The Mars One mission aims to put man on Mars by 2027. They envision a thriving colony of hydroponic agriculture and low-g hi jinks. But if space colonies are anything like RimWorld suggests, we’re much, much better off on Earth.
Kelsey LeBlanc is a 20-year-old novelist. He’s a blood-lusting pessimist who doesn’t drink. His sister, Speedy McCroddon, is a pyromaniac herbalist. Then there’s Giggles, a 60-year-old mental patient with a traumatic background. She’s neurotic, ugly and incapable of ‘social’. Together they have crash landed on an alien planet. Together they must survive.
I land my escape pods on the southeastern coast of the continent, in temperate forested lowlands. To the west is a tropical rainforest, an endless steppe, extreme desert and the sea. To the north, the lowlands turn boreal, glacial ranges rise from the floor and turn into mountainous tundra before falling thousands of metres into arctic ice sheets.
A few sheets of metal, some rations and a couple of rudimentary weapons are recovered from the capsules. I give Speedy a rifle, Kelsey a handgun and Giggles a knife before ordering them to begin carving a shelter into the slate walls nearby. But Speedy and Kelsey won’t do it. Apparently they’re incapable of ‘dumb labour’. It’s up to Giggles, 60 years old, to hew the mountainside. And she does, mining the stone, dragging it to the side, and mining deeper still.
In a single day she constructs walls, lays a wooden floor and roofs the shack with corrugated tin. Twilight finds her watching the stars in a twilight meadow, a herd of Ibex wandering peacefully past her tranquil figure.
The ambient wind and crickets are beautiful, haunting and still. Giggles rises briefly, builds a bed in the meadow and drifts to sleep. Speedy falls asleep on the dirt outside the shack, and Kelsey sleeps inside on the floor, near the components of a bed he was too much of a precious dickhead to build.
And so ends my first day in RimWorld, a ‘sci-fi colony sim driven by an intelligent AI storyteller’. Peaceful, serene, almost relaxing, RimWorld seems an enjoyable, downscaled version of the Sims crossed with Minecraft.
Everything is about to go horribly wrong.
Day two dawns a temperate 17 degrees, and, after a prepackaged emergency meal, Giggles is back on top of things, throwing up a couple beds and getting the first crop of potatoes in the ground. A cat wanders into the colony. I name him Cole. Speedy spends her day wandering. Kelsey walks amongst a herd of alien bovine Boomalopes in the morning, and in the afternoon he watches the clouds. The Ibex look upon his rest with disgust.
On the morning of day three, Cole has food poisoning after consuming a fetid turkey. There are potatoes, rice and corn in the ground, but it’s all the work of a single settler, and she’s a 60 year old disabled woman. And if we want progeny, she might have to be a mother too.
Then Mercardo arrives. A hardworking but volatile wanderer, he comes from the forests to the West and begs refuge. He has temperamental issues, but they seem benign. For now. Aura follows soon from the East, fleeing slavers and inadvertently leading them directly to my colonists. One slaver is shot dead by Speedy, but another flees with an armful of valuable components.
Their raid is followed soon by another when a 16-year-old girl called Onion emerges from the jungle and attempts to break into the freezer. She’s beaten to the ground and imprisoned in the very room she sought to break into.
Elsewhere, Kelsey takes potshots with a handgun at a sleeping turkey.
On day four, Speedy loses her mind.
Whilst tending to an unconscious Onion’s wounds, her aching belly finally sends her insane, and she begins lighting fires in Onion’s cell.
Elsewhere, Mercado’s nudity sends him berserk, running wild with the Boomalopes in nothing but an armored vest. In the potato fields Aura falls unconscious, apparently starving and suffering from heatstroke. Pools of blood-vomit surround her prone figure.
Giggles drags her inside, but there’s blood everywhere now, covering the floor and entrances to the shack. In a sickbed Aura sleeps fitfully, while Giggles and Speedy watching over her body. She needs medicine, but Kelsey has also gone berserk and crouches in the stockpile with a handgun, waiting to kill whoever tries to retrieve antibiotics and bandages for Aura.
Meanwhile, Mercado strips Onion naked and steals her pants. Onion is descending into her own madness now, turning increasingly hostile and thus consuming precious food without any potential of allying herself with my colonists. I order her rations cut. Join us or starve.
Back at the hut, Cole is murdered by a fox. Things are getting dire. I order Giggles and Speedy to turn on Kelsey, shooting and stabbing at him in an attempt to get medicine for Aura. But it’s too late. As Kelsey falls to the ground, Aura passes away in bed.
Later, mad with grief and the guilt of shooting her own brother, Speedy force-feeds Onion a rat.
The next day, in 42 degree heat, Giggles eats Aura’s corpse.
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