. The size of each procedurally generated island depends on the max player count, but even the small ones are pretty big. The biggest servers support up to 200 players at once, and those islands are 64 square kilometers, which I probably don’t have to tell you is pretty enormous. Even with dozens of people actively playing on a server of that size, you could play for hours and never see anyone unless you went looking for them or visited a lot of common areas.
Speaking of common areas, even though the maps are procedurally generated, you’ll see some of the same landmarks. Stuff like airfields, a giant metal sphere and a satellite dish. These landmarks, along with a smattering of irradiated buildings, are on every island, they just show up in different places. Most of the time they’re connected by roads, which you’ll likely spend time following in search of better supplies. Said supplies can be anything from basic resources to weapons and health. They come in large barrels that can be cracked open with hand tools and weapons, but doing so comes at the risk of alerting other players of your presence.
This is where the PVP portion of the game really comes into play. You can carry quite a bit of stuff on your person, so you run the risk of losing a lot if another player successfully attacks you. To combat this, crafting or acquiring more than just hand weapons is key. You start out only being able to build spears and a bow and arrow, but you’ll soon find yourself amassing firearms, multiple ammo types and heavier armor, all of which are crucial when exploring on a busy server.
One of my favorite elements of gathering resources is the airdrops. A couple of times each day cycle, a massive cargo plane flies over a random spot on the map and drops a huge crate via a parachute. The plane can be heard and seen from a great distance, and the crate falls to the ground very slowly. This means a lot of people know where the crate is falling, and that spot often turns into a bloodbath before the supplies even hit the ground. But if you manage to get to the crate first or be the last one standing in a fight over one, the contents are usually worth the effort. It’s fairly common to find assault rifles, armor and rare materials inside.
If you feel like tucking yourself away on a mountain and not going out, that eventually becomes an option too. The ability to grow food was recently added to the game, and you can even gather resources via large pieces of mining equipment, and rain catchers for water. Of course, that does take some of the fun out of the game but if you’d prefer the hermit lifestyle of a mountain man, it’s an option after the initial process of gathering early supplies and resources.
If all this sounds great to you with the exception of the PVP element, you’re not alone, and there’s actually a way around that. While you’re never guaranteed that you won’t run into someone that wants to kill you and take your hard-earned loot, some custom servers explicitly discourage it. There are also plenty of custom servers that just don’t have very many people playing on them, which makes avoiding a fight much easier. You can also find modded servers that offer a variety of tweaks, such as no wait for crafting items, more airdrops or a faster day/night cycle.
Unfortunately, it’s on the server side where the game stumbles just a bit. As Rust is still in active development and new items are added pretty much every week, the developer often has to reset all the servers to implement changes. You lose all progress when this happens, and at the bare minimum they wipe all servers once a month. It can be frustrating knowing you’re going to lose all progress in a matter of days, yet the early process of crafting and building contains some of the most satisfying elements in the game. They’ve also had a few battles with hackers ruining everyone’s fun, but I’ve yet to run into that myself and they say they’re actively combatting it.
What makes Rust even more intriguing is where the game is headed. Facepunch keep a weekly blog where they update everyone not just on what they’re rolling out that week, but long term goals as well. For instance, they had been working on server performance and just recently had a major breakthrough. They promised weather cycles awhile back and they just came through on that. Female characters and even vehicles are all in the works as well, and even though it might be awhile before they follow through with some of their promises, almost every week sees something new roll out to players.
There are just so many things to like about Rust. The world feels very alive with its attractive vistas, the full day/night cycle that even comes with weather patterns, and a variety of animals roaming about while either trying to escape or attack you. The way you meet other players feels so organic and intense, and you never know if they’re friendly and might even want to team up, or if they have every intention of sticking a knife in you when you turn away. And now the developer has added Steamworks support for creating your own in-game clothing items for a more unique look.
I didn’t play the Rust of old but it’s hard to imagine it being in a better and more exciting place than it is now. It feels like this game with its constant updates and very vocal developer should be the poster child for Early Access games. Keep giving players new content, keep them in the loop about what’s coming and why, but keep the game stable and playable along the way. That pretty well defines the state of Rust over the past few months, and I can’t wait to see where they take it in the coming year.