STAFF REVIEW of RimWorld Console Edition (Xbox One)

Thursday, August 4, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

RimWorld Console Edition Box art RimWorld, published and developed by Double Eleven and Ludeon Studios, first launched on PC back in 2013 and spent 5 years in early access refining itself before officially launching its full release in 2018. I know people who simply forgot it was early access all those years because of how much there was to do. Here we are coming up on 10 years since it first hit PC and the sci-fi space colony sim is now available for consoles. It might be easy to ignore and dismiss a game that’s almost a decade old but one look at the Steam page for the game will be enough to make you want to take a leap and try it. Critically acclaimed and played by over one million players on PC, it has a staggering number of positive reviews, over 100k of them. Retailing for $51.99 CDN for the base game, I already know I’m going to lose hundreds of hours of my life to this game.

Now that’s out of the way, let me backup for a minute. I was lucky enough to get invited to an Xbox preview for RimWorld Console Edition hosted by Double Eleven on Discord. I got a sneak peek of the game and they talked about the differences in bringing the game to console etc. I had never even heard about the game before being invited to this, so I spent some time looking online at gameplay so I’d have a bit of an idea what I was getting into. What I saw completely overwhelmed me. That being said, I had to remind myself that some of these players had been playing the game for up to 9 years at this moment, and being a sim game, the game would and could be massive. I watched some YouTube videos on tips and tricks for beginners etc, but it was all still pretty overwhelming if I’m being honest. The preview event was really helpful in explaining things on a more small-scale level but there were still so many things to learn and look at.

Now, if anyone knows me, even just from reading my reviews, they’ll know that I love great sim games. I love creating my own stories, crafting, and living out some strange life only available through gaming. What I don’t love is feeling lost and stupid. Sadly, I spent many hours in this last category. My first hours with RimWorld were not great, at all. The tutorial kept crashing, or just simply not progressing. After multiple false starts with the tutorial, I decided to just start a game on the easiest level. This couldn’t be that complicated to figure out, right? WRONG! I was so very wrong. Without the tutorial, and not really being familiar with this style of game, I made many, many mistakes. I killed many colonies in a variety of absurd ways. I seemed that learning to love RimWorld was going to take time. 100k positive reviews can’t be that wrong, could they? I had to be missing something. So, I persisted, I started over at least five times before I finally made it through one year in-game.

I was finally getting the hang of it. Oops, spoke too soon. Everyone was dead again. At this point I was multiple days of real time invested in the game and had seriously wondered if I might have to ask for another code and have another writer take over this. No, not me, I will overcome and prevail. I am not one to back down and I was determined to at least understand the base of why people love this game so much. I can write about the appeal and understand the love for something without actually enjoying it myself, right? I persisted and I finally had my breakthrough moment.

One morning I grabbed coffee and logged in, started a new colony and finally had some success. I slowed down and took my time. I finally got it. Next thing I knew ten hours had flown by and I was still wanting to play more. I broke through the barrier. Enough about my RimWorld crisis, let's move on to the game, as that’s what you’re here for. Thanks for bearing with me on that.

PC ports of games often don’t go very well. Games like RimWorld have complex multi-tiered menus that are common on PC games which works because they have many sources of input. I am really pleased to say that Double Eleven did a fantastic job porting RimWorld to console. It felt like it was made for console. Using the controller to navigate multiple menus was easy and felt organic, and even though some of the options took a little time to navigate and discover (I might refer to my poor start and lack of tutorial mentioned earlier) nothing that couldn’t be figured out with a few minutes of searching though. RimWorld is a game that can be paused at any time, and in fact it’s encouraged to pause often when planning and managing your colony.

When starting RimWorld for the first time there are a variety of scenarios to choose from. They all have varying degrees of difficulty associated with them and different ‘win conditions’. Not only do you pick your story difficulty/beginning, but you also pick a storyteller. This will also contribute to the type of game you get. One is very easy going, one is pure chaos, and another is someplace in the middle. Approaching RimWorld as a simple management/building sim is too simplistic. It bills itself as an interactive story generator. But the basis of the game is designed for you to create and grow your colony over time. Survive, adapt and thrive. Starting out with three randomly generated survivors who crash land on a planet, the standard beginning scenario has you starting with nothing other than a few weapons and a pet. You must build a stockpile zone, a shelter, fire etc. You must find food from farming or hunting and defend against animals and raids. Sometimes even animal raids. Two peculiar raids I had involved man-eating bunnies and man-eating terrier dogs. Cute and terrifying all in one package.

Post apocalyptic/dystopian landscapes leave you nothing. You will encounter mutant animals and plant species. You have strange sicknesses with no way to treat them. If you’re even unlucky enough to start like I did, you don’t have anyone who can build anything remotely akin to recreation or power supply devices. So frustrating. Colonists are going on rampages and breaking anything because they are bored, but none of my group have the skills available to build anything other than a horseshoe pit and chessboard. Ugh. It’s a vicious cycle that I found myself in often.

Since everything is procedurally generated, no two playthroughs will be the same. Different areas on the planet have different resources, flora and fauna. It’s punishing at times, it’s brutal, but it’s also beautiful and addicting. I loved my ragtag group of three. None smart enough or strong enough but seemed to be managing okay most of the time. Over time others may join your colony. You may rescue someone on a mission or from a crash site. They may wander into your colony randomly, they may be running from danger and looking for a place to hide. Whatever the reason your, colony can grow over time. You can even take prisoners when you defeat them or buy and sell from slavers. I had a moral issue with this in the game though. I understand their place in the gameplay, but it never sat right. Between the slavers and things like being gay classified as a ‘personality trait’, some of it just didn’t feel appropriate in 2022.

When you take a new person in, there are a few growing pains, as is expected. Sometimes these were them bringing disease in. Another time I used a lot of medicine to heal them only to have them die anyway. Nothing is simple, even on easy mode. A growing colony requires additional resources and maintenance, and you will spend a lot of time trying to find that balance. As with any colony, there is drama. Two of my colonists fell in love quickly and got married. Almost as quickly, they each had affairs going. All of this affects their moods. Same for boredom, hunger, disease, etc. Mood plays a lot into how they colonist do everything. From the speed and efficiency, they work to how they behave around the colony. Often one of my characters would go on insulting sprees. If he weren’t my biggest defence person, I likely would have exiled him.

Drama outside your immediate group also randomly appears. RimWorld offers missions. Some are fetch quests, others for trading (looking for items you can craft to trade). Each have varying timelines in which to accept and/or complete. One trade request was looking for human leather, I just couldn’t even entertain this mission. Some are exploration based and you can gather supplies. Each offers different rewards and you can decide if you want to embark on them or not. I would often try to go for the ones that offered skill upgrades as reward. Choosing what missions to take on will depend on who you can afford to have leave the colony for a few days, how much you can risk, etc.

Porting RimWorld from PC to Console couldn’t have been easy as there are layers upon layers in the menus. Navigating them would be much smoother and faster with mouse and keyboard but Double Eleven has somehow managed to make it work very smoothly. The UI was completely rebuilt with a controller in mind. Items on the screen are meant to easily tell you what kind of button you need to find them. Top corners use Bumpers and bottom use Triggers on the controller for example. They designed the UI so that any action was no more than three button pushes away. The UI has also been optimized to be played on a TV at a distance of 10 feet away. These numbers are the gold standard for console players. The font has also been optimized for this distance and size. They used standard accessibility guidelines for eye comfort and readability. There is no way to change the font size currently, however when I asked about this during the preview, I was told it would be something they may look into in the future. I can see that the UI is changing over time, and it has had at least two changes since I started playing. The game is 1:1 with its PC counterpart, meaning that everything on the PC version is available on the console version. They didn’t cut any content. The only thing missing is modding, which is HUGE in the RimWorld PC community.

There are a few things that could be improved, mostly minor issues but would really add to the ease of someone new learning the game. If you are doing a task, like having colonist automatically fill fuel, the task bar shows many things, including this option with a red 'X'. My brain said that this meant it was off and to click it to turn it on. This was the opposite though. It meant click it to turn it off. It’s a simple thing that made me question a lot of things in game as to whether they were working as intended. The game has a lot of the same colours on screen as well and I would like to see them add some colour blind options or highlighting. I spent a lot of time really zoomed in on my screen to distinguish items from one another, meaning from time to time I would miss something else happening outside of my small window.

You don’t control individual people, but simply line up jobs and assign workers as needed. You will spend a lot of time on this screen. Trying to figure out who can and will do the job. Do they have the skills and the drive? Will they get cranky and stop working or go on a temper fueled rampage? You really are never 100% sure of anything in RimWorld. Trying and failing is at the core of the game. It’s a massive storytelling experience where you try to choose your own adventure, but there is always something lurking in the wing to flip the scales. It’s the little details, the relationships, the small things that have big impact. Are your people compatible, is someone cooking the proper food (food poisoning is common), are you making the clothes they want? Are you making the right pharmaceuticals (recreational drugs) to keep them happy? Will your pet a pig suddenly go feral and attack everyone? This happened.

You need to focus on everything, all the time. Construction, medical care, research, cooking, hunting and more are all ongoing skills at all times. When things seem to be going well, you must realize that you are overlooking something. There is never a perfect day from my experience. At one point I had fully stocked a warehouse for the winter, then on the first day of winter, my cooling system caught fire and I lost all my food. Life has a way of reminding you that you can never fully be prepared for everything.

RimWorld is not for the faint of heart, in its content or gameplay. It has a massive learning curve and may be one of the most difficult games to learn for new players like myself. As I started this review, I talked about my fairly negative experience at the beginning, but now I can’t stop playing it. The characters are all different; They live, they die, you learn and start again. It’s punishing, it’s brutal, but also complex and addictive. I’ve completely changed my mind about RimWorld over the past two weeks and I am so happy I stuck with it.

**RimWorld Console Edition was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.9 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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