REVIEW: RimWorld

RimWorld is a science-fiction village simulator complete with crafting and survival aspects.

Steam: Early Access
Type: Single-player
Genre: Simulation, Survival
Developer: Ludeon Studios
Publisher: Ludeon Studios
Release date: 16 Jul, 2016


RimWorld is a science-fiction village simulator and survival game from independent developer, Ludeon Studios.

In RimWorld, you take control of a small group of colonists trying to survive on a frontier planet. You have to manage not only their use of natural resources while they establish and grow fledgling colony, but also their psychological state and social interactions.


The graphics in RimWorld are an odd mix that I wasn’t sure about to begin with, but I’ve decided that I like them. Characters are represented by these funny little ‘pawns’ with no animations, that just sort of glide across the ground, pausing every now and then to perform an assigned task. They’re very basic, but also presumably very low in resource usage, and there’s something appealing about them once you get used to them.

The world is presented in overhead view, with a useful zoom range, and looks very nice. Map tiles are well textured and blended together. Some of the objects don’t look fantastic (for example, the wood-powered generator didn’t really look like anything to me), but generally the game looks good. Weather effects and the day-night cycle look very nice, too.

The interface took a little getting used to as well, but it’s consistent and works well. I’d suggest renaming the ‘Architect’ menu, though; a great amount of the items within it have nothing to do with architecture. Depending on your screen resolution, you can scale the UI significantly; I played in 1920×1080 and the default 1x scale was fine. There are no other graphics options.


The music in the game is very nice, indeed. I’m not sure about the number of tracks, but they all have a consistent feel to them that really suits the game. It’s very relaxing.

Sound effects are well normalised, but nothing really jumped out at me as being particularly good or bad about them.

There are no voices, or at least I haven’t heard any yet.


RimWorld is a village simulator in a science-fiction setting. The game gives you three scenarios, three ‘AI Storytellers’ (essentially event generators), and a range of different difficulty levels, then generates a planet for you. You select a landing point on the planet based on a number of variables, such as climate and topography, and then you’re on your own, with between one and five colonists under your control, ready to start a new life.

Colonists are individuals, with individual backgrounds, needs, and psychoses. These are done very well, and there’s a great range of variables. You don’t have any direct control over your group, though; you can only randomise the variables and hope for a good combination.

On Day One, you need to focus on the simple things: shelter, food, defence, and that sort of thing. The game gives you some resources with which to begin, but you need to make sure your colony is self-sufficient in at least the basics before your starting stash runs out.

Basic gameplay consists of designating objects or structures to build, lists of tasks to complete (called ‘bills’ in RimWorld), and setting up ‘zones’ in which activities are to be undertaken, or from which activities are restricted. You don’t normally directly allocate colonists to take actions, but rather you control them indirectly through the work roster, where you can prioritise certain actions over others separately for each colonist.

Defence is handled differently, with an option available to draft each colonist individually to a defence activity. In this case, you can take direct control over moving each colonist — behind cover is a good idea! — but they will still actively fire on interlopers at will, so there’s not too much micromanagement required.

As the days pass your colony begins to thrive — or not — and your colonists develop happy relationships — or not! There’s a research technology tree and a good range of things to build, grow, and maintain. It all takes quite a while, but the basic time controls let you pause and issue commands (very useful for defence), as well as speed up time by a large factor, so you’re never waiting too long for something to happen.

It’s all very well balanced and a lot of fun.

RimWorld isn’t perfect, though. It’s still in Early Access, so I have hopes for further improvements and additions. It does seem very stable and playable even now, but there are a few issues I’d very much like to see addressed.

First, colonists often just ignore their work assignments. I haven’t managed to work out why this happens, but often they’ll just ignore something I’ve designated, or I’ll have one of my colonists do nothing, with a UI message telling me they are idle, even when there’s plenty of work for them to do based on their work priorities. Even creating more new high-priority work doesn’t get them out of this state, with the only way I’ve found to force them to do something being to manually prioritise a particular task. Even then, though, they’ll often revert to their idle state afterwards.

Second, the behaviour of wild animals is completely unnatural. Bears will happily wander around ignoring other animals and colonists alike, with only random ‘aggro’ events or failed animal handling attempts causing them to attack anything — and then they just attack wildly until they die. I’d love to see some more realistic animal behaviour implemented in the game.

And third, there’s just not enough ‘stuff’ to make! I don’t know if it’s because the UI is only designed to allow one row of options in each menu, but the options available are rather limited. Sure, there’s enough to keep you busy, but I want more, more, more!

The game also has an active modding community and makes use of Steam Workshop, so if you want to head off the beaten track into user-made territory, then that’s an option.

Pros and Cons

+ In-depth survival simulation in an interesting setting, and it’s FUN!
+ Excellent game design and balancing
+ Great music

– Colonists sometimes ignore work
– Animals don’t behave naturally
– We need more of everything!


At the moment, RimWorld is an excellent game. I hope it becomes even better before it leaves Early Access.

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