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.
My first colony was wiped out by an indignant gazelle when a hunting expedition went… wrong. This time things are going to be totally different, because I’ve got two pyromaniacs and a nudist with a prosthetic fetish so I expect everybody will die screaming in a conflagration of budget bionic dick pics instead. You know, for science.
For the moment, however, I’ve attempted to equip my experimental subjects with weapons and only just realised that one of them, Kyle Cervantes the deep space miner, is “incapable of violence” and won’t even pick up a knife so this isn’t exactly an auspicious start. He’s apparently also a misogynist, so I’ve assigned the bolt-action rifle to janitor Klara Richards, and I hope he’s resentful about a woman being responsible for his safety. I’ll save my other female colonist, an unethical doctor and drug addict named (unconventionally, but this is the future liberals want) Robert Burban, for more interesting opportunities to exploit this prejudice later. Brittany the cat is busy licking herself, and entirely unconcerned about the situation.
It’s going to get dark soon, so I decide to use an existing partial structure in a nearby limestone formation to build a temporary refuge. After some excavation, I find an unopened cryopod and, because this is my colony and I make up my own biocontamination prevention protocols, I tell Cervantes to go ahead and open it up. He’s not much use for anything else, I’ve discovered, and if he’s infected with some kind of alien virus, that’s a nice project for Burban. But what’s this? There’s a guy in it. Rasmussen, a janitor with the “lazy” trait. He’s also unconscious and in shock from pain, so I don’t have to worry about feeding him. Although if Cervantes keeps stuffing his fat face with our limited ration packs, this might become a worry for everybody else.
In the meantime, though, it’s time to sleep. Tomorrow, we’re hunting gazelles.
Okay, so here’s an Important Thing of which you should be made aware before we embark on this RimWorld adventure together: I don’t know what I’m doing. I started the game’s tutorial this past weekend, but I only got as far as “how to build basic stuff and do crops” before I got distracted by shiny things and had to shut down my PC. It’s okay though, because I DON’T NEED YOUR SUPER-IMPORTANT TUTORIAL ANYWAY, RIMWORLD.
The game wants me to choose an AI storyteller, so I’m currently staring into the eyes of a computer-people named Cassandra Classic. She looks like she could murder real-life me with nothing but a stack of paperclips and a high-school geography textbook. I’ve told her I want “some challenge”, because that’s supposedly a good choice for first-time RimWorlders. Do your semi-worst, Cassandra Classic – you only semi-scare me.
Hey! I’ve got three colonists and my own swanky new colony! They’re all looking to me to save them from an inevitably miserable end. So, like, no pressure. They’re an eclectic bunch, I’ll give them that. Nicole Squid is a vat-grown human who was genetically engineered to excel at physics, chemistry and general science things. It looks like she denied her genetic programming and went through an experimental phase though, because she’s also a runaway dancer. You show them, Nicole. YOU SHOW THEM WHAT YOU CAN DO.
Sammy “Spiffy” Lister is a teacher with an itchy trigger finger and a penchant for the arts. Also, gardening, which seems like it’ll come in handy, because sometimes food is done in gardens or something.
By far the most intriguing colonist of the bunch is Orlene Vang, a former street urchin turned… wait, she’s a medieval minstrel? In… in space? For serious, Orlene? In what possible space-catastrophe could medieval minstrel-ing prove useful? Also, an important thing to note: Orlene has an old gunshot wound on her nose. A gunshot wound. On her nose. I can’t even. How’d you manage to do that, Orlene? Is your nose the size of your forearms? I CAN’T EVEN WITH YOU, ORLENE.
Orlene’s also a masochist, which makes me wonder if that nose-wound is her own doing. Could be she was trying to create a third nostril, because having a regular, human amount of nostrils is simply far too mundane for Orlene’s sensibilities. Maybe her first two nostrils were total duds, and she felt she needed to start fresh. Maybe she just hated her nose, and plastic surgery is really, really different in the future. I’m not going to pretend I understand it, because that path leads only to madness. I mean, this is a woman who saw “medieval minstrel” as a worthwhile career path during a time when humanity is colonising the stars, so it’s not like she’s bogged down by superfluous things like, I don’t know, making good life choices.
At least she should be good in a fist-fight, what with all her experience as a street urchin. Let’s do this, Orlene. I’ll be your Jasmine, if you’ll be my Aladdin.
Day one was pretty uneventful. I built a space-hovel so my space-peasants can space-sleep, space-cook, space-ruminate and play space-checkers. I designated a little farming spot, and told my colonists to use it to plant all the potatoes, ever. This is a smart move, because as Desmond Tutu once said: “Space-potatoes are the foundation upon which all great space-empires are built”. I also chopped down some trees, because why not.
Day one wasn’t much to look at, but I did learn a few key lessons:
I have a pet “warg” named Chiyoko. She’s kinda like a fancy puppy. Chiyoko sleeps right next to my colonists, which is adorable. I like to think she keeps them awake when she chases space-rabbits in her sleep, and when she unleashes one of her rancid warg-farts.
When you first start RimWorld, you’re gifted with a bunch of starting resources. It turns out your colonists are forbidden from touching these until you specifically tell them the ban has been lifted – which to them must’ve seemed pretty selfish of me, their new deity. This also means that when you give construction orders, they won’t use these resources to get ‘em done. This means I spent 20 hours of day one wondering why my colonists were so obsessed with planting potatoes that they wouldn’t build any of the things I’d asked them to build. Once I’d discovered my mistake, my colonists had something like two in-game hours left to set up the sweet, sweet digs I’d blueprinted for them before they passed out under the stars. I let them believe that’s exactly what I wanted, and that I was merely testing their resolve. I wouldn’t want them thinking I’m some kinda idiot.
It turns out Orlene is every bit as useless as I was worried a medieval-minstrel-in-space would be. She doesn’t do construction or farming, and she refuses to cook. It’s not all bad – apparently she’ll do you a mean piece of art if you ask her nicely, and she’s currently the only one of my colonists who’s assigned to “flicking” (whatever the hell that means). She can hunt, but you’ve probably got to catch her when she’s in the right mood, or she’ll tell you to piss off. She actually spent a significant part of day one just napping on the grass while Nicole and Spiffy got shit done. Basically, insofar as being someone who’s useful to have by your side when you’re colonising an uncharted planet, Orlene’s the polar opposite of that. If anything, she’s exactly the sort of person you jettison out the airlock long before you even land on your new homeworld, because you’re tired of hearing her tales of “life on the streets” and “that one time she entertained an audience in the throne room of King Snorlaxx of Volturr”. Fuck you, Orlene.