You know how it is—what you want to play often depends on how you are feeling.
Sometimes I want to play a game about a ragtag bunch of post-apocalyptic survivors trying to cobble together shelter and food while enduring the elements and fending off pirate raids.
Sometimes I want to play a game about a rich explorer and her attempts to turn local potato fields into a thriving trade empire to fuel her addiction to solid gold furniture.
Sometimes I want to organise complex defences to ensure that my carefully planned base full of pacifist mushroom farmers will survive a huge swarm of rabid squirrels.
Fortunately, RimWorld offers all of these experiences and more.
Touted as a story generator, RimWorld is a fun and interactive building/survival game, where you take control of one or more survivors who have crash-landed on an unknown planet. Your colonists need to build shelter, find food and research new technology, while random events create challenges for them to overcome, like bandit raids, freak weather, meteor showers, or weird psychic phenomena. You will also see travellers and caravans from other towns, some of whom will become enemies, some friends or trading partners, and some who will just pass by on their way to somewhere else.
While the game is made by a single developer, there is quite a lot of official support and two official expansions: Royalty and Ideology. Ideology released on 20th July and added a lot of depth to social interactions and beliefs in the game.
Although both expansions are great, newcomers can safely ignore them until they understand the base game. The controls are easy to use and can be fully remapped, although I mostly use just a mouse to play and have no difficulties at all.
As a “sandbox” game, RimWorld is very customisable, with different settings that modify aspects of the game, like story objectives or the number of colonists who survive the initial crash. There is also a thriving (and free!) modding community. Some of the most popular mods offer new hairstyles or recipes for your colonists, new random events, new alien races, or the ability to even radically alter the gameplay, like turning your colony into a hotel, complete with gift shops and entertainment options for guests.
RimWorld plays differently from many games, as you normally make plans for the colony that the inhabitants then follow rather than the player needing to directly control individual characters. Each survivor is randomly generated, with their own strengths and weaknesses, preferences, and even illnesses or disabilities. There may be things that they cannot or will not do, or other colonists that they like or hate, and reacting to this is a big part of the game.
From a technical standpoint, the game runs well on low-spec machines until colonies get very large. The music is great. The graphics are not high end, but if you can look past this issue the game is very enjoyable.
It cannot be stressed enough that RimWorld rewards patience.
You have incredible freedom in how you want to play, but there is no real tutorial and little guidance on possible ways to play, aside from a few text notifications. For example, I only just learned that you can recruit more colonists from bandits I captured when they raided my town, which would have been useful to know earlier. I’m sure there are many other useful things that I haven’t learned, but the game doesn’t go out of its way to make features clear. This experience can be confusing and intimidating, so RimWorld may be less suitable for people who want a more straightforward experience. For me, the randomness of the game and the need to find different ways to tackle problems is really enjoyable. Knowing everything about a game can make it lose its appeal.
Overall, the best thing about RimWorld is that you can play and build whatever and whichever way you like. Being able to play at my own pace, without being compelled to follow a story, is unique and fun.
You can build to your heart’s content and focus on making your colony as big or beautiful as you like. Or you can organise raids. Or run a seaside restaurant and family farm. Or turn your base into a research facility to build a space rocket. If you let it, you can sink hundreds of hours into finding solutions or exploring fun new ways of interacting with the world.
And because every story is different, even losing can be fun.
Accessibility: 4 stars
Replay-ability: 4.5 stars (Experiences may vary depending on if you use mods or not.)
Awesome Moments: 4 stars
Danger of Losing Track of Time: 5 stars
Total score: 17.5 / 20 stars
Written by Ben James, as part of his regular RARE Youth Tech column.