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RimWorld’s permadeath is what makes this game great

It was a small, budding colony in just its second year, but life was going well. Very well. The original three crashlanded survivors had been joined by three others, and their hard work carved out a fairly comfortable living situation. There was power, plenty of food, an impressive rec room, a couple of good rifles, and even the one drug-addled guy had finally overcome his addiction.

That’s when it went wrong. Terribly wrong.

A megasloth roamed by the base, and attracted to the idea of tons of meat and leather, my hunter went after the normally docile beast. But this time, its 1% revenge chance triggered, and the megasloth trampled and mauled the hunter to death — and savagely wounded a friend who came to rescue him.

Two people down, the base’s mood turned sour. A dry thunderstorm over the desert sent sparks flying in trees far away, but the fires eventually lit the horizon. By the end of the second day, half the map was on fire, and the four able colonists spent most of their time trying to keep it away from the base’s walls.

What they didn’t anticipate, however, was the fire breaching the Ancient Danger — a giant rectangular cavern on every map. The fire burned through the wall and sent some sort of blade-slinging cyborg straight at the base. The four couldn’t find one of the rifles dropped in the megasloth melee and had to run to the sandbags with less armament than normal. They desperately fired — and then stabbed — the cyborg as it approached. Miraculously, they survived, although three of them were wounded.

A big sigh. It looked like everyone would be able to survive another day — and hey, they might be able to scout out that large cavern for its high-tech goodies.

That is, however, until the wildfire ALSO breached the cryochambers inside and six very angry, very well-armed people spilled out of there like ants swarming toward an invader. The colonists did what they could and put up a respectable fight, even though they had just a revolver, rifle, and bow against rocket launchers and better guns.

One by one, the colonists became wounded to the point of collapse, and a doctor kept dragging them into their rooms to relative safety. But it was too much. The rockets set off even more fires around the base and the last colonist was taken down in fire and writhed in pain in the dirt. The invaders attacked the colony without mercy, knocking out the power and setting fire to most everything.

Then a Man in Black — a new colonist, armed with a revolver — appeared out of the west and tried to do what he could to simultaneously fend off the bad guys and rescue the now-burning and severely bleeding colonists. But it was five against one at that point, and the Man in Black’s heroic rescue ended up with him being burned alive on a path between buildings.

That was it. Game over. Six lunch breaks of progress in RimWorld undone in a chain of horrible accidents, unfortunate decisions, and unavoidable tragedy. It was glorious — and it was all thanks to the permadeath mode.

See, RimWorld offers to modes in regards to saving. There’s one where you can save and reload, and one where anything that happens, happens without a chance to go back to an earlier save state. The latter mode vastly changes how you play and perceive the game, and I’ve come to deeply love it and see it as THE way RimWorld is meant to be played. In the above scenario, if I had the chance to reload, I would have done so the second that hunter went down. He was far too valuable to lose. But then I wouldn’t have seen and experienced everything that followed, and even though I lost, I got an amazingly hilarious and memorable story out of it.

There’s a lesson in that.

One thought on “RimWorld’s permadeath is what makes this game great

  1. Agree!

    RimWorld doesn’t go this far (yet?), but I especially loved the fact that in Dwarf Fortress you had the option of playing in the same generated world, and that your failed forts persisted within that world.

    You could try resettle the same spot with a new hapless crew of Dwarves if you so choose — but if you failed due to digging too deep and unleashing hell on earth, well… Good luck with that, it didn’t go anywhere. 😉

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