If you read my post on Stardew Valley you may know that I have a bit of a problem with simulation games – namely, that I love them so much that I’ll play them for twenty hours in one weekend. RimWorld is certainly no exception with the 100 hours I’ve clocked in game, and it can be appetizing to a large number of players due to the wide variety of ways you can choose to play it.
RimWorld is a single player “sci fi colony sim driven by an intelligent AI storyteller” (https://rimworldgame.com/) and has a nearly identical art style to Prison Architect, a prison sim game. The level of strategy and simulation of each individual colonist is extremely deep, and there are multiple AI storytellers so that you can play through however you’d like. That’s the main thing that Tynan, the developer, focuses on when he discusses RimWorld – that the game is primarily meant to be a story generator. More on that later!
When you start a game of RimWorld you’ll be given a bit of backstory that sounds similar to the Firefly T.V. series – humanity has spread among the stars, there are planets that are more well off than others, but humanity never developed faster than light travel. You’ll be asked to choose your scenario – crash-landed survivors on a rim world, a group of tribal survivors, one rich colonist, or naked brutality, one of the hardest modes to play. You’ll select an AI storyteller – Cassandra Classic, Phoebe Chillax, or Randy Random – as well as the difficulty level. Each storyteller has their own way of generating random events which makes for unique playthroughs each and every time. You can choose to make it so that you can’t reload saves (a style of game called roguelike), so that every decision, and every colonist death, is permanent.
After you start your game and your colonists crash land (or whichever scenario you’ve selected), you’ll go about gathering resources, building shelter, hunting, gathering, growing crops, and building a functioning colony. Events like heat waves, cold snaps, raiders, insect swarms, mad animals, toxic fallout, and more can befall your colony, so it’s best to prepare early and keep everyone close to each other. You’ll need to manage the temperature of your dwellings, including creating a freezer so your crops don’t rot, and your colonists will need warm clothing to survive winter weather! They’ll get bored so you’ll need to build recreation items to keep them entertained, and they’ll get hurt so you need to have medical facilities and someone trained well enough in medicine to replace body parts. You can tame wild animals and use them for farming and hauling, and they can even help you in battle against others that try to raid your colony!
Each colonist is unique with their own history, set of skills, needs, and personality traits. One might be lazy and psychically dull, meaning they work slower and aren’t as affected by a psychic drone event, while another may be a trigger-happy pyromaniac, meaning they shoot weapons faster and also love to start random fires. Some colonists are better with plants, some are better with animals, and others prefer mining or researching. Colonists develop relationships with other colonists, have fights, get married, and split up over time. You can capture raiders and take them as prisoners and even convince them to join your colony after enough cajoling.
All of this put together shows that, while it is a game, the developer meant for it to be more of a story generator. Choosing the roguelike setting means that you get more attached to each colonist and you’re more careful with them in battles and when they fall ill than if you could go back and reload a previous save. The drama, comedy, and tragedy that occurs during the game is meant to be the interesting part, not necessarily the gameplay itself. Players often share their colony stories in forums and on the RimWorld subreddit, and some players have created comics based on what happened in their colonies. While there is an ‘end game’ of sorts – building a spaceship to leave the planet you crashed on – there is no official end to any given colony or the game itself, and you’ll often find that you want to start a new colony after you’ve learned tips and tricks in your current playthrough. In the 100 hours I’ve played I’ve started 5 different colonies, improving and learning more each time, and I’m finally confident enough in my game knowledge to start a colony where every decision is permanent.
As briefly mentioned earlier there is violence in the game, and it can get very dark very, very fast. Some factions are slavers and you can purchase or rescue people from these factions. Some colonists are cannibals and you can use the corpses of attacking raiders as food for your colonists. You can also harvest their organs in order to use them for your own colonists. Messed up, I know – but this game doesn’t place restrictions on morality, and it’s entirely up to you on how to play and what kind of story you want to create.
The game is still in Early Access, meaning it’s not completely done but is available to purchase. It’s nearly finished and will likely be officially released in the next month or so. Due to the popularity of games like Stardew Valley, Terraria, and similar games with my older teen population, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pick up RimWorld. With the core concept being story generation it can also serve a useful function in getting teens to create stories through gameplay and encourage them to write out a narrative of the events that have occured in their colony. After all, what story about opening an ancient cave that leads to hostile futuristic space soldiers awakening from cryosleep, simultaneously causing gigantic violent insects to burst from the cave’s walls and begin attacking these space soldiers, wouldn’t be interesting to read?