Early Impressions: Rimworld

The last few times we looked at top-down sci-fi survival-strategy (is that a thing? Genres are becoming so tricky lately) Rimworld it was merely flirting with the idea of being genuinely playable, but recent buzz had it that the Rimworld was now inhabitable at last. It doesn’t take much to convince me to starve to death on an alien world, so I thought I’d check in.

I’m pleased to report that, despite still being in alpha Rimworld is now very much weaving the spell it needs to. It’s made up of parts borrowed from all over – Prison Architect’s look, Minecraft’s resources, Project Zomboid’s defensive mentality, Don’t Starve’s, er, starving and a whole lot of Dwarf Fortress’ poppier side – but they’ve come together very well.

Here’s the setup: you’re crashed on a randomly-generated alien world, of varying hostility depending on what starting settings you chose, and you need to build some sort of life there. You’ll need shelter, food, power and defence as a starting point, but each of those requires the right equipment and the right resources. These can found or mined, and for much of the time the pace of the game is such that you’re able to get on with this stuff – slowly building up, slowly increasing the quality of your habitat, slowly becoming self-sufficient.

Intermittently, raiders arrive, or an animal gets upset about something – honestly, you won’t believe how many times my colonists got attacked by a furious squirrel – and you’ll need to be able to defend yourself, both by giving your guys weapons and by constructing turrets. But turrets require power, power requires solar energy, the sun’s not up to much at night or in winter and, well, that’s the way Rimworld spirals out. Everything requires something else, but there’s a pleasantly organic nature to the technological upscaling and co-dependency here. It’s not a frenzy of build, build, build, but this ever-widening circle, dutifully getting on with creating stability in a treacherous place.

It could probably get away with being a pure sandbox, but the elements of chaos, driven by an impressively invisible ‘AI storyteller’, really bring the survival fantasy to life. Rabid squirrels are a small problem, but something like an invading tribe is more serious. You’ve got to manually toggle your colonists into combat mode, then deal with the fact they’re just not very good at shooting, then in the aftermath deal with injuries, corpses and potentially prisoners. Untreated wounds lead to death, bodies lying about the place upset people (though the emotional health aspect of the game doesn’t seem totally developed as yet), while wounded enemies could represent a threat or a potential ally.

Little decisions, potentially fatal decisions. What this kind of game needs to excel at is constantly shifting priorities, rather than just a clear ladder to steadily climb, and so far Rimworld is doing a fine job of that. One second I’m fixated on needing to find more steel, the next I’m hauling a newly one-armed colonist off to a medical med and praying her colleagues can stop the bleeding in time.

Despite the presence of an AI string-puller, I’ve very rarely found Rimworld to be wantonly cruel, rolling some invisible dice to decide that I’m going to suffer, because clear thinking and most all accumulated knowledge of what’s required will resolve most, if not all, problems. There’s always a cause for each effect. This is a world with clear rules, and the trial and error needed to learn them means hilarious mishaps and rewarding revelations. Build batteries outside, for instance, and they’ll short out when it rains, potentially starting a fire in your settlement. It wasn’t just a fire which started for no reason. There’s a hell of a lot to learn, and not too much help, but it all funnels out gradually and logically.

Clearly Rimworld’s a long way from finished, but now it feels like the rabbit hole it needs to be. I have all these goals in my mind, with building a spaceship and escaping right at the end of them, but I know they’re going to take a long time, I know they’re going to shift, and I know they’re going to be marred by tragedy. And accidental hilarity, too. Those damned squirrels!

There’s scope to make it deliberately hilarious too – on my first attempt at Rimworld, one of my three starting colonists was a noble who refused to do any manual labour. She just ambled about the place while the other two worked their bums off to build her a bed, cook her food and fetch rocks from a million miles away. I wasn’t too upset when the pirates took her life.

All this said, I’m not in love with how Rimworld looks. It’s very Prison Architect in the great outdoors, and I never entirely took to PA’s South Parky art style either. The interface is pretty awkward too, but when you’re talking about a game whose partial inspiration is Dwarf Fortress, maligning any GUI feels a bit rich.

Push on past these starting hurdles and Rimworld’s well worth it, though, and I’m saying that at a point where I’ve barely scratched its surface. Whereas some of these grand-scale management games can feel like a collection of disconnected ideas without overarching purpose, Rimworld very much seems to have its eyes on the prize. It’s imbued with a sense of impetus, and it deftly creates the vignettes of hilarity and tragedy needed to make it feel like a functioning place. I like it a lot. If you’re after a slow-burn survival and construction game which doesn’t involve getting unexpectedly shot/bitten in the face at any given moment, here’s your new home.

The Rimworld Alpha – currently at version 9e – is out now. It costs $30.

64 Comments

  1. deadfolk says:

    I kickstarted this and had a look at a very early build, which was too early for me.

    I jumped in at alpha 9 last week and I’m absolutely hooked. Loving it so far – it’s got just the right level of accessibility vs complexity for me.

    Btw: Is there a WOT coming for Atilla?

  2. NMorgan says:

    I’ll just leave this madness here…

    • heretic says:

      what the… I watched the whole thing, it’s great! also didn’t know dyslexi had vids of other things than arma :D

  3. Artist says:

    Im playing Rimworld since a few Alphas. The game is totally worth it and I really like the responsiveness of the dev. Thumbs up, Tynan! Keep it rollin’!

  4. Artist says:

    Frankly I have to say that this is a very badly written/reviewed “First Impression” by Mr. Meer! Its obvious that he didnt got much into the game. A kind of weak and shallow game journalism I dont expect to see on RPS.
    Rimworld is definatly a very stable and playable alpha on the contrary what Mr. Meer states. I guess “subjectivity” is the applied excuse here.

    • WibbsterVan says:

      What the……….I don’t even…..maybe my sarcasm detector is offline or something, but if not you really need to actually read the article more closely.

      • DrDigby says:

        You beat me to it.

      • Hanban says:

        I’m as stumped as you are. I feel like the person read “alpha” and ignored every word that preceded it and every word that came after it.

    • schlusenbach says:

      Its obvious that he didnt got much into the game.

      Yup, because he wrote so himself. But what’s the problem? This was a positive and fair article.

    • Rozza says:

      I really don’t understand your comment. It doesn’t even seem to be written by the same person that wrote the immediately-previous comment.

      My impression was that he’d spent a good few hours in it (hence knowing it was “slow burn”) and I really don’t see why you’d call this particular article “weak and shallow”?

      • jezcentral says:

        Wrong tab, perhaps?

        Of course, that does provoke the question of which of Alec’s other Early Impressions reviews he was railing against. :)

    • Alec Meer says:

      Artist, you haven’t read a single word past the first line, and you’ve made a damned fool of yourself as a result. Go away and have a think about whether knee-jerk anger has every done you any good in this life.

      • Premium User Badge

        Damien Stark says:

        I like to imagine that his comment – which was written with a lack of polish and depth and attention to detail, and was thus unsatisfying – wherein he complains about your article lacking polish and depth and attention to detail, and thus being unsatisfying, was meant as a sort of meta-commentary about gamers and reviewers complaining about alphas and Early Access games lacking polish, depth, and attention to detail and thus being unsatisfying.

        If so, brilliant!

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Which part of “First Impressions” did you not understand?

  5. Jiskra says:

    Rimmworld is awesome, i dont mind that prison architect look, UI could use some work and endgame isnt really there(well you can build ship and fly away but it really doesnt feel satifying), but the options !

    When you defeat raiders atack and some of them survive, you can kill them or take them prisoner. Prisoner you can sell to slave trader, you can persuade him to join your colony, you can harvest his organs and sell them and then sell him as slave, you can kill him and butcher him for meat in case you run out of food ….

  6. khju says:

    FYI, Tynan Sylvester (lead dev) has said the art is definitely a place holder, and it’s one of the things most in need of polish before the game leaves alpha.

    I don’t disagree with criticizing the art in the article. If I’m paying for early access NOW, then I want a game NOW, and I want that game to be good. But it’s worth noting that if you can ignore mediocre art for a little while you could buy it now, or if you can’t ignore mediocre art for a little while Rimworld should still stay on your radar for the future. So far Tynan has been good about adding the stuff he says he’s gonna add.

    • schlusenbach says:

      “FYI, Tynan Sylvester (lead dev) has said the art is definitely a place holder, and it’s one of the things most in need of polish before the game leaves alpha.”

      No, it won’t change too much anymore. He’s quite happy with it.

      • khju says:

        Huh, fair enough. I thought I’d read a lot of ‘I want to get an artist to change it a lot comments’ but I guess not!

        • Daemoneyes says:

          If you are not happy with the looks check out this texture replacement
          link to ludeon.com
          got to love how much mods and how much GOOD mods there are!

    • Crafter says:

      If I remember well, he said that about the kickstarter prototype.
      There is an artist working on the game, but the visual style is here to stay.

  7. LogicalDash says:

    Dwarf Fortress’ poppier side

    I’m trying to guess what this means. I don’t think the dwarves can manufacture opium without mods, but I did hear there were musical instruments in a recent update so maybe they reinvented the power ballad?

    • daver4470 says:

      I think he’s referring to that time that Dwarf Fortress created a pop alter ego named Chris Gaines…

  8. rexx.sabotage says:

    This was almost an instabuy but, Christwagons–$30 for an alpha? How much is the finished product going to cost???

    I love starvation simulators and this looks like a goodun but, both Dwarf Fortress and UnReal World offer a more complete experience and both can be enjoyed for zero dollars. They really need to reconsider that price point.

    • Axyl says:

      Just under £20 is a decent price, especially considering the VAST amount of gameplay on offer here.

    • Daemoneyes says:

      Price is decent enough and honestly if you someone likes Dwarf Fortress but hates its user interface he would pay triple that price in a heartbeat.

    • Jiskra says:

      Consider it donation to development. If you think price is too steep, then wait until game is done and buy it in steam sale.

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      Both games I mentioned inarguably offer more content and both of their developments subsist on donations alone.

      $30 is the price of many finished games, heck you can head over to the Humble Store right now and pick up two handfuls of finished games for half of that price! Asking $30 for an unfinished product (a product that could very well never see completion) seems greedy to me.

      I am all for supporting independent creativity, people are putting together amazingly awesome things with only their free time, the lint in their pockets and the occasional goodwill of others simply because they passionately love what they do. When I look at Rimworld’s tiered packages ($200? Really!?) I can only presume these guys are, “innit 4 da monies”

      I have no qualms with Purchasing a Product® but, don’t hide it behind a guise of supporting artistry.

      • Daemoneyes says:

        0o?

        Really i dont get it,
        there is this beautiful game which gives you even in this early stage hundreds of hours of game play and you complain about optional packages which in no way influence what you get in this game.
        And this in a time where AAA games cost 120€+ and thats not even the full package, from which every single added package gives you in game benefits and in cases like the order you only get 4-5 hours for 60€! (did i mention fucking black bars?)

        Honestly get a grip on reality man..

        • rexx.sabotage says:

          whose he? some kinda super hero? sounds like something you’d want consent for.

      • schlusenbach says:

        Well, of course the developer is in it for the money. He’s an indie game developer and tries to make a living from coding games. But he is also very active on the forums and maintains an ongoing changelog where you can follow the games’ progress day by day. And last not least Rimworld had a good concept since alpha 1. The game is fun and so far this is an example of doing ‘early access’ the right way.

        And those tiered packages are normal these days. You could spend more than 6.000€ on the Godus kickstarter for example. I think this is madness, but if people want to pay that, let them.

        • rexx.sabotage says:

          It’s not the money, it’s the model. Pay gates are shitty, they restrict access. I understand why they exist but, they are shitty.

          Am I going to buy the game? oh yeah! However, I am going to talk shit on their stupid high pay gate when the pay-what-you-want with tiered bonuses model is achieving notable success. It’s either greed or incompetence and I find neither quality endearing.

          • wu wei says:

            It’s either greed or incompetence

            There’s a third option you forgot: maybe it’s that you’re ignorant of the costs of development.

            I know which one I think is most likely.

      • Flatley says:

        If you have no qualms purchasing a product, I have happy news for you: The devs are selling a product! So you can purchase it without any qualms. Run along now.

        • rexx.sabotage says:

          Actually, I am going to frolic about instead.

          Such a lovely time of year in the comments section :)

      • MellowKrogoth says:

        Ok, so you think it’s too expensive. Then don’t buy it and stop bitching.

        Planetary Annihilation charged upwards of 80$ for early access to their builds, letting people know that the price was gonna decrease gradually. And people still bought it. Why not? Whatever model works to support the game.

    • Crafter says:

      I would hold off for the moment. There really is not that much content in the game.

      • Telkir says:

        In the vanilla game, perhaps not, and maybe that’s all you’re concerned with. Fair enough if so.

        Still, there’s an extremely active modding community that has created a huge amount of additional content such as new factions, weapons, technologies, crops, tools, crafting recipes, and anything else you can think of. Even at this early alpha stage Tynan has done well to open up a lot of the innards of the game to modders of all skill levels, which can only be a good thing for the game’s future.

  9. jjman says:

    I’m green, a few weeks into RimWorld. Great game so far, but the short circuits, bahhhh.

    My next attempts will be battery free.

    • MrStones says:

      Short circuits can be really annoying, try to keep all batteries indoors and your mostly fine though. I’ve given it a go before and going battery free will make your life a LOT more frustrating (solar eclipses, no buffer if your power draw increases, having to make every decision by how many geothermal vents are available).

      I’d recommend googling a mod called “Less incident trolling”, helped take a lot of the frustration out of it for me in previous alphas. Copy/Pasted from it’s thread – “This mod reduces the chance for some incidents to fire and/or increases the time before they can fire again.”

      • jjman says:

        Thanks for that, I’ll check it out and possibly give it a go.

  10. Fiatil says:

    This game is fantastic. I bought in at alpha 8 and it’s been my most played game since. It’s the first solid attempt at “accessible dwarf fortress”, and the modding community has been churning out some solid stuff too. I’ve never had so much fun watching an infection spread to someone’s arm, or replacing a colonist’s destroyed left kidney with the stolen kidney of his imprisoned assailant.

  11. Dog Pants says:

    I have a cycle where I play the current Rimworld version to death then wait a few versions for there to be more to do. There’s usually an adjusted learning curve each time. I’ve been enjoying it for ages, and since I think I last played Alpha 7 I reckon I’m due a return.

    • Llewyn says:

      I’ve taken a similar approach to Prison Architect. It’s been a fundamentally different game every time I’ve played through it, which is mostly a good thing. Although I’ve found I have to take that approach as I find the game intrusively addictive when I am playing it, and need to detox for a considerable period after each prison just to get anything else done with my life.*

      * cf CK2, EU4 etc.

  12. raiders5000 says:

    I would say this is a VERY “Early Impressions” of Rimworld.

    I got it back in the early kickstarter days as well. The advances made have been impressive, and that’s an understatement.

    Like the colonist mentioned in this article with one arm. We can actually perform surgery on her and give her a new arm. That is if her stats are good enough to perform the operation successfully AND provided we were able to stop her from bleeding to death. In fact, we can perform surgery on anyone and do so many humanitarian or god-awful things, depending on how you look at it.

    My colony was being overun by some menacing raiders with far more high-powered weapons then my small destitute group. I sent one of my boys over to a Cryptosleep shrine located nearby for help. Without knowing who or WHAT was in these chambers, I unleashed 8 cyrptopods of their inhabitants. Lucky for me they were human dudes with as bad intentions as the ones attacking us.

    While the raiders were shooting at us, the freshly released cryptohabs were firing at them. My turrets were firing at everything! Then you have the aliens that crash down on the planet. They have nice weapons and are hard as hell to kill. However, if you do kill them, they can be harvested too…no spoilers! Who knows, we might get waves of attacking squirrels in the next build!

    As for colonists that refuse to work, let’s not forget the slave merchants flying out in space. You build your trade comm and wait for them to pass in range. You can arrest that lazy-ass colonist and sell her to the slave traders and buy (or trade for) a new colonist if you want. This used to be easier in the early days. Now it cost a doggone-fortune, but it’s still enjoyable when I pull it off. Or save the money and wait for a combat supplier to past though. Buy some fantastic weapons and armor so I can really get dug in!

    Defeating enemy raiders and making them prisoners and then converting them to contributing citizens is wonderful. Or selling them is equally pleasurable when they refuse to convert. I hate those sneaky cobras too. I kill them every chance I get. The bad part about them is they kill your mates. The good thing about them is you can cook’em and eat’em.

    I don’t agree with Rimworld’s comparison to AP much but others might. To me, it’s like comparing Skyrim to Dragon Age: Inquisition. Why would you?

    I do agree with Meer, that Rimworld is a fascinating game that continually switches your focus from one element to another. And in it’s current state, has more workable and effective content than most finished releases ever designed. The game is nowhere near finished only because Tyan Syvester refuses to stop working on his pet project. And believe me lads, that’s a damn good thing! He values player feedback and has some ingenious ideas of his own. To be fair, to purchase the game in its state now is a gaming investment well worth taking. There is no freakin’ way you will master everything before the next update. You might not even SEE everything there is to see in this game before the next update. And we’re talking Alpha? C’mon!

    Yeah, I’m a fan of Rimworld. You will be too.

    • madcontender says:

      Important thing about lazy nobles. While they won’t soil their delicate hands with peasant work, they often have above average starting Social skill (from schmoozing at balls) and Shooting skills (from hunting on their estates), so while they may lack the strong shoulders of a miner or oaf, they are also better at Wardening and recruiting prisoners than the strong but uncharismatic oaf, and their shooting skills are great for hunting animals for food and killing things that want to kill you.

  13. SomeDuder says:

    Between this and Factorio, my life is over.

  14. daver4470 says:

    My only nitpick with Rimworld… and it’s fairly minor… is that every time they put out a new release, they send you an email with your unique download link. And I ALWAYS manage to lose that *&$% email, and therefore I haven’t actually played Rimworld for about 8 months now….

    I am glad to hear that it’s shaping up well, though. I’m rooting for it – great concept.

    • Telkir says:

      You can always create a forum account and send Tynan a message to get him to re-send the email should you ever need to. He’s pretty good with support that way.

      But in eight months there’s been a heck of a lot added!

  15. Crafter says:

    I kickstarted this and played all the Alphas until the last one where I decided to skip a couple of versions.
    The game is very fun to play but also very broken :
    -each item deteriorate if left outside, especially food and you will want to store some items close to where they are useful (food near the kitchen, medicine near an infirmary, …) but if you want to trade, all your tradeable goods must be outside near a trade beacon. Not to mention that moving goods between storage areas is very clunky since you don’t have direct control over the colonist and can just manage what each stockpile is supposed to store and their relative priorities.
    -Melee combat has been added as an afterthought and it shows. It is not a problem that your ranged colonist do not move by themselve, bu for a melee guy it means that he will stay in place and be massacred by ennemies two tiles away.
    -Hauling items is supposed to be the least important job by default, but colonists are so inefficient at hauling that I often have to affect several colonists as ‘pure haulers’ and even then, hauling goods between places soon become my main bottleneck..
    -The game tries to add some variety to the situations with crisis such as ‘a mysterious blight has destroyed your crops’, eclipses, tempests shutting down the electricity. However, with the exception of the event where local animals become insane, the only events that has ever destroyed one of my colonies (or been more than a very little annoyance) has been the increasing waves of raiders that want to destroy your colony.

    There are a lot of good things to say about Rimworld, but the road in front of this project is still huge.

    • Burrakooka says:

      Just on the trade beacons: you can put one outside to enable trading and have no stockpile around it and place multiple other trade beacons indoors with your actual stockpiles. Items purchased will drop on the outdoor beacon, and items sold can be within range of any beacon. Just have to make sure your hauling priorities are set so that one of your colonists will bother to bring the items purchased inside before deteriorating. I didn’t realize this was now the case at first, either.

  16. scut says:

    Rimworld is one of those games that I’m happy to see exist, but wouldn’t purchase for myself. It’s too granular and I could see every game devolving into me getting bored because I have to micromanage a million banal tasks. I can definitely see this satisfying a strong niche market, and I hope it encourages another developer to take this idea of science fiction frontiersmanship and deliver it in a more elegant game.

    • jonahcutter says:

      The experience can change dramatically based on how much you imagine the stories of your colony. Obviously, the game is not going to write every conversation and event for you. But if you do the work in your imagination, the experience can be quite rich.

      Watch the “Why’d It Have To Be Squirrels” video posted above by NMorgan. The video itself is actually by Dslyecxi of ShackTac, if you’ve heard of him/them. It does a great job of illustrating this point.

      If he didn’t tell himself a story about each little event in the game, it would all likely be quite simple, and perhaps unremarkable. Instead, he lets his imagination run and ends up with an epic tale.

      What stories do you tell yourself, about the events of your game?

      • scut says:

        I’ve followed Dslyecxi for a while, I’m familiar with the squirrels vid. Actually it was that vid which helped cement my decision not to get Rimworld. It seemed clear that his downfalls came about from an inability to micromanage as the game piled up impossible workloads for the player. Again, to the players who want that thrill of dealing with a crushing weight of tasks, I’m happy they’re getting what they want.

        It’s kinda like Tetris. Hardcore players only have fun when the box is nearly full, I lose the satisfaction of seeing the systems chug away by that point. I’m never going to claim Tetris is a bad game.

        It’s also lacking the sort of focused theme that I tend to seek in games. This is another reason why I’d like to see this sort of engine dealt with in a manner that pushes granularity down in favour of cohesive design that reinforces a theme’s intent.

    • Crafter says:

      Right now the game is indeed unable to remove the most cumbersome of micromanagement and the stories it generates are not very varied. IMO, the challenges encountered really need some variation (I have only ever lost a colony to a raid, everything else is just a slight annoyance).
      The game has theoretically everything it needs in order to raise these new challenges ( like hunger and cold) but each of these problems have easy and very efficient solutions (farming and hydroponics are so efficient that losing all your crops does not matter, clothes, heating and high tolerance to cold make the weather insignificant as well).

      It is possible that Rimworld will get there though.

  17. aircool says:

    First thought was ‘Rimmerworld’.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Phasma Felis says:

    A question, from someone who’s interested in the game but doesn’t know much about it. I understand that the basic plot of Rimworld is that your dudes were on a spaceliner which went blooie, the escape pod dumped you here, and now you’ve got to make a go of it Robinson Crusoe-style. That’s fine, it sounds awesome. But I’ve also heard that there are plenty of events involving space pirates, interstellar traders, etc etc. Does the game give any rationale as to why you don’t hitch a ride home on the first ship that passes, or at least pass on a message to your buddies that you need rescue? (Or, indeed, why space pirates would bother raiding three dudes in a log cabin.)

    I don’t demand absolute realism in games, but for emergent-story games like this I at least need to be able to rationalize a coherent narrative; Robinson Crusoe doesn’t really work if a friendly ship shows up three months in and Crusoe goes “nah, you know what, I like it here.”

    • Golden Pantaloons says:

      Passing traders aren’t “friends” as such, they are simply willing to send some drop pods down to the surface if you pay their (presumably inflated) price. My assumption is that they have no interest in the planet you’re stranded on, and they don’t land there or anything. They just happened to be passing by and are willing to make a quick buck trading with some desperate strangers.

      As for pirates and such, they all have bases on the planet. So presumably they are in a situation similar to yours.

      The universe isn’t completely fleshed out yet, but I’m really liking what’s there. It’s supposedly inspired by Firefly among others, and I could swear I see some Alistair Reynolds in there. But maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

    • Noimydne says:

      Also I believe the traders use spaceships despite it not making much sense mostly because land based traders would have been more time consuming to do for little difference in gameplay.

  19. Golden Pantaloons says:

    I have played Rimworld for a few weeks now, and I’m very impressed with it so far.
    However, in its current state it sort of falls into the category of games that are the most fun when you are bad at them. Rimworld relies to some degree on the AI storyteller, but the most memorable events tend to come from your inability to manage the ever-growing complexity of the game’s logistics. Once you know the game well enough to avert most crises before they happen, things can get a bit stale. However, the dev has big plans for the game, and in my opinion he hasn’t failed to deliver yet.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I quite enjoy having a colony nicely ticking over that can repel the minor threats that get thrown against it. Feels kinda soothing.

  20. coolguy43 says:

    I’m very impressed with the game. I even met a polish and I’m glad I had easy polish learning at link to preply.com and was able to communicate with he.

  21. thranx says:

    I got rimworld at around Alpha 3… .and it’s been fantastic. I have to force myself not to play with each new update so I don’t get all burn ont it before it’s really out. I played Alpha 3 or 4 for a LONG time. 3 or 4 mega colonies… just… real good.

    I try to make my early access/alpha/beta purchases based on “would I pay that for the game as-is” and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. It runs very well and what is implemented is heavily bug free.