RimWorld

A rich life sim, RIMWORLD doesn’t quite reach the stars.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Sam Greer

RimWorld is a life sim about es­tab­lish­ing a colony on a re­mote planet. Things go wrong, the un­ex­pected oc­curs, and your colonists re­act. Each has drives and needs, ones that are of­ten un­help­ful to the mis­sion but which are in­tended to make them more com­plex char­ac­ters. Go in want­ing to build a neat utopia, and you’ll likely be frus­trated. Wel­come the sto­ry­telling po­ten­tial of dis­as­ter, and you’ll have a much bet­ter time. Your colonists are the main drive be­hind the game. When you be­gin a sce­nario you have to select your team, and they’ll be gen­er­ated with traits and back­grounds. Some are help­ful skills, like hunt­ing or teach­ing, and some are there to in­ject per­son­al­ity. There’s a lot of prom­ise in the ideas these char­ac­ters bring to the ta­ble. I had a colonist who, chrono­log­i­cally, was 114 years old, but, thanks to the com­pli­ca­tions of space travel, was re­ally only 24. The son she’d left be­hind was ap­proach­ing his 50s. Her grand­daugh­ter was 31.

There are some pe­cu­liar as­pects to this ap­proach to char­ac­ter gen­er­a­tion, though. Each char­ac­ter gets three traits, things like ob­ses­sive, lazy, or even misog­y­nist. One of the mod­i­fiers is ‘gay’ but ‘straight’ isn’t— that’s just the de­fault, which is painfully het­eronor­ma­tive and out­dated for a game about the far-flung fu­ture. It also feels odd to have some traits sat along­side each other. ‘Misog­yny’ next to ‘ugly’, ‘hard work­ing’ next to ‘psy­chopath’. These things are not alike, but are placed with equal im­por­tance.

While the sys­tem gives evoca­tive com­bos like a bounty hunter who’s lazy and veg­e­tar­ian, in the end, they all in­ter­act in broadly the same way. They don’t speak, in text or other­wise, and so the facets of their iden­tity are de­clared in a char­ac­ter sheet that’s of­fered to you through a drip feed of tiny up­dates. The main is­sue with the game’s ap­proach to char­ac­ter is that it treats peo­ple as the sum of just a few parts. It’s not un­rea­son­able that a game of this scale needs to have a sim­ple sys­tem to gen­er­ate its char­ac­ters, but the end re­sult is AI that be­have in in­ter­est­ing ways but never feel like real peo­ple. As long as you’re able to look past that and just en­joy the odd be­hav­ior of these ro­botic colonists then there’s still fun to be had with the unique sand­box.

Once you’re down on the ground it’s all a mat­ter of lay­ing out tasks for your colonists. You don’t get to take con­trol, so must in­stead lay down blueprints and zones, and stack up tasks for them to com­plete. The UI is a bit lack­ing. It’s fine af­ter enough time but far from in­tu­itive and full of irk­some in­con­sis­ten­cies like be­ing able to mass-select some ob­jects but not oth­ers. Go­ing through an en­tire field of potato plants to or­der each of them to be har­vested is the kind of busy work that feels need­less.

The real fun stuff oc­curs once you’ve got a com­pe­tent colony built and can be­gin to watch your colonists deal with all man­ner of sce­nar­ios. Ri­val­ries de­velop, in-fight­ing can hap­pen, and that’s all be­fore you take into ac­count fac­tors like a ran­dom fac­tion send­ing a hunter to my colony with the sole pur­pose of mur­der­ing my dog. The longer you sur­vive, the more bizarre the events. Mind con­trol­ling drones and myth­i­cal beasts all show up. RimWorld thrives when it’s at its most un­pre­dictable, never let­ting you get too cosy.

Wait­ing game

Wait­ing for your colonists to build or ex­plore is what the vast ma­jor­ity of your time with the game amounts to, es­pe­cially early on. Things be­come more com­plex and var­ied the longer a colony sur­vives but still, so much wait­ing around oc­curs. In that dull­ness you can’t help but be­gin to see the gears in the ma­chine. In­ter­est­ing things hap­pen, but when the char­ac­ters al­ready feel so ar­ti­fi­cial they rarely take on the life re­quired to make me be­lieve in the sto­ries un­fold­ing. I’m not watch­ing a drama but a chaotic petri dish. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have its mo­ments or there isn’t fun in its fail­ure to tell en­gag­ing sto­ries, but it doesn’t live up to its prom­ise.

Things be­come more com­plex and var­ied the longer a colony sur­vives

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