RimWorld took the indie scene by storm when it launched on PC back in 2018, and it’s taken almost four years for it to get ported to consoles. We checked out RimWorld – Console Edition on a PlayStation 4.
Despite its massive success, I hadn’t played Ludeon Studios’ indie hit before it hit consoles. Judging from screenshots and gameplay trailers, I didn’t see what the fuss was all about. A bit like Minecraft in that sense, although I never really warmed to that game like I now have to RimWorld. What looks like a simple sci-fi colony builder at first is actually a deep sim with tons of random events that make sure that every session tells its own story.
At its surface, you’re still building a colony on a “rimworld”, which is randomized by you or the AI before you start – though you can reuse the string provided if you want to retry the same world again later. You can then tweak the world with a few more options, and then off you go, picking how large your initial colonization party will be. One is a serious challenge (that we found to be near impossible), with two you can start helping each other out, but pick too many and the micromanagement can get overwhelming.
But while it seems like you have a lot of control over how things play out, you have to relinquish that control once the game starts. Events that play out can drastically change the course of your colony, and your little colonists might not want to listen to your order because of their personalities anyway. There’s a large role for the game’s built-in AI here, which will steer the course of the game – though sometimes it can be overly cruel towards the player and/or the colonists by throwing scenarios at you that are simply impossible to overcome.
With some practice, you can steer the lives of your colonists to help them overcome (many of) these problems, but not by giving individual characters assignments. You set collective goals instead, and as long as character traits align well enough they might actually do them as well – though you won’t always be as lucky. It’s smart to spend time studying your (randomly designed) colonists before you dive in, as it’ll reveal a lot about the early successes you can have and in which area they’ll be. Will you focus on construction? Resource gathering? You can branch out later, but there’s no surefire way to start a RimWorld session, and doom could lurk around every corner with the next random event the AI throws at you.
This randomness is what’s great about RimWorld – there are literally hundreds of ways to play. You can focus on merely surviving, build a thriving colony, or just innovate and explore. It’s a system that can be at odds with itself at times, like when a colonist is too stubborn to follow what you as a player will consider to be common sense, making it hard for you to relate to him or her as you also don’t have any direct control over their actions.
What RimWorld also is, even in its “console version”, is a game that feels distinctly “PC-like”, which isn’t going to be every console owner’s cup of tea. It’s heavy on UI elements like menus, and there’s a fair bit of clicking going on. As someone with a PC history I didn’t mind this one bit, but together with its in-depth life sim elements and lack of guidance this’ll make it an acquired taste among console players. Those who are invested in it will greatly enjoy what it has to offer though, as it’s easy to see why this game received such a large following on PC.