EARLY ACCESS REVIEW – PC VERSION
Prison Architect in Spaceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Hnnngh my head… what the hell did I do last night? Wait, what have I been doing for the past week… Hnnnnngh.
Wanna hear all about it?
I wave my hand in a regal fashion. Oh yes little people, you shall build me a wall. The finest golden wall known to man. What do you mean we don’t have any gold? All my builders are incompetent ex-noblemen that refuse to get their hands dirty? All of them!? How the fuck do they expect to survive? I’m almost tempted to send them into unarmed battle against this slightly hungry bear; in underpants.
Sorry, i should probably explain.
Rimworld is Dwarf Fortress meets Prison Architect (in spaccccceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee) and when I saw it’s launch, I shrugged internally. It ticks all the right boxes, but I’ve played plenty of these early access promises and have built up an impressively wary attitude. Sod it…. Let’s take the plunge and brace for impact. I fully expected a collection of half working ideas and flimsy concepts… how wrong I was… how wrong I was.
You guide a marooned small community to survive an alien planet. Build a shelter, harness the environment, sow crops and hunt, survive bandit raids and harsh winters and whatever else the game throws at you at random intervals. I recall the time the camp was besieged by a lunatic man-eating raccoon. Colonists have different personalities, skills, passions and friendships. They are not hardened survivalists but regular peeps desperately trying to survive and you’ll come to respect that as they screw up the flooring again. Choices will be made, sometimes effecting the survival of the entire camp. Do you spend your precious silvers on a slave or medicine? How do you protect your base? What’s the best use of their time? Do you work them to the bone, as you know starvation’s a real possibility, or will this push your colonists to a mental break?
Before you begin the game you are given choices, so many choices. Do you start with the default set up, in which 3 crash survivors attempt to survive on an alien world? Or scream “Nah, mate” before messing with all the dials, setting up your tailor-made custom scenario, complete with extra guns, backstory and choice of randomised colonists. And introducing the wonderful colonist Uncle Susan, the slick one armed Assassin and cook. Before you’ve even started, you’ll notice the games chock-a-block full of easy to digest detail.
The whole game could be summed up with that statement. Complicated but easy to follow.
After setting up the basics, you’re even given the choice of storyteller. What a great idea as you can choose what type of experience you want, much like the machine in Total Recall. You can specify exactly what you want from the game. No… not “new” Total Recall! I’m talking about the original with big Arnie, of course. I can’t remember a thing about reboot Total Recall, what a fucking waste of time. You wanna know why people downvote reboots before release? Because of films like “new” Total Recall, or Robertcop, or Get Carter with Sylvester Stallone or a shot for shot remake of Psycho with Vince fucking Vaughn! Where was I? Oh yeah.
You set one of three storytelling AI’s to dictate how mad the world will be and whether the challenge will escalate, be cool or be completely randomised. I went for the comfortable non-threatening basebuilding experience, that does indeed provide varied moments of insanity.
To enjoy such satisfying moments of madness you’ll need a stable base. The whole thing would instantly crumble if we had to contend with unfair deaths and punishing glitches. For an early access game Rimworld’s not just stable, but chunky and tasty too. Like a quality soup. I can’t recall any serious game breaking bugs and as a bonus Grimworld is incredibly well optimised without any performance issues. Warning: The normal early access warnings do still apply, just because I had no problems…
Much like the king of early access games Prison Architect; Rimworld is one of the most complete unfinished games I’ve ever played.
The world of Rimworld is fair and consistent, but that that doesn’t mean death is an alien concept, a series of mistakes or tragic events could easily scupper best laid plans. My poor beleaguered colonists always feel endangered in Rimworld.
Talking of colonists you grow to love or loathe them. Of my three crash victims I had Smiles who single handily built the camp. Bara who mined all the resources and kept everything together and McTodd the lazy cunt. Of course he’s called McTodd. Now this lazy bastard refuses to cook, build, mine, haul things, clean, or any of the things needed to not die on an alien planet. He just hunts, which isn’t something he needs to do everyday. So whilst the other two slave away, ensuring they have cooked food and a roof over their heads, I’m cursing he existence of McTodd. I think any game that can inspire such hatred of it’s code is rather special indeed.
Rimworld is a game of stories.
Soon the camp takes shape. Everyone has their roles, even the useless McTodd’s. The homeless and the persecuted find a new home in your ever growing camp. Sandbags taste raider bullets, traps are set, winter comes and food becomes scarce. Halfway through winter, just when it appears the camps on top of things, Toxic Fallout hits the land poisoning everything outside. This is a colossal problem as as the camps a terribly designed loose collection of buildings. To get anywhere important you’d have to brave toxic fumes. All the pets linger in the toxic fumes outside, the colonists weaken as they wander to and from buildings, sucking in the poisoned air. You notice the greater wildlife keeling over as the poison takes hold of the land. You’ll have to learn things pretty bloody quickly to survive. You can build walls out of different materials… of course you can, silly me. You can also restrict people and animals to areas of you’re choosing. Nothing like a poisoning to inspire swift learning and wiki-reading. Most things in game can be figured out with trail and error. Saying that, I really don’t want to be resorting to trail and error when fake lives are on the line!
When it comes to keeping a bunch of amateur colonists alive, this only adds to the experience. You’ll find your own Toxic event. The first play-through could be series of discovery or a tale of terrible tragedy… or most likely both.
There’s a reason for the Prison Architect graphics as this clarity of design ensures you never get lost or lose your way. You’ll slowly notice that all the information required is available somewhere, sometimes right in front of your very eyes. Want to know if the grounds fertile? Hover the mouse over the ground and it will say. Want to know how a colonists holding up? Click on them and check through the tabs. The interface isn’t perfect, with oversights such as a lack of roof view, but obviously, because this is early access this is an issue that already been discussed and should soon to be addressed. I’ve also noticed the builders always leave the roofing till last. Not great as it often leads to rain + electricity = boom problems and forcing them to do it manually is a terrible chore.
Sometimes the wordings and concepts are confusing. I needed a decent cook in the camp and shock horror, a crash landing! Out crawls an injured person who can cook! You click to rescue them, you nurse them back to health. You weep as they thank you, get up and leave your camp forever. I didn’t realise you had to keep them “prisoner” to persuade them into staying. I did wonder how a colonists “social” skill would be useful. I dunno about you but if I crash landed anywhere, I don’t think I’d piss off into the jungle at first light. At least raid the fridge, right?
I’m sure such quibbles will be solved in time, but hey, early access.
The game is capable of uplifting moments as Bara and Mickey the drifter got married. It was a tender moment. The very next day a colonist from another tribe begged for asylum from a rival tribe. On inspection her name was Nicole, was talented and was Flix the genius artist/professional murderer’s mum. How could I turn her away? Anyway, we’ve survived plenty of raids before and can do so again.
It was a bloodbath as an army of heavily armed raiders bundled through the traps and gates. They clambered over fallen comrades to spray all with uzi fire. Gunfire raked Bara. Instant death. We had won the battle but the honeymoon period was over. After the cleanup Mickey was in a daze. She snapped and wandered aimlessly around, she threw her cowboy hat to the floor and wandered. She wandered further and threw away her weapons, a day passes. Two days and she’s removed all clothes in the bitter cold. She starves. I didn’t think she was coming back but she finally decides to eat. She rests and returns to society a changed person.
The camp slowly returned to normal. Mickey and Smiles returned to their regular fist fights. Smiles would patch Mickey up and a couple of weeks later, fight again. My new colonist Lumi was a bit unhappy after lightning hit her. She hilariously ran around on fire for a bit. That’s ok… She got better. Roughchild lost an eye after an attempt to tame a mighty warg turned sour… Luckily a replacement state of the art artificial eye was purchased from passing traders. After a gruelling day of surgery in a filthy unsanitised bedroom I’m happy to report the operation went completely wrong. Left with surgical scars and still missing an eye, Roughchild was a tad sulky that day.
Timworld is perfect example of where the “god game” has taken us. It’s not throwing down lightning bolts or flattening ground for settling populations, but voyeuristically guiding and watching people go about their daily business. Weaving and prodding your own stories from your rag-tag collection of settlers. Actually playing god and laughing in that lighthearted maniac way.
Rimworld is a fun word to say aloud at a crowded BBQ.
Much like it’s inspiration Dwarf Fortress the game provides excellent patch notes, that’s well worth a read.
- Animals no longer do incest.
- Humans now do incest.
I hope development continues for a good long while, as this could blossom into the game I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve already spent an unreasonable amount of time in Rimworld and I’m sure that will continue. The size of the colony means everyone’s important and the organic stories are generally memorable. It’s far harder to care for a hardened criminal in a busy prison or an ASCII dwarf, probably because I’m mentally bloody lazy. What i’m really getting at is you can easily own Rimworld, Prison Architect and any other game you care to compare it to. After you cut through the base similarities it doesn’t take long to realise these games are very different beasts, with different focuses and intent.
I look forward to giving the game a score on release in three years time.
Now excuse me, Smiles and Mickey are kicking each others heads in; again.
A permanent sleep as the plague sweeps through camp. The end.