Space. The final frontier. Or it was, until our spaceship made an unscheduled and somewhat, uh, explosive stop over an uncharted planet somewhere on the starry verges of Nusquam Prime and made that the final frontier instead. Humans are adaptable like that, and besides, the cryo bay was starting to smell like farts anyway.
First launched on Steam Early Access in 2016, and now in beta with a proper, for real release imminent, RimWorld is a sci-fi management sim in which the player must establish and maintain a colony of survivors on an unpredictable new world. Almost everything in the game is randomly generated according to a responsive AI, with an emphasis on unique experiences over prescribed objectives, and inevitably ends in catastrophe. Or maybe Tarryn and Dane are bad at the game.
Brittany was the first one to die.
She’d recently become a junkie. A somewhat improbable contingency, because she was, you know, a cat, and so one for which I was not properly prepared. Her thing was Luciferium, a med-grade glitterworld narcotic that apparently results in instant and irreversible addiction. I only had some because I found it while excavating the clump of compacted steel that made up one half of my improvised dormitory, and not knowing what it even was at the time, I simply stored it with the other stuff in my warehouse. With nothing much else to do besides lick herself and vomit on the beds, the party girl lifestyle must’ve been a provocative distraction from the mundane routine of colony existence. This negligence would have real consequences, and with a limited supply and no access to more, Brittany was condemned to a wretched, agonising end.
But it wasn’t an overdose or the inevitable withdrawal that sent her to the synthlitter box in the sky. A raider killed her, and that’s when everything went wrong. That, and Finn.
Let’s rewind back about a week, though. Kyle Cervantes and Robert Burban hooked up. The misogynistic deep space miner and the unethical doctor? I suppose they made it work somehow, perhaps finding something to talk about in their shared “pyromaniac” trait. This will also be important later. In the meantime, Klara Richards the nudist janitor had proved herself an adequately capable hunter, and was busy cramming the freezer with alphabeaver meat in anticipation of the coming winter, so the being naked thing was, like, whatever, because FOOD. We had several solar panels powering our expanding HQ, research on carpets was coming on nicely, and a local squirrel decided to adopt us as his new family. This emergency bunker was becoming a home.
If you’re wondering what happened with Rasmussen, the guy I saved from the cryopod, me too. He woke up and limped off and didn’t come back. He got out in time.
I don’t actually know what happened first – the fire or the attack – but it doesn’t even matter now. I was alerted to the presence of a refugee nearby, who was fleeing raiders and asked for help. I had the choice. I can only blame myself for this one. And at about the same time that I acknowledged Finn’s pleas and invited him in (stupid, stupid me, stupid), I realised one of the solar panels was smouldering.
Now, you’ll remember that Burban and Cervantes are pyromaniacs. They love fire. These are the sort of people who want to watch the world burn, but literally, not figuratively. And so, in the event of a fire, they won’t even try and put it out. I assume some kind of erotic arousal is involved instead, but that’s as much as I want to assume because ew, no. Cervantes, you might also remember from our previous episode, is a hippy pacifist too, and won’t use weapons. Which, in the event of a fire and a raider attack, makes him completely useless. Burban has a gun, but you can add shooting to the list of her many egregious ineptitudes. And what about Richards, you ask, breathless with anxious anticipation but certain that our exhibitionist sniper who isn’t a pyromaniac would save us from this otherwise entirely preventable catastrophe.
She’s fucking sleeping. So is Cervantes, who also ate a (smokey) pie before the freezer collapsed in a charred heap of rubble, and then waddled to to bed while his girlfriend was kidnapped by the raiders and Finn stood around, awkwardly pretending like everything is okay.
NOTHING IS OKAY.
RimWorld is a complicated game. Behind its barebones aesthetic and uncomplicated initial premise of “just survive, you clumsy tool” lies an incredibly intricate web of complex, interconnected systems. It’s your job to keep those systems in check, because things can spiral out of control really quickly if you aren’t paying attention. If you don’t know what you’re doing (which I really, REALLY don’t), it’s a bit like dismantling a sky-high Jenga tower – while blindfolded and balancing atop the back of an agitated crocodile.
RimWorld is also absurdly unforgiving. Those cartoonish visuals are just a clever ruse, designed to disguise RimWorld’s cruel, blackened heart. Did I mention I’m playing with permadeath enabled? Because I’m playing with permadeath enabled. In other words, when I inevitably make a catastrophic boo-boo, there’s no turning back.
Following the questionable successes of day one, things were going relatively well. For a time, life was good for Team Dane. At some point, the game was kind enough to let me know that storing materials in the hot sun causes them to deteriorate. So I expanded my colony’s main building to include a sun-proof storeroom, and filled it with what remained of the half-melted condoms and gummy bears I’d ignorantly left stockpiled outside for the first few days. I showered my colonists with gifts of (highly flammable) cooking stations, crappy dining tables and chairs of dubious quality. I planted swish new crops of cotton and corn, and Desmond Tutu’s space-potatoes (or spacetatoes) were coming along nicely. I even set up a horseshoes pin outside, so Nicole, Spiffy and that hopeless space-manatee Orlene can have some good, clean, country fun in their downtime. Of course, I spent (and am still spending) an embarrassing amount of time fumbling around the UI and teaching myself the time-honoured tradition of mismanaging a fledgling colony. But I figured I was slowly getting the hang of things.
Sweet drippy Boomalope nipples, was I ever wrong about that.
It all started with a bunny. Not just any bunny – the WORST bunny. The Devil Bunny. The Cotton-Tailed Terrorist.
Picture this scenario. It’s a day like any other. Spiffy’s doing his thing in the kitchen, cooking berries that’re guaranteed to give everyone food poisoning. Nicole’s outside, awkwardly holding a blueprint (drawn in crayon, with little crayon hearts all over it and a stick-figure doodle of Orlene picking her nose under a tree) upside-down, trying to figure out why the makeshift prison cell she’s building keeps falling over in the wind. Nicole’s not great at construction, see – but compared to Spiffy and Orlene, she’s whoever built that impressive building in that city that one time. Orlene’s… I don’t know, being Orlene, refusing to do anything that would lead anyone to mistakenly believe Orlene’s life has purpose and meaning. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s probably shambling around aimlessly, whistling Hanson’s MMMBop through her nose wound, doing absolutely NOTHING useful, ever.
Suddenly, RimWorld rams an alert directly into my brain-hole. “A hare has gone mad,” it says. “It’ll attack anyone it sees.”
Well. Shit. I’ve now got a psychotic bunny with a taste for human flesh on the loose. This is completely unprecedented (in the context of RimWorld at least – real life is a different story), and I have no idea what to do.
I track the little bastard down, and see that he’s making a beeline for my sexy colony’s sexy front door. This won’t do. I draft all three of my inept colonists into combat mode, and tell them to massacre the tits off of this fluffy miscreant before it can do any damage to my cool stuff.
Nicole gets there first, her revolver at the ready. She uses one hand to cover her eyes, and with the other starts firing wildly in the general direction of Fluffy McMurderpants. She’s missing. She’s missing a lot. Clearly her years as a runaway dancer doing lines of coke off the hairy backs of burly Polynesian space-diplomats have made her a bit jittery – and shit at doing the shooting.
Spiffy comes tearing in and practically barrels Nicole out of the way, his body shaking violently, as though he’s having the kind of comical panic attack that comes with realising you’re in mortal danger of having your eyes gnawed out by a rabid, bouncy ball of cotton suffering a psychotic break. Spiffy gathers his composure for just long enough to take aim with his bolt-action rifle, and starts firing bullets all over the place. Not a single one hits the cotton-covered micro-bastard. See, the thing about Spiffy is, he’s a trigger-happy dude. This means he fires and reloads twice as fast as your average human, but his accuracy is halved.
Needless to say, this is going poorly.
Orlene, seeing this all unfolding as she uncomfortably waddles her way to the scene of the action, suddenly feels a burst of inspiration. This is it. This is her chance to prove she’s not the worthless, hastily assembled sack of minstrel-meat everyone says she is. I can practically see the spark of determination in her dull, lifeless eyes as she starts picking up speed and hurtles toward the ludicrous skirmish. Part of me actually starts rooting for her. YOU CAN DO IT, ORLENE. THIS IS YOUR TIME TO SHINE. I’M SURE SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE BELIEVES IN YOU.
Before we continue, you should know that Orlene’s a brawler, so she refuses to use guns. She prefers to get up close and personal, to feel the warm blood of her enemies splashing across her face, to watch the life leave their eyes as she bludgeons them to death with her chunky elbows. I can only assume it’s one of the few things in life through which Orlene’s capable of extracting joy.
By the time Orlene reaches Spiffy and Nicole, she’s worked herself into a full-on frenzy. She careens past the world’s worst sharpshooters, waving her plasteel knife above her head and letting out a piercing war cry that sounds like someone dropped a cheese grater in a blender. Nicole and Spiffy, emboldened by Orlene’s insatiable bloodlust (and probably by the fact that if murderbunny wants to get to them, it’ll have to chew its way through Orlene’s considerable girth first), continue to send a steady stream of bullets in every possible direction.
Orlene’s about halfway to Bunny Town when it happens. Spiffy lines up another shot, but I’m assuming a fly must’ve landed on his aiming eye at exactly the wrong moment or something – because when the crack of the rifle rings out, Orlene cries out in pain, clutching her back. Wait, WHAT? NOBODY TOLD ME FRIENDLY FIRE IS A THING.
Spiffy just shot Orlene. Right in the spine. IN THE SPINE. Thankfully, Orlene’s adrenaline must be spiking, because she maintains her momentum, and keeps barrelling along. Eventually, her and the fuzzy maniac stand toe to toe, and a brutal melee ensues. Murderbunny furiously gnashes at Orlene’s ankles, covering them in cuts and bruises. Orlene stabs the thing in the leg, and then the stomach. Nicole and Spiffy are still shooting at nothing and everything at the same time. It’s total chaos, with fur and toenails and bullets flying everywhere while blood gushes from Orlene’s extra nostril. Eventually, Orlene lands a killing blow, and doomrabbit finally freezes in place, dead.
I’ve gotta hand it to Orlene. After all that, with her ankles bleeding and bruised, a gaping hole in her spine, and more nostrils than anyone’s supposed to have, she still found the strength to shuffle her way back to bed to sleep it off. Ironically, Spiffy’s the only one with any real medical expertise, so he’ll be spending the next few days tending to Orlene’s wounds while she’s bedridden. I can only imagine the hilariously awkward conversations those two will be having after that ordeal, with Spiffy all like, “What, someone SHOT you?! That’s… that’s NUTS! It must’ve been those dickbag raiders again. I’m pretty sure I saw a bunch of them running into the bushes after the fight. Yeah, they were totally terrified after they saw what you did to that fuzzy little asshole.”
On the plus side, it turns out Orlene’s just as useful when she’s bedridden and unable to help around the house as she is when she’s up and about and unable to help around the house. At least she’s consistent.
After all the excitement, Nicole suggests we give our faction and settlement a name. Say hello to Daddy Dane’s Tickle Force, everybody – and to the OG Ticklers who started it all.