There's nothing quite like getting drunk and crash landing on a backwater planet to make you appreciate the little things in life, like the refreshing taste of an ice cold beer. At least, that's the perspective my RimWorld colonist Drake "Flubey" Hess seems to have taken as he chugs another one and begins shooting at a nearby rooster. Every shot misses, each bullet sailing past his quarry and punching a hole through the wind turbine that his friend Andrew "Grub" Menear built to power the cooling unit keeping the beer chilled. Since Grub is the only one of the four friends that knows how to do any real manual labor besides cloud watching and getting so drunk they puke, I can't imagine he'll be happy. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter. The next night a thunderstorm sparked a wildfire that almost burned down the colony because everyone was too busy being blackout drunk to stop it.
If you haven't yet heard of it, RimWorld is a simulator that challenges you to build and manage a colony on a distant, mostly uninhabited planet. Like the nearly impenetrable Dwarf Fortress, RimWorld's devils are in its details as you're forced to contend with even the smallest personality quirks and whims of your pioneers. While you're free to either play RimWorld using the basic scenarios or ones you create yourself, I'm finding the most fun is had using the ones other players have created, like Brendan Caldwell's All Hail the Spider Lord. The scenario I'm playing now is from Steam user EnterElysium and is called Hangover from Hell, which tells the story of four friends and their one crazy night that ended up destroying their spaceship. The only possessions you have when you escape is a hundred bottles of beer, a few guns, and some survival rations. That might seem like a decent start, but considering that your characters will likely have a chemical dependance on that beer, it's really more of an invitation into absurdity. I hope you don't mind vomit, because you'll be seeing a lot of it.
To be honest, booze-induced self-immolation is the actually one of the less frightening obstacles harassing my four partiers-turned-unexpected-colonialists since they landed on the planet of Matar Quadrus amid a hail of shredded metal. They've battled ravenous squirrels, hostile locals, and the ever-present throb of a hangover. At one point I found the shirtless Daniel "Brit" Britton elbow deep in a wolf carcass eating sour meat. Why? I couldn't tell you. He was so drunk I doubt he could either. My colony is chaos, and I think that's exactly what EnterElysium wanted.
But it's through this custom scenario that I'm beginning to realize that RimWorld isn't about building a thriving colony or keeping all of my colonialists happy. It's much more about embracing the inherent chaos of its design and attempting to tease some kind of meaningful story out of its layers of systems. RimWorld isn't about living well, it's about failing spectacularly. While there's an undeniable satisfaction in curbing my survivor's quirks in an attempt to create a functional society, I'm finding it far more exciting to manipulate those quirks to create dysfunctions that seep into the cracks of my character's lives and slowly unwind them.
For example, my first attempt with RimWorld's basic scenarios was rather dry, I mostly did what any sensible person would do and made reasonable plans for long-term survival. Learning RimWorld's complex systems was fun at first, but before long I was bored out of my mind because everything was just too sane. My second run, using Hangover from Hell, created a space where I didn't want my pioneers to survive, I wanted them to be interesting. When my four castaways first crawled out of their escape pods, clutching their stomachs and complaining about how bright the sun was, the first thing I had them do was build a shed to preserve their most sacred of treasures: beer. For days they just got drunk and shot at animals because what else were they going to do? They weren't survivalists. The fourth member of my crew, Julius "Wolf" Wolfgang, is a mathematician who spent most of his childhood in a coma—he can barely lift a fork to his mouth let alone a bundle of wood.
There's certainly a joy to be had spitting in the face of death and besting the hostile planets of RimWorld, but I'm having much more fun embracing mortality in custom scenarios if it means getting a good story out of it. The Steam Workshop is bursting with fun ideas like The Exiled Tribe, which is the story of four thieves running from their tribe after they filched their most prized artifacts and used an elephant as a getaway vehicle. Each scenario creates a subtext that you can expand upon if you have the imagination for it, and there's enough absurdity brewing in RimWorld's simulations that it can be surprisingly adept at taking a bad situation and making it incredible.
The more you play, the more you'll begin to read through the seemingly obtuse user interface and piece together a narrative that comes to life in your head. Whether you're using the basic scenarios, building your own, or letting someone else write the first chapter of your story, RimWorld invites you to roleplay alongside it rather than try and control it. The real magic is in how well you can weave together its chaotic threads to tell a story worth hearing.
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With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.