EA Game Review – RimWorld Alpha 17: On the Road

I thought that it would be nice to write a review of the latest update to RImWorld now that it’s been out for a while and I’ve had a chance to play it.

Freaking roads, man!

The first and most obvious thing about this update is that there are road systems. They add some flavour to a world map which was previously populated only by settlements. Using flagstones (also added in this version) you can build your own outdoor-styled paths. You can’t do any road-building with caravans, however.

The world map generation itself take a tiny bit longer because rivers are being run downrange in a more realistic way, and the building of ancient and modern roads are also being simulated. I think the result is worth the effort.

If you settle on a map with a river or have a hostile caravan encounter on one, you’ll find that there are parts which you can move across and some that you can’t. This can make maps more interesting as colonists and their enemies alike have to cross at particular places.

Improved modding is always a win

Also in this update are some much-needed improvements for modders.

Previously, if you wanted to override something in the game, you would need to either override the entire definition in XML, or make an assembly file to change just the one part you wanted to change. In Alpha 17, you can patch individual entries in an XML definition (with conditionality, if necessary). This is a major improvement and significantly improves scope for mod compatibility… if modders take advantage of it and mod users realise that it’s not a magic bullet.

Additionally, there is now support for mod settings and all sorts of other cool modding stuff. This is a game which has a very active modding community, so this is also a welcome change.

Game conditions can affect the whole world (kinda)

Also in Alpha 17, there are some changes to things like the Solar Flare condition, which would previously would only affect a single colony. Although multiple colonies are still a fairly new feature, the new update improves the multi-colony experience by making some of these conditions into Game or World conditions, which allows them to affect more than one settlement, and if the conditions are permanent, they should (in theory) affect all settlements until the end of the game.

However you can still escape these permanent game conditions by settling in another place via caravan. The new settlement does not get the game condition, unless it’s a game condition from a mod, in which case the mod maker can avoid this problem. As with all new features, there are usually some kinks to be worked out. Hopefully this will be fixed in Alpha 18.

They shall taste my steel!

Melee combat also got a bit of polish in this version. Previously, if an attacker would score a hit, the defender always took damage. Melee attacks can now be dodged, and particularly skilled melee fighters can dodge better. This makes it more favourable to hold a choke point against primarily melee opponents using melee weapons.

In my experience, your colonists will still take some hits, but if they’re skilled at melee may well come away from a battle with fewer missing extremities.

Nooo my armchairs got nerfed

Trading has a bit more of a random element to it, apparently. I honestly haven’t noticed, although with some new sell price penalties I have found that only superior quality furniture is worth selling. Which is good. I’m sure if someone tried to sell you an armchair which is only ‘good’ as opposed to ‘superior’ you would try to pay less money for it.

The carrot

What is very noticeable in this new version are the various opportunities which act as an incentive to get you on the road to somewhere. Whether there’s a stash of long-forgotten items somewhere or a raider camp which someone wants eliminated, or even just a lucrative trade offer (bring us a thousand of your finest shrubberies, and we will give you a legendary boomstick) there’s always going to be something new to keep you engaged with the world map instead of just hiding out in Castle Grayskull.

Meatier swarm

Additionally, it’s a bit more worthwhile to raise livestock for slaughter in Alpha 17. There’s a greater yield of meat. My latest colony, where I have domesticated snowhares, pigs, wild boar and alpacas, is almost never short of meat. The challenge is keeping the meat from spoiling, the animal populations controlled, and growing enough hay to keep them all fed. I’m still working on that last part, generally once I start feeding animals hay it disappears very quickly.

However, I’ve noticed that animals are still a bit dumb when it comes to finding food. Particularly if you have a Castle Grayskull colony, there are just too many walls and doors between them and some tasty grass. It’s too bad I can’t train my huskies to herd the grazers to a good spot.

Well, the game is still in alpha, so maybe that’s something worth putting on the list, and it’s a nice way of fixing the problem without making all animals really smart.

Dapper and defensive gear

If you like seeing your colonists walking around with new headwear, this new version adds a bowler hat, which can be crafted at the tailoring bench. Like the cowboy hat, it improves the effect of social interactions, and also keeps the heat off in warm weather.

If that wasn’t enough, shield belts (previously known as personal shields) can be researched and crafted, along with a new smokepop belt. Smokepops are single-use, but when they are triggered (this is currently when the wearer takes damage) they let out a blast of smoke which temporarily obscures the area from automated turrets and makes it difficult to be hit. I like the idea, it potentially makes things more interesting, but I’ve yet to see any raiders wearing smokepop belts.

When friendlies show up and you’re like, wat?

One of the unfortunate minor bugs in Alpha 17 is that friendlies will show up when they aren’t needed. As far as I know, this happens when you have mechanoids lurking in an ‘Ancient Danger’ room that hasn’t been opened.

These friendlies mean well, but they don’t react well to changing conditions. For example, if it gets really cold thanks to a Cold Snap event, they will attempt to leave the map, but then get stuck at the edge of the map for some reason. When I check in on them, well, let’s just say there was one guy left and a lot of headless frozen corpses, and he wasn’t too happy with himself.

As I’ve said before, this is a game that is still in alpha, so a couple of minor bugs are to be expected.

Bugged pathfinding

Colonists sure like to take some odd paths to get around the map, and this version is particularly bad for it. This means that if you’re playing in the tropical rainforest biome, you’re out of luck, as no matter how many paths you build over the tall grass, colonists will keep finding some kind of road block.

That’s all folks

Too long, didn’t read? There’s a fair bit of content in RimWorld Alpha 17, quite a few changes that I’ve taken notice of and have improved my experience, and good news for anyone who makes or uses RimWorld mods.

There’s also the usual little bugs that will probably be fixed in the next version.

What I probably like most about this version is (surprise surprise) the improved modding support.

However the pathfinding is inexcusably bad, and therefore I can’t recommend the game at this time. Unless you enjoy watching colonists moving in slow motion over chunks of rock, uphill through thick snow.