I watched a man tearfully avenge his dear old dog, freshly murdered by a dastardly raider, and then cook and eat it immediately afterward. What the fuck, RimWorld? What the fuck?
RimWorld is a sci-fi colony sim with dashes of Dwarf Fortress, Firefly, and The Sims, but that description doesn’t really do it justice. It’s a game about people run through a meat-grinder of insanely harsh conditions and the stories that emerge.
This piece originally appeared 7/20/16.
Let’s start with my still-unfolding RimWorld saga. You can craft wildly elaborate custom scenarios, but I decided to go with a basic “three crazy kids (and their stupid, non-talking dog)” setup. They’d crash landed on a chilly wilderness planet with enough supplies to last a week or so, tops. Despite this, they began their ordeal in good spirits. That did not last.
There are tens, maybe even hundreds of factors that affect your colonists and their mental states. Comfort, beauty, hunger, warmth, relationships (with people and animals), conversations, sickness, aches, and pains cover the basics, but it gets super granular. Colonists might be happier eating at a crappy wooden table than on the floor, but don’t expect them to love you for it.
As you expand your living quarters, the game’s AI storyteller (of which there are a few, each with their own quirks and tendencies) procedurally generates events. I chose Cassandra Classic, who even on “Rough” difficulty gives you plenty of space to settle in before dropping loads of bloodthirsty pirates on your doorstep/plot of dirt that your colonists like to pretend is a doorstep so they don’t start crying every time they step into the hovel they assembled from their shattered dreams.
Things began simply enough. The game’s menus are more streamlined than other games in the Humans/Humanoids In Deep Shit Simulator genre, but they still took me some time to wrap my head around. Hints aren’t always, er, helpful, and the game could use a more directed tutorial system. After a few in-game days, however, I had reliable supply lines of food, materials, clothes, and weapons, and I was able to start researching my way out of The Stone And Splintered Tree Bark Age.
Then it happened. The screen’s edges went red. A threat was inbound. I prepared myself for the worst, “drafting” each of my colonists into attack mode. I clenched my jaw and narrowed my gaze. This was it.
Seconds later, I got this notification:
“A local rat has gone mad. It will attack everyone it sees.”
I laughed for a solid minute. It sounded like something out of a crummy street corner conspiracy rag on the slowest news day of the century. “Local Rat Goes Mad, Kills Everyone It Sees.” A single bullet did it in, and then things were back to business as usual.
Later, a naked man emerged from the bushes and joined my colony. His listed profession was “graphic designer,” which seemed about right.
A few in-game days after that, I got my first pirate attack. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a great job of positioning my people, so the colony dog intercepted the lone sticky fingered jackwagon. She was on her last legs by the time my colonists arrived to save the day, and her owner, Ian, had to watch her fall. The game notified me that it would affect his mood, because you know, DUH. I imagined him biting back tears as he opened fire on the pirate.
I wanted to capture the pirate, but the game informed me I needed a separate room with a prison bed in it first. As my colonists built that, they continually walked across the face of the paralyzed and bleeding pirate. I know it was just an AI pathing quirk, but I like to believe they did it on purpose.
Then Ian dutifully hoisted his doggy daughter’s red-spattered form over his shoulder and somberly walked into the house. “Poor guy,” I said to myself. “Having to bury a pet is the absolute pits.”
Aaaand that’s when he plunked her onto the butcher’s table and turned her into food. My jaw just about hit the floor. I did tell him to collect/prepare any and all meat, though. He obeyed despite the nauseating prospect of scarfing down his own pup. Hell of a survivalist, that one.
I’ve only played for a couple hours, but I’ve read far more elaborate stories from other RimWorld players. They’re even more indicative of just how ridiculous this game can get.
Here’s an excerpt from the tale of Brendan Caldwell of Rock Paper Shotgun’s pop star princess:
“Crazed with pain and lack of sleep, she went berserk and chased everyone out of the clinic. She terrorised the dinner guests in the common room, and pursued them into the garden, where she chased them around. When she couldn’t catch the colonists, she turned on the animals – hares, pigs and rats – punching the poor creatures to death in her rage, ignoring the scratches and bites she got in return. Ignoring her old friends.”
“Finally, a colonist stepped up, walking up to the rampaging diva and knocking her out cold. When Min came to, she was back in the clinic. It was completely refurbished, clean and presentable. But the same could not be said for Min.”
“This once beautiful pop idol, who people would fall in love with before she even started to sing, was in tatters. She now had no nose, no left ear and no right arm.”
And here’s the tragic conclusion of a Steam reviewer named Engie’s tale, which centered around a useless wanderer named Big and a badass lady named Jude. They fell for each other and lived in bliss... until RimWorld decided to snatch away their happily ever after:
“Tragedy struck, raids happened, and soon enough there were just 4 people out of 8, in the dead of winter, forced to cannibalize those who fell in raids. However, even after being infected with Sensory Mechanites, forced to endure excruciating pain, and watch her friends die, Jude didn’t break. She appreciated those nights with Big and the art he had made. The others did too, seeing hope in the art carved into grains of wood.”
“Winter ended, things were looking good, until a raid blindsided them while Big was on a hunt (even though he wasn’t able to lift the kill, his aim was great enough that he was the safest hunter). Big went down, but he was a fighter and held on. He watched as his friends, NO, his family held off the raiders with the help of turrets Jude had made. 1, 2 went down. The third decided to cut their losses and ran home, but not without grabbing Big first. The others fought to save him, but none could quite match his skill with a gun.”
“The raiders called for a trade, silver for him. Sadly, they had just used the last of their silver to finish sterilizing the hospital floor. With heavy hearts, they were forced to decline the trade. Not even a day later, they got the news. Big died of infection from his injuries, not quite able to hold on as they scraped together every scrap of silver they could to try and save him.”
Another tale of canine-induced heartbreak from Steam reviewer Fawge:
“So I had my colony of Fawge Town thriving. Technology was good, chokepoint was good. But then something happened that at the time i didn’t believe was a big deal. Toxic Fallout. Stay inside otherwise you and your animals will get sick over time, collapse and die.”
“Anyway I didnt give it much thought. However only 4 days had passed when I realised the food was running out. And the only food source I had left were my three huskies and pet Panther. It was a hard choice but I had to slaughter one of my dogs and prepare her meat so that the rest of the colony could survive.. for two more days.”
“Day 6 I had run out of food again and this time I had to slaughter another Husky and my pet Panther which had helped me defend the colony from many raids.”
“The day after their sacrifice was made the toxic fallout ended.. And their deaths were in vain.”
“I have not played a game that made me think so hard on a decision. I seriously thought my colony was going to starve to death. If I make it - It’s going to be for those poor huskies and pet panther.”
Lastly, a short and bittersweet one from Steam reviewer KiLord:
“My colony was attacked by a crazed chinchilla. This chinchilla managed to kill my only hunter. Because everyone else in the colony was unable to hunt, they all started to starve until they resorted to cannibalism. One of the colonists had an issue with this, and went insane. She then murdered all my remaining colonists, and wandered off and committed suicide via boomalope.”
So there you go. RimWorld in a nutshell. It can be slow-moving and obtuse, but if you like developing strangely powerful feelings for tiny characters and then watching them go mad and die, I absolutely recommend it. Related: what’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with me?
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