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.

Commander Tarryn

Kyle Cervantes has died of starvation. Slumped, gasping with exertion and existential misery, between the bags of rice he was planting in those last desperate, wretched moments. Which is almost as ironic as dying in the freezer next to the squirrel pie, but most of that had already burned to rubble (again), anyway. In the same fire that so tragically claimed the lives of Klara Richards and Finn Pena.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. But it started with an explosion.

I don’t know what. Maybe a solar battery, or one of the air conditioning units, or Cervantes’ greasy anal sphincter. The guy doesn’t stop eating, and isn’t exactly discerning about the menu. As the flames lick with hot, orangey tongues at the new tile floor I’d just finished grouting, I rush Klara and Finn into the room to deal with what is an obviously urgent but no less manageable problem. I underestimate that, perhaps, but not as much as I overestimate my colonists’ competence in emergency situations.

After one or two perfunctory attempts to extinguish the blaze, Klara decides that prepping some supper is a much more appropriate use of her (now very limited) time. Moments later, Finn quits his own mostly indifferent endeavours to smother the briskly expanding conflagration, and dawdles out into the garden to pick his nose or something. Cervantes, I shit you not, goes to bed. In the middle of the smouldering kitchen.

“You smell that? Probably just the raccoon I had for lunch. Somebody open a window, it’s even worse on the way out.”

Realising that this thing isn’t going to blow out on its own, Klara offers herself as a sacrifice to the inferno, praying that this will appease the gods and deliver the others from scorching annihilation. Or, I dunno, she kind of limps around in the smoke a bit and then she drops dead. Finn doesn’t survive much longer, his bloated body cremated in the dirt, and his dreams of something more than this like so much ash in the wind. But, like, actual, literal ash in the wind too.

And as the embers flicker and fade, Cervantes wakes up alone, the emptiness in his heart and the gnawing in his belly a sombre reminder that there’s no food.

Commander Dane

Erch. Fucking Orlene. Seriously.

In the last Transmissions from RimWorld, there may or may not have been an, uh… an incident, wherein someone (probably not Spiffy but OKAY IT WAS DEFINITELY SPIFFY) shot everyone’s favourite medieval space-minstrel and universally renowned asshole, Orlene, right in the spine. RIGHT IN THE SPINE, EVEN. The guilt inevitably drove Spiffy – who’s the only one of the OG Ticklers with the requisite amount of medical experience to know that human bodies have, like, vital organs that leak important stuff when you accidentally puncture them or whatever – to personally see to Orlene’s painfully slow (and almost entirely unnecessary) recovery.

The trouble is, it’s become apparent that Spiffy has atrocious bedside manner. Despite doing a semi-okay-ish job superglue-ing bandages and medicine and other doctor-ly things to Orlene’s face-and-wounds, he somehow neglected to keep the woman fed while she was bedridden. Whether or not Orlene actually deserves to be fed, ever, is a debate for another day, but the point is, powering that much useless flesh is hungry work. And for Orlene, it’s the HUNGRIEST work.

I’m constantly being hit with an endless procession of pirate raids. It makes no sense, because none of these tools ever make it home. It’s as though the nitwits organising these raids think the reason for that is because my colony is The Loveliest Place, and that all their pirate chums immediately decide to stick around and make a home for themselves after murdering everyone in sight. So they just keep coming. And Nicole and Spiffy keep murdering ’em.

By the time I realise Orlene’s extreme hunger has caused her mood to deteriorate to the point that she’s moments away from suffering a severe mental break, it’s already too late. Spiffy rushes over, barely managing to maintain control of a plate of poorly-cooked berries, but the damage has already been done. Orlene’s mind snaps like a drunk, wimpy twig, she heaves herself out of bed, and immediately goes into Hulk mode. She marches into the storeroom, and starts ferociously smashing a pile of 18 components.

DAMN IT ORLENE, I NEEDED THOSE. I mean, probably. I don’t know what components even are or what they’re used for, but I’m assuming they’re important – because I’m told many of life’s things have components sometimes.

I don’t know why she specifically chose to direct her ire at components, but trying to understand Orlene and her decision-making process is like trying to understand why fish never thought to develop wetsuit technology, or trying to understand why male horses aren’t forced to wear pants when they’re clearly a source of severe, grotesque inadequacy for human males. Instead of trying to understand it, I’m working on the assumption that she was attacked by a vicious stack of rogue components as a child, and it’s a memory that still haunts her to this day.

While all this was happening, I learnt another important lesson: apparently the “construction” skill is an incredibly vital thing for colonists to have, because certain things can only be built by colonists with the requisite aptitude for playing with LEGO. Thankfully, colonists learn by doing, and colonists with a passion for doing something will learn that thing faster.

See what I mean? To the north of my main colony building, there’s a neat row of something like 10 graves, each one full of pirates. This can’t be normal. I’m actually starting to worry they’re not pirates at all, because surely pirates are too cool to be THIS stupid. Maybe they’re just travelling salespeople? Or telemarketers? And I’m… just shooting them all? O_O

Nicole, who’s thus far kept her nose clean and minded her own business, is kiiind of passionate about construction, even though she’s hilariously shit at it. I put her to work building random things – and then immediately force her to tear them down. And then I make her build them again. Rinse, repeat. This is a great way to game the system and artificially raise Nicole’s ability to put bricks on top of other bricks. I know, I know, it seems wildly inefficient and painfully futile. But this is good, because if Nicole learns anything from this exercise, it should be this: if I’m the deity of anything, I’m the deity of wild inefficiencies and painful futility. Besides, it’s working, so shut up.

For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to allow Nicole to keep at least one of the things she’s built: a research table, because it seems like it’ll come in handy. See, I’m not always a dick. Besides, I’ve just discovered I can research beer, so OBVIOUSLY I’m gonna do that. Daddy Dane’s Tickle Force is about to get real rowdy. Or at least, they’ll be getting real rowdy in 7-8 years. Which is how long it’ll probably take to do all this intense beer research. Evidently, Orlene’s brush with death wasn’t the wake-up call I hoped it’d be, the thing that’d push her to want to do something meaningful with her life. Nope, she’s still as redundant as ever, which means Nicole and Spiffy are still doing the work of about 17 people. And research is way, waaay down on their list of priorities at the moment.

Apparently eking out a miserable existence is more important to these people than beer. Which seems unrealistic, but hey.

Want to read the rest of Dane and Tarryn’s misadventures in RimWorld? You’ll find them all here.

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