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RimWorld Preview - A gem worthy of a royal crown

RimWorld is one of the most promising Steam Early Access titles to enter the program.

RimWorld is one of the latest additions to Steam's Early Access program, releasing July 14th, 2016. It is being developed by indie developer Ludeon Studios. The game's creator is Tynan Sylvester, a veteran of the AAA video game industry. Most will know his name from his work as a part of the design team of BioShock Infinite, or the authored game development guide, Designing Games.

RimWorld may currently be in an Alpha stage of development, but the amount of content, high level of polish, and its quality make it a game worthy of being in Early Access. While most Early Access titles have issues such as glitches or bugs, RimWorld is 100% fully functional.

Choose your scenario

The first thing that the player must do before playing RimWorld is to choose the scenario they would like to play. There are three to choose from that come with the game, each being very different from the other.

Crashlanded mode is where the player controls three colonists that have crash landed on a planet. The player must lead them to rebuild a sustainable life and survive the harsh living conditions of the world. It is the best scenario to choose for beginners or those not looking for too much of a challenge -- a perfect blend of base building and challenge.

The Rich Explorer mode is where the player controls a single colonist. They start with far more money than the other scenarios, but being alone brings its own challenges. Without other colonists, work is slower, and building a sustainable base is a much more difficult. That is not including defending against bandits. It is a challenging scenario for experienced players.

The third and final scenario is Lost Tribe. The player must lead a primitive group of five tribe members to rebuild their lives after their previous encampment was destroyed. They start with basic supplies but lack any form of technology or research, putting the player in a weak position from the beginning.

They have numbers resulting in quick work and construction, but with a lack of technology comes only the most basic of defense techniques and weapons. It is a scenario for experienced players looking to take a different approach to the usual game.

RimWorld has also added in a scenario editor allowing for players to create their own scenario. Also, Steam Workshop is implemented into the game, allowing for players to share and download their own scenarios as they please.

The different scenarios change how the game plays significantly, offering a completely new experience with each one. It gives the game incredible replayability -- and with each new world being procedurally generated, there is never two the same.

Who will tell the tale and where does it begin?

One of the unique features of RimWorld is that the player must choose which A.I tells the story. Each of the three A.I characters to choose from has their own unique personalities. Who you choose changes how various events occur throughout the game.

Cassandra Classic, for example, is a more relaxed A.I. that very slowly builds up the challenge -- while Randy Random is completely unpredictable in every sense of the word. Randy can fire anything at the player at any time without warning, forcing them to work quickly and stay on their toes.

The middle of the three A.I.'s is Phoebe Chillax, who gives more time in between disasters -- but when she sets a challenge she sets it high. It gives the player plenty of time to prepare for when disaster strikes but they will always be big.

Along with choosing the A.I., the player has to choose the style of game they wish to play. These choices are essentially the difficulty settings, which range from Freeplay (a casual experience) to Extreme (an absolute hardcore experience).

Once the player chooses their storyteller, they must choose where they will begin on the map. They have a large range of different locations and biomes to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. In colder biome, they risk freezing to death, while in warmer biomes they risk becoming too hot. Along with many other factors.

These mechanics, combined with scenario selection, allows practically limitless styles of gameplay. Each choice the player makes changes everything within the game world. It creates a unique experience every single time you play a new world. They are awesome mechanics -- and quite frankly a stroke of utter genius.

Create your colonists

The final step before getting stuck into the game is creating your colonist or colonists (depends on the scenario you choose). At this moment in time, the character creation is completely randomized and does not allow for any customization.

The lack of customization does not mean there isn't any depth to the system. In fact, the character or characters that you choose can make a very big difference. Each character has their own set of skills, traits, incapabilities, and phobias. Some may even have injuries or scars that also affect certain elements of their gameplay.

They each come with a profession that determines what they are good at, along with coming in all shapes and sizes. A character's physical build also affects numerous aspects. For example, a very thin character may not be able to haul heavy objects, while a big character can. Smaller characters also move quicker, while bigger ones can't move as quickly.

Every single little detail of each character can potentially change how a game plays. Creating a group that can cover the strengths and weaknesses of each colonist is essential. There needs to be a balance in order to be able to build effectively. 

Each colonist that you create acts very differently. They each have their needs, behavior, strengths, and weaknesses. The player has to utilize all of these and come up with a way that they all work together in harmony. If not, they will start having some problems on their hands.

Every little choice made before even starting the game affects how it is played. Dealing with colonists a particular way in one game will not necessarily work in another. It requires the player to adapt how they play in accordance with the type of characters they create.

Their fate is in your hands

Once you start the game, the lives of the colonists are entirely in your hands. There is a tutorial that will teach the basic mechanics of the game, but it can be done as the player sees fit. There is no right or wrong way to play RimWorld. It is simply choosing to do the right thing at the right time.

There are a lot of activities the colonists can do, like mining, hunting, researching, construction, crafting, growing plant life, cooking, etc. Leading colonists to do what best suits them and timing it right is the recipe for success. For example, if you don't hunt or cook enough food, the group will become low on food or they will begin to starve.

If you don't meet your group's needs, stress and tension will begin to build -- resulting in depression and even fights among fellow survivors. Don't build the correct structures at the right time, food will spoil, items will deteriorate and many other problems can occur.

When colonists become sick or injured, they need to be treated. They also need to have a balance between sleep, relaxation, and work. Players can trade with other NPC tribes and factions for supplies when they come along. They can also save injured friendly characters, allowing them to join the group.

RimWorld reminds me to a certain extent of Don't Starve. It does give you more help than Don't Starve does, along with not having the murderous intent. But it is a game that takes a lot of time to master.

Each time you play you will learn something new. Whether it is through making a mistake or just figuring out a new tactic or how a new piece of equipment works. There is never an end to learning and improving your skills at the game.

RimWorld has a huge amount of content for its stage of development. There are so many activities that the colonists can do and all of them must be used at some point to be able to survive. It is a game all about balance and managing the needs of colonists -- with truly addictive gameplay that keeps you hooked for hours.

A gem worthy of a royal crown

RimWorld is the most impressive Early Access title I have played since Darkest Dungeon. That is a hard accomplishment. It is extremely easy to get into and becomes an addiction from the moment you start playing.

Its mechanics allow for huge amounts replayability and variation in gameplay. In the thirteen hours I have spent with the game, I have not found any problems with the game from either a technical or gameplay standpoint. It is polished beyond belief and truly is an enjoyable experience.

RimWorld sets the standards for what all Early Access titles should be -- a game that can be played while in development but with all implemented features and mechanics being 100% functional.

Its price tag may seem a bit steep at €29.99 for an Early Access title. I can confidently say, however, that the money spent on this will bring more entertainment that most AAA titles priced at €59.99. 

RimWorld is not just any old gem, it is a gem that is worthy of being a part of a royal crown. If there is any Early Access title worth investing in, RimWorld would be it. If the developer can keep up with the quality, content, and polish that the game is showing now until release, it is going to be a sensational game.

Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of a preview.

Published Jul. 18th 2016

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