I had planned, today, to write a conventional review of space-western colony sim RimWorld's new DLC expansion, Ideologies. But I'm going to do something else. Because while RimWorld looks like it's about managing a settlement, it's not. You're more of a reality TV director than anything, watching a community of simulated chumps flail their way through a world of chaotic, intersecting variables, and nudging things towards the most interesting - or chaotic - outcomes. RimWorld is, as the game itself says, a story generator. As such, let me commend this new DLC to you, by telling you a story.
It’s a story about betrayal, foresight, and knife fights. Also, the industrial production of crack.
The devotees of Butoton settled the world of Engo with the intention of doing two things: smoking weed, and eating burgers. Butoton, you see, is a god who first revealed himself to a family of persecuted turtle ranchers on a jungle world long ago. And there are two ways to worship him. The first involves ranching animals and consuming them (except turtles, which are now revered). The second involves taking loads of drugs, in mindblowing ceremonies based around a gigantic bong, some kodo drums, and an ancient disco ball which fell out of orbit shortly after the colonists made planetfall.
This, as you can imagine, has led to be a pretty happy life for this small band of pilgrims. They're led by a man named Hutch, who grew up in a fallout shelter and cooks incredibly good stews, and their spiritual needs are attended to by Max, an abrasive priest and marksman who survived an entirely separate apocalypse on a separate planet. They live a simple, merry existence on the banks of the river Fourtwenty.
A herd of weird, petrol-milked antelopes provides enough fuel to power a TV playing 4000 years' worth of stoner comedies on loop, while food comes from the milk and flesh of a great swarm of goats. The fields grow hay to feed the goats in winter, "smokeleaf" (space weed) to feed the minds of the settlers, and a little bit of "psychoid leaf" (space cocaine) to trade for luxuries. Well, OK. Quite a lot of space cocaine, in fairness. But hey, it's a great cash crop.
The Butotonian pilgrims were always kind to travellers in need. And so, when five forlorn drifters arrived at their compound, offering their labour for a season in exchange for food and shelter, Hutch was amenable. Max was suspicious of the newcomers at first, but they soon showed interest in conversing on the mysteries of Butoton, and his fears were allayed.
Alas: after a season of hard work and hard partying, on the eve of their departure the drifters turned on their hosts. Rising from their beds in the dead of night, with cold steel knives in their hands, they looted the valuables from the temple of Butoton, stabbed the beloved chief farmer Pepper in her bed, and disappeared into the night.
This is where I decided to intervene. I don't savescum much in RimWorld, but in this instance I had an idea I wanted to try out. As I loaded the last autosave, I figured that perhaps Max, while nine massive bong rips into a deep chat with Butoton himself, had been granted a vision of the future, and the betrayal of his fellow pilgrims. It was a future he was going to avert, with extreme prejudice.
On the final day of the drifters' stay in this new save file, Max was up before dawn. Walking through the compound on the way to get himself some refreshing morning goat broth, he considered the problem of the drifters, who he now knew would turn on them all at the end of this new day.
How shall I protect my sisters and brothers in faith? thought Max. There was Olga, their beastmaster, who kept a grizzly bear and a megasloth as hunting beasts. She had an uzi and all. But such a direct, messy execution seemed an offence to the Big Butoton, somehow. The prospect of walling the drifters into the dorm appealed to him too, before he realised what an absolute vibe-killer it would be to hear their screams for mercy during the nightly Bute Sesh.
"Walling the drifters into their dorm appealed to the high priest for a moment, before he realised what an absolute vibe-killer the screams would be."
No, thought Max. This must be a holy death. And then it came to him. There were two vast white shapes out there in the pre-dawn gloom, grazing on the far side of the river. Thrumbos. These gigantic, venerable beasts, each bearing a lone horn on its brow, had arrived the day after the drifters, at the beginning of summer. They had proved a superb thing to behold while absolutely busted on honk. But now, they would have another purpose...
"Rise and shine, honoured guests!" cried Max, bursting into the guest dormitory and shaking the baffled drifters awake. "You have shown such respect during your stay that I have decided to initiate you all into the mysteries of Butoton. Surely, you would not turn down such an honour?"
Seeing the outline of Olga's megasloth looming in the corridor behind the high priest, the drifters decided not to turn down such an honour. And so they followed him through the compound to the drugs manufactory beside the psychoid meadow. The drifters began to look nervously at one another, for many of them had worked in the shed they were headed to, and knew that it was piled to the rafters with one substance alone: incredibly cheap, grim, crack.
On entering the manufactory, Max threw open a great wooden chest full of chalky, nasty rocks of crack. "Time to smoke some crack!" he announced warmly. "True, it's not something you will have seen us pilgrims doing. But that's because crack is only to be used on very special occasions - such as this rite of initiation!". I think the drifters knew this was bollocks, but the megasloth was still lurking, and now the bear had shown up to join it.
“There’s nothing to be nervous about, my dudes,” Max reassured the six, with a deep, bong-roughened chuckle. "Today is the greatest day of your lives! Your potential has been clear for all to see, and now is your chance to live up to it, becoming holy in the eyes of Butoton himself. So: have a snarl on these big men". After handing out six crack pipes, Max leaned on the wall with his arms crossed and watched the drifters, some now weeping openly, tuck into the most utterly rancid portion of the compound's crack stock.
When the smoke cleared, the drifters were in a state identical to Phil Mitchell, in this one clip from UK soap Eastenders. With faces contorted into snarling, purple rictuses, they could do nothing but shake and gurn as Max walked them out of the manufactory, across the goat pasture, and through the narrow gap between the limestone bluffs which separate the town from the river plain.
“Gaze on the majesty of nature”, said the priest, pointing at the distant Thrumbos. "The finest beasts in the whole of the rim. The finest meat too, it is said. And Butoton does respect a nice meat supper, doesn't he, my dudes?" The drifters only coughed and retched in response. "So, then, get out those knives I can't help but notice you've all got concealed in your pockets, and go get a supper worthy of the Big B himself."
"But they're fuckin massive," croaked one of the drifters, like a dying goblin. "Indeed!" Answered Max. "But so is your faith. I'm sure you'll be fine, therefore. Good luck!"
The hapless drifters glanced around themselves, looking for any sort of escape. But finding every angle covered by either a gun-weilding Butotonian, or a large war animal, they soon realised they had no choice, and began hobbling deliriously towards the thrumbos, waving their knives before them like drunks trying to find dropped contact lenses with the torches on their phones.
"Ah, the wonders of faith," beamed Max, as the first brays of megafaunal rage thundered from across the river, followed almost immediately by the sound of a torso being stamped flat like a shoebox full of twigs and mince. Beside him, Hutch could only shake his head grimly, in between small, thoughtful tokes on his gigantic bifter. "They're not actually doing that badly," said the leader of the pilgrims, after another few moments of hideous violence. "You reckon the last three can take that first one down, Max?"
"Two," corrected the priest, after a sound very much like a massive horn violently displacing the contents of a human abdominal cavity. "But yes, I reckon it'll bleed out before nightfall. Just in time for you to make one of your famous stews, brother." Neither man said anything, then, until the last of the screams had given way to the serenity of the plains again. "Butoton be praised," said Hutch with a shrug, and took another hooning great huff on his joint. He would have to go and fetch his stewpot; it was turning out to be a most holy day indeed.