Friday, November 1, 2013

Rimworld: A Video Game Review

Update: this project’s final funding total was $268,132.00, with 9498 backers. Congratulations to Tynan, and here’s to RimWorld’s future.

Every so often something comes along that is completely outside our scope of normal coverage, but is so much fun it cannot be ignored. And that’s Rimworld a game by Tynan Sylvester that’s currently up on Kickstarter. Where it has cleared its funding goal in a matter of days, and has now more then doubled it.

Tynan was kind enough to give us a copy of the Pre-Alpha version of Rimworld to let us tell you all about it.

(Remember that everything we’re going to talk about here is from an early build of the game, and will be subject to change. Everyone who backs the Kickstarter at the $30 CAD level or higher will get a copy of this same Alpha build after the Kickstarter concludes. )

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Click on any image for a larger version.

First let’s talk about what Rimworld is.

Rimworld is a single-player strategy game where you are trying to survive on a deserted planet with only what you can find and build. The look of Rimworld currently resembles Prison Architect (but that will be changed once Tynan hires an artist), as does some of the game-play. With the main mechanical similarity being the click and drag to build, and plopables system. But that’s where the similarities end.

Mechanically speaking Rimworld’s primary difference from similar games is its AI Storyteller. The Storyteller (inspired by Left 4 Dead’s “Director”) controls how the “random events” will flow during the game. They will affect the weather, determine if and when you’ll be attacked by pirates, or if new folks will stumble on to your colony and join you.

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Currently there’s only one real storyteller “Cassandra Classic” and she steadily increases the challenges the game throws at you. For example: while early on pirates may come in groups of two or three, by the two hour mark or so, you might face eight or more. There is also “Randy Random” who just throws truly random events at you. And eventually there will be at least one more “Phoebe Friendly” who will keep the violence to a minimum and let you enjoy the building aspects of the game. Right now Tynan is asking his Kickstarter backers if there are any other types of Storytellers they might like to see. So, if you have an idea and you’re a backer feel free to make a suggestion. You can also head over to http://ludeon.com to find out more and join the forums there.

Now lets talk about my gameplay experience.

I played for about two hours straight without even noticing the time pass, the experience was engrossing and very fun. I started like all players by picking my colonists.

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From the new game screen you get to name three colonist, and randomize their traits. Every time you click randomize you basically get a new person; their sex, age, job skills, and background will all be changed. Just keep clicking till you get one you like. Do this three times and you have your first set of settlers.

One thing you might notice in the image above is Klein spent her childhood as a medieval slave, which at first may seem odd for a distant future setting, but one of Tynan’s main influences was Firefly, and this trait represents that she was raised on a primitive outer world. She also has a bad back, and pretty mediocre stats so, time to hit the randomize button again.

Landing on the planet… The world is procedurally generated, so it will be different each time you start a new game. Currently there is only one sort of arid mountain-y biome. But Tynan has suggested the possibility of multiple biome types like jungles or frozen wastes. Whether we get these will be based on fan demand and how much work it will take. So if that interests you, be sure to let Tynan know.

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After your colony ship crashes the three of you have only some metal, a few tools (which you won’t see, but trust me they have them), a little food and a place to sleep in the dirt. (There’s also a trash heap and a storage area.) In the upper right you’ll notice it says “build a room” and “need meal source.” These are nice helpers to let you know what you should be focusing on. If you ever feel lost just check up there, if there’s nothing there your probably doing pretty well.

You’ll have full control of game time so after your colonists land you should pause (While time is pause you can still issue order and the like, but nothing will happen till you un-pause.), and start laying out what you want to do. One of the first things you might wan to do is specialize your colonist work priorities. In the screen below you can see al the colonists and the types of work they can do. If there’s a green check that colonist will do that job when they’re fee to do it. The lighter a checkbox is the better the colonist is at that job.

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You can see here that Klein is a miner, and her mining box is nearly white, so it’s best of she focuses on that for now, especially in the early stages of the game. You can also see what everyone else is good at just by glancing, but if you want more detailed info, hovering your pointer over a checkbox will bring that up.

Life is hard when there are pirates… And after about ten days the first “dark season” will start and Cassandra the Storyteller will start bringing in the pirates. Which will be minor nuisances the first season or so.

But after a couple “cycles” your colony may start to look like this…

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Hard combat has left the ground blood stained, and the graves are starting to fill up.(You know its going to be a great game when one of the first things you need are graves.)  You can see in the lower left UI that there is a big “Draft” button. This allows you to make any colonist a soldier. While drafted they will only do as ordered. They will not eat or sleep, so be sure to stand them down once the danger has passed.

Well after about two hours Cassandra had beaten me down pretty well, all my original colonists were dead, and the new folks hadn’t had much time to recover since the last fight (they hadn’t even picked up all the bodies yet). Then 10 new pirates arrived, when it was all over and the dust had settled my colony was lost. I had made some mistakes earlier, and they cost me in the end.

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In all Rimworld is a great strategy game to fill in those hours when you don’t have anyone to play a good board-game with. Of course it’s a great game to play for any reason. If you like games like Prison Architect, or Dwarf Fortress, and you’re a fan of a Firefly style sci-fi universe then this game is defiantly for you. Personally I’ve played Prison Architect and I prefer Rimworld’s theme and more advanced combat system.

If you want to see this game in action check out Quill18’s excellent introductory video.

Well that’s all for now, if this looks interesting to you be sure to head over to Kickstater and back this. And if you’re a Steam user be sure to vote to Greenlight this game as well.

One last thing… This is the first videogame Kickstarter I’ve ever backed, and I’ll tell you why. The fact that he has a real working game running and has sent it out to some really awesome youtubers to make previews really sold me. I’m confident, he will actually make this game and it won’t languish in an eternal development cycle never to be released. Also I’m happy to he’s taking the Kerbal Space Program approach by having a public Alpha we can all enjoy, and share in the development experience. That way all these newly minted Rimworld fans will have a game to play as soon as possible and it will only get better.

Happy gaming.