Taking the time off to write this review was not easy. I had to suppress the fear of my cat attacking and possibly eating my colonists, and pray that a random tornado would not wipe out my entire colony. “A cat? That seems way too random.” And to that, dear reader, I say: nothing is impossible in RimWorld. Nothing.
RimWorld is truly the personification of randomness, breaking down the barriers of what I would have thought impossible. “So…what is impossible?” You might ask. And the truth is, I don’t know. There are numerous scenarios in RimWorld, almost far too many to explore for the casual gamer.
The game begins by presenting you with the planet RimWorld. It is on this planet that you will crash land – where you crash is entirely up to you: whether you prefer the more hospitable temperate biomes, or the harsh terrains of the desert, or some of the other delightful options. The pod which crashes on the planet consists of three survivors, who will be the initial colonists. You are free to choose which colonists you want from a list. Each colonist has his or her own personality, likes, dislikes, skills, needs, varying mental states, and so on. That is, these are not blank pawns that mindlessly follow every command. They too are living things, with their own wills and emotions.
Once you land, you begin to set up your base, and from then on, it’s up to you to survive. The end goal of the game is to research and eventually build a rocket to escape RimWorld, because frankly, no one likes to be stranded on a piece of rock in the middle of who knows where. However, this is not a compulsion, if anything, the true fun lies in the everyday activities and encounters of the colony.
The events of the game are dictated by one of three AI storytellers, which can be chosen before the start of the game. Each storyteller has their own way of constructing scenarios, depending on the type of experience the player wishes for. This is where one of the main highlights of the game lies. Instead of providing a linear plot, the narrative of the game is entirely dictated by the players actions and the whims of the storyteller.
In the beginning, all seems to be well. Sure, you start out with the bare essentials, but you can always learn and build. The occasional raiders might appear, but you can fight them off, even recruit some of them. Your colonists might starve, but they can always hunt. Life on the colony may seem dreary or monotonous, but you can always introduce recreational activities. You can research and develop scientific advancements to improve the quality of life in the colony. Everything seems to be in control. Your colonists work hard, fall in and out of love, often make stupid decisions, but are more or less, happy. Life is good.
But then, it happens. An army of cats attack. Your dog Bob seems to be hatching a plan to overthrow the humans. The farmers have picked up their scythes and begun to rebel. Greta shot her fiancé and is feeding his corpse to the goats (or is she attempting to eat him? I honestly have no idea. Come on Greta.). Tyrel discovers an ancient secret and decides to lead the new cult of the Great Old One, Cthulhu, whom you’re hoping doesn’t show up to wipe out your colony.
One by one, catastrophe after catastrophe hits you, faster than you can solve them. The food stores have run out, and winter is coming. Your colonists are starving and have begun eating your new recruits. A raccoon invades your base with the help of the other wildlife, and Sam raids your psychic tea stash and sips on it, as he watches your base burn while he chills with the llamas.
These events keep going until that inescapable feeling catches up to you, the sudden realisation that nothing is in your control. You are nothing but a cog in this inexplicable machine. It is through these unconnected events that your story is constructed. Soon, you’re sucked into a vortex where you lose all sense of time. The well-being of your colony is of paramount importance, and nothing else matters.
The gameplay of RimWorld is simplistic, but the complexities are in the details. The simultaneous management of several actions that require your supervision can take time to get used to. The tutorial is not an extensive one, it covers the bare minimum and leaves the rest entirely in your hands. Therefore, you either learn through quickly taking action by trial and error, or you learn through failure. You can control some of the actions of your colonists, allowing them to build furniture, houses, stockpiles, and so on. Initiating research into scientific advancements allows your colony to progress. You can control the priorities of your colonists through the “Work” bar. You can draft them for combat too.
The visuals of RimWorld are fairly minimalistic. The events are observed from a top-down perspective, and the objects and characters lack any intricate detail. The soundtrack matches the environment well, alternating between moods as and when it is required.
And just when you think you’ve experienced all that RimWorld has to offer, the game has a vibrant modding community, where new things are added almost daily, which range from simply adding additional features to the existing game, to changing it completely.
RimWorld is an experience to behold. Departing from mainstream management sims, it appeals to both newcomers and fans of the genre. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve left my colony alone long enough. I’m pretty sure my cat is about to lead a rebellion with his cult of cannibals.