Windows Central Verdict
RimWorld has become a lauded classic on PC, and with the Xbox port, Double Eleven delivers a master class in how to bring games designed for mouse and keyboard intuitively to console. RimWorld is an utterly brutal survival sim where cutesy simplistic graphics belies endless depth, and you get procedural drama on a scale I have never before experienced in video game form. This game is a masterpiece, and RimWorld for Xbox faithfully shepherds the budding franchise to a brand new audience.
Endless sci-fi survival sim depth
Absolutely brutal gameplay that creates lasting memories
A masterclass in mouse-to-gamepad user interface design
Great price with hundreds of potential playtime hours
There are still a few minor bugs to iron out
Some of the more advanced menus are still a little too difficult to hunt down
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I'm in an airport cafe as I write this, knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to focus if I was within reach of my Xbox. For the past few days, I have relentlessly, hopelessly, been obsessed with RimWorld — a sci-fi space colony survival simulator with some of the most rewarding sim gameplay I've ever experienced. Prying myself away to focus on doing anything productive in the past few days has been hell in the most delightful way possible.
I was always peripherally aware of RimWorld as a fan of top-down simulators, but for whatever reason, I always put off giving it a try. I was lucky enough to be invited to an Xbox preview of RimWorld recently. In preparation, I thought I'd familiarize myself with the general ebb and flow of its unique sandbox. I had no idea I'd be sitting here gearing up to drop a perfect score on the game, having already sunk dozens upon dozens of hours into it over just a few days. Furthermore, I did not expect that the Xbox version would become my preferred way to play, given the complex array of menus, micro-management, and construction mechanics that are naturally more at home with a mouse and keyboard.
With RimWorld for Xbox, Double Eleven delivers a master class in how to port this kind of game to a controller, layered on top of one of the most emotional simulation games I've ever experienced. Put simply, Ludeon and Double Eleven effortlessly shepherd RimWorld into the best Xbox games hall of fame.
RimWorld is brutal, RimWorld is beautiful, and it is my new obsession. Maybe it'll be yours too.
Why I love RimWorld
When I first booted up RimWorld, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I knew it was a colony builder, and I'd heard it was brutal, but I had no idea how deep and complex it would prove to be. It took me three failed colonies to begin to grasp what I needed to keep a colony alive, and even then, the game threw wildly unexpected curveballs into the mix to keep me firmly on my toes.
There are a handful of scenarios to choose from with different "win" conditions, which generally revolve around progressing your civilization from medieval tech all the way up to space-faring capabilities. The standard scenario sees three randomly-generated space colonists crash land on a sparsely populated galactic rim colony. Thousands of years into the future, humanity has scattered across the galaxy to various stages of progress. The lack of faster-than-light travel means some worlds end up devolving into regressive feudal states, while others have thrived into super high-tech cyber worlds. (Ludeon provided a full breakdown of the game's lore in this handy document over here.)
Rim worlds are semi-terraformed planets with random, genetically-modified earth plants and livestock animals, alongside random aliens and other potential horrors. Remnants of ancient civilizations, roaming primitivist gangs, and wild west-style raiders and traders dot the planetoids. It's your job to navigate and manage every aspect of space colonial life, from temperatures, food, military protection, and perhaps most critically of all: emotional sentiment. The colonists have various backgrounds, motivations, and hangups that can intersect quite vividly with gameplay to great effect.
A drama of your own creation
I unwittingly found myself building a troupe of survivalists as though it were a movie. I had my hero sniper character, who had all the highest shooting stats and to whom I gifted all the best gear. At the beginning of the game, he was practically my main defense against incoming raiders and sole hunter-gatherer.
Later, he married one of my other colonists, giving him a large boost to mood. Mood can greatly affect everything, from gathering materials to building structures and maintaining supplies. Keeping an eye on your character's performance is important to remaining efficient, and the user interface is great at informing you about any major mood problems.
RimWorld is also great at throwing turmoil into the mix when you least expect it. Quests randomly pop up here and there to keep things dynamic. For example, I spent about 20 hours on this particular colony, setting up different workshops for researching new blueprints and technology and crafting things like clothes and mood-boosting drugs, before I realized I was struggling with my five-colonist strong village's workload. As the colony expanded, so did demands for maintenance, given that we'd harvested all of the wood and metals in the area. So, when a quest appeared that offered a new colonist as a reward, I accepted the mission without reading it — something that would prove to be a sizeable (and hilarious) mistake.
A new colonist joined my squad. Great I thought, more productivity for the cause! Perhaps I could now start sending caravans to other settlements to trade for steel and components I desperately needed. Alas, like the scene of some horror movie, an "infestation" appeared right inside my science labs, which were built at the base of a hollowed-out mountain.
You see, this new colonist was seeking refuge from some unknown threat, which, as it turned out, was a very angry hive of genetically engineered megaspiders who burst through the floor right in the middle of my base and proceeded to turn my very carefully curated colonists into bloody wallpaper paste. It was utter carnage.
I set up my best colonists in the corridor in an attempt to fight the megaspiders, but it was ultimately futile. The gentle music was replaced by eerie silence, and a thunderstorm rolled in on queue for added ambiance. They shredded through my doors, tearing limbs, building nests — they even ate my pet dog. Everything I had spent the entire weekend curating was turned into a megaspider abbatoir.
Yet, I wasn't angry, I was elated. It was like the epic season finale of a big-budget TV show that I had helped to shape.
Herein lies the joy of RimWorld. The dynamism is unlike anything else I've experienced in this genre. Despite the simplistic graphics, this wholly randomized event, complete with the thunder effects, my colonists' behaviors, was as cinematic as any other game I'd played. I cared about these characters that had been reduced to spider chum. I watched as one of my colonists briefly recovered from near-death, limping desperately towards the exit, only to collapse again for one final time. Excruciating.
Furthermore, all this carnage didn't represent the end of my colony. When the megaspiders went to sleep, I led a daring mission with my two remaining colonists to rescue my hero character, grab some supplies, and flee the map to a new area. I didn't get a chance to bury any of the dead, nor rescue the critically injured, but somehow, I was successful.
The game's story AI generators intelligently try to create peaks and troughs regarding events. This climactic megaspider battle was followed by a period of calmness, allowing me to recover and rebuild — somewhat at least. The remaining colonists were traumatized and angry. My hero colonist had lost his wife to the mandibles of a mutant arachnid and had a lengthy negative mood modifier. He got into fights with his saviors, even injuring one of them. My remaining colonists lacked the skills to cook food adequately, leading to bouts of food poisoning. Gradually, though, I am rebuilding, and finding myself mesmerized by this drama of my own creation, with RimWorld's story generator as the director.
State of the art Xbox controls
I first played RimWorld on PC, and given the game's complexity, with its intersecting menus and various micro-management features, I was skeptical that it would feel pleasant on a gamepad. After this past weekend, though, I've decided it's my preferred way to play.
Double Eleven went to extreme lengths to adapt RimWorld for the gamepad and for couch play. The UI has been resized and spaced out to be more legible on a TV screen from further away, and every aspect of the menus can be accessed in three steps or less. The UI intuitively lays out every button map on the right, so you don't need to force yourself to remember everything, and thanks to that, you'll very quickly and easily learn to commit most of the game's controls to muscle memory. After this weekend, I can play RimWorld on a gamepad effectively, easily sailing through the game's various menus and functions without thinking too hard about it.
Since RimWorld uses a fixed camera perspective, all the camera controls are locked to the cursor, which makes complete sense for a game like this. It can be a bit fiddly at times to select objects that are moving quickly, but you can quickly pause or speed up the pace of the game with a couple of button presses.
RimWorld: Minor gripes remain
There could be improvements, although they just amount to minor gripes. I think it's a bit unclear at times what some of the toggles mean. For example, when you select auto-refresh on things like firepits and torch lights, the icon has a red X in it, which you might expect to mean it's disabled. However, that seems to denote that it is activated and that you can press it to deactivate it. I'm not sure if it's just me, but my brain doesn't think that way when I see an icon like that.
Additionally, the combat elements in the UI could perhaps be a little clearer. I've gotten my dudes killed before because I couldn't figure out how to convince somebody to engage in combat correctly. While drafted, colonists only seem to move on command, meaning they won't chase down enemies that move out of the line of sight. It's also sometimes tough trying to figure out how to attack "friendly" targets, if you want to convert a problematic colonist into a prisoner, for example.
However, Double Eleven and Ludeon have already updated the UI a couple of times since the first build I played, so I assume they can continue that trend.
While the Xbox port is superb, there are still some notable missing features. The PC modding scene is huge, and despite assertions from Microsoft that it wants to get more modding platforms onto Xbox, they have yet to materialize in any meaningful way beyond Bethesda's games. That's less the game's fault, though.
What is perhaps a little more the game's fault is configuration settings like preventing colonists from wearing clothes below 50% HP, which triggers negative mood modifiers since most don't like wearing clothes covered with blood and peppered with bullet holes. Managing colonists' clothes, as a result, is an absolute pain given that they usually just want to equip whatever is closest to them — even if said item is near-destroyed.
I was also sad that you can't give colony pets a proper burial. I had to construct a shrine for my megaspider-murdered dog, and carefully manually place his corpse inside instead. But hey, at least the game gives you the tools to do stuff like that.
Finally, I'm just not a huge fan of the game's art style, despite how I'm well aware that art isn't the point. Perhaps there are some subconscious benefits to the game's simplicity, forcing me to inject my own imagination into the proceedings and unwittingly enhancing immersion. I couldn't help but feel like I wanted a bit more context, though. What do megaspiders even look like? The game doesn't do a great job of conveying that, even if the sound effects are absolutely on point.
All of the above are relatively minor pain points, though. Given the vast complexity of RimWorld, it's a truly staggering achievement that Double Eleven managed to make sense of what is undoubtedly one of the most complex UI demands on the entire console.
RimWorld: Should you buy it?
RimWorld has been out for a couple of years on PC, but for those who are just discovering it for the first time thanks to the Xbox edition, whether or not you'll enjoy it ultimately hinges on how much you enjoy colony builders. If you are already a fan of simulation games, arguably RimWorld is the best on offer for Xbox. Thanks to the intuitive gamepad controls, RimWorld can be enjoyed as efficiently and as effectively as its PC mouse and keyboard counterpart, and it'll serve as a guide for similar games attempting ports on this scale in the future.
RimWorld is a story generator, through and through. In the mission I described above, it utterly nailed the premise, with truly emotional situations that create genuine tension and, at times, panic. Playing on the game's "commitment" mode (perma-death), scrambling to keep my colonists alive from that megaspider assault was every bit as epic as AAA games with photorealistic graphics, even if I had to engage all three of my woefully under-nourished imagination brain cells.
Whether you're a hardcore strategy gamer or someone who just prefers a passive colony-building experience, RimWorld gives you a wealth of control over your experience. I'd argue that you'll have more fun if you go in as blind as possible, using only the limited in-game tutorial as a guide. Learn as you go because dying and starting over is part of the fun.
So, should you buy it? Even if you're completely new to the genre, RimWorld has the best chance at converting you than any other game out there right now. Double Eleven and Ludeon have made RimWorld one of the best games on Xbox, in my humble opinion. Now excuse me while I try to figure out how best to save my colony from this randomly generated plume of radioactive fallout.
RimWorld for Xbox
RimWorld is a staggeringly deep and unashamedly complex space colony simulation game that will devour hours upon hours of your free time. Ludeon teamed up with Double Eleven to faithfully port and rebuild the game's interface for controller play with near-flawless results.
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!