The Best Games Like Rimworld & Dwarf Fortress26 Mar 2020 1
As Charles Caleb Colton said back in the days of the Commodore 64: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. But what must be remembered is that without imitation we wouldn’t have innovation. Dwarf Fortress laid the groundwork by innovating on games like King of Dragon Pass. Now, while the text based clan manager is near unrecognisable to our modern town-builders, it’s influence is still felt.
While the free version of Dwarf Fortress is great, it’s arcane UI and losing-is-fun design does turn off a lot of would be players. So the design was innovated and along came Rimworld. But now Rimworld has been around for seven years and it’s time to see what new innovations have come along since.
Dwarf Fortress Steam
Developer: Bay 12 Games
Available: At some point via Steam
The only thing better than a game like Dwarf Fortress... is Dwarf Fortress itself! This is a bit of a cheeky entry but it's worth bearing in mind that the upcoming Steam release of Dwarf Fortress isn't the exact same game that legend speaks of. Developers Bay 12 are formalising the habits of some players by giving it an official skin pack which will give it graphics comparable to any of the modern successors below. The developers are also looking at adding additional premium features themed around creating a version of Dwarf Fortress for a more mainstream audience, although it pretty much plays the same and will be updated inline with the the free/classic version.
Dwarf Fortress on Steam will include the original game, in all it's retro glory, as well as skinned-up modes such as Fortress Mode & Adventure Mode. It will also come with official Steam Workshop integration. Sadly, there's no timeline as to when this will release, so we'll have to just sit tight in the interim. Maybe play some of the games below.
Developer: Holistic Games
Available: Steam (Early Access)
First Feudal (thanks to Steam’s algorithms) is the first game that Steam recommends on the Rimworld store page. Granted, it does have some similar elements. You collect resources, craft workbenches, and build workshops and homes by placing walls, doors, and floors. You even control villagers, giving them tasks and tools and satisfying their needs for food and sleep.
First Feudal doesn’t just copy the format though. Instead it is more like a town building RPG where you control a character and must build up the town by leading the villagers as opposed to Rimworld’s omniscient overseer. The concept is good, putting you in the thick of it with the villagers theoretically adds more investment into the colony. However, at this point in early access the AI is clunky and slow. If they lack a tool they will stand around doing nothing which, while giving a more realistic view on group work, leaves the experience feeling flat. Tack this on to the wave survival and First Feudal ends up feeling more like a tower defence with extra steps.
If you are a fan of Factorio but want a medieval experience then First Feudal might be a good call. Actually, come to think of it that would be an interesting game...
King Under The Mountain
Developer: Rocket Jump Technology
Available: N/A - Pre-order
This one is a bit of a wildcard as it's not actually available yet. It had a successful Kickstarter that concluded in the middle of August, but otherwise is not available for general release yet, although you can still pre-order it via Backerkit. King Under The Mountain is to Rimworld what Neanderthals were to us and both can trace their lineage straight back to Dwarf Fortress.
The Kickstarter promises an experience that for all intents and purposes is identical to Rimworld except with a high fantasy wrapping and a few unique selling points. First up, you’re dwarves! Yay! Except you don’t always have to be. The Kickstarter promises the ability to play as humans and orcs, both of which have their own unique requirements and playstyles.
As it currently stands King Under The Mountain feels closer to Prison Architect with the furniture available to rooms being decided by what 'zone' they are rather than the other way around. That isn’t a bad thing though as it means the UI is kept simple and straightforward.
Their Kickstarter page also links to a prototype so you can try it out for yourself - as of the September development update, the dev team are currently working on adding ins a save/load feature. We have our fingers crossed King Under The Mountain turns out as good as its role models.
Publisher: LW Games
Available: Steam (Early Access)
Civitatem is similar to First Feudal in that you get an avatar that is physically present in the world but doesn’t depart much from the Rimworld ancestry and keeps you in your omniscient position. It’s also similar to Rimworld in that the art style is nearly identical but that’s about as far as the comparisons go. Civitatem is more like sadistic town-builder Banished albeit with a tighter focus. Much like it’s inspiration seasons play a large role in the survival of the colony with animals migrating away during winter and crops needing to be planted in spring to come up in time.
While Civitatem may get some flak for having a generic appearance it seems to have some original ideas under the hood with promises of an “exploration mini-game” to discover other settlements. However, it’s too early in development to tell what Civitatem is going to become when it’s finished. If you were a fan of Banished and Rimworld then keep an eye on this one as the developer seems to be putting a lot of effort in.
Judgement: Apocalypse Survival Simulation
Ignoring the biblically long title, Judgement is a neat little colony management game set during the apocalypse. The name really tells you everything you need to know about the concept. You start with 3 campers who were lucky enough to be out in the woods when Hell erupted and have to build a settlement while waiting for the whole mess to resolve itself. I can really appreciate that kind of mentality.
To keep with the theme, you have a 'visibility' meter that you need to take care of. Researching stealth tactics, camouflaging, and certain rituals allows you to stay under the radar and creates a nice natural progression. Grow too fast and you risk catching the attention of the demonic forces. Grow too slow and you run the risk of not being able to defend yourself.
Colonists are relatively smart, taking care of jobs that seem the most important, though this means one colonist will become obsessed with the well and another with the research table. Ruins around the forest can be scavenged for random supplies and there are other locations on the world map that can be scavenged.
The biggest departure from its ancestry is the inclusion of real-time tactical combat. When combat starts, the game switches from base building to putting you in full control of the colonists. Trees and structures provide cover which your ranged units can use à la X:Com. Each colonist has a selection of special abilities based on their equipment, traits, and skills and while it isn’t as in-depth as its predecessor, it’s still fun.
If you’re looking for a Rimworld experience from a base building and horrible raids point of view, then Judgement doesn’t disappoint.
Oxygen Not Included
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Probably the biggest name on this list, and one that most Rimworld fan have heard before, but for those who haven’t heard; Oxygen Not Included is one of the best alternatives.
Swapping the top-down for side on, Oxygen Not Included puts you in charge of a clone filled asteroid base and ramps the difficulty up to 11. Not content with just managing colonist’s mental states and physical health, you are also in charge of dealing with the temperature, water quality, and pollution. Put the bathrooms next to the reservoir? Yeah, everyone’s going to get sick.
Originally I felt that Oxygen Not Included was too difficult and had little in the way of content but Klei have continued to update it at a frantic pace and have expanded and improved pretty much every month.
The biggest challenge is managing the rising or falling temperatures, moving gasses, and dealing with build ups of polluted liquids from the small bladdered colonist. Everything about it is bursting with character from the build up of tears from sad replicants to the way they curl up like cats in their beds.
If you like Rimworld and need a change of pace, Oxygen Not Included is a perfect alternative.
Do you have a favourite Rimworld alternative? Let us know in the comments!