Last week, many players of the survival sandbox game Rust woke up to a sudden, surprising change in their characters—half of them were now female. This was a permanent change, and was linked to players’ accounts so it would stay the same across different servers. Previously, the game had randomly assigned skin color and, oddly, penis size as well. The latter actually is an issue because unlike in most games, you start off completely naked and most players stay that way. Since there are extremely few games that require players to play as anything other than mysteriously endowed white men, some players found this extremely disconcerting. Game dev Garry Newman responded in an op ed in the Guardian.
Inevitably, there are people who like it and people who don’t. Some players have praised what we’re doing. Like us, they think that who you are in the game, your race and gender, makes no difference to the actual gameplay – and are happy to have the diversity. Others aren’t so positive. They feel that playing a gender or race that doesn’t match their own is detrimental to their enjoyment.
These articles were enough to make me want to play it, and since I already got a copy of the game in a Humble Bundle, I decided to give it a go. Mostly, I just wanted to know what size my penis would be.
You start the game waking up in the middle of the wilderness. Or, well, kind of. I tried two different Rust servers and I’ve seen other playthroughs, and the setting is more like “wilderness that has been overrun with abandoned construction projects.” Because there are newbie shacks EVERYWHERE. It’s actually hard to find a place to build your own newbie shack, and by the time you do, you’ve been killed by something and have woken up empty-handed in a different part of the map.
Rust was originally a Day Z clone, and in the earliest version of the game, there were zombies. The zombies were subsequently replaced with wolves and bears, but they’re not very interesting enemies. At least with zombies, there’s a good reason for them to be wandering mindlessly through a landscape of little wooden huts. The wolves and bears, which are few and far between, kind of spawn out of nowhere. Do they have dens and mates and cubs? Do they live in certain biomes? What do they eat, besides people? Do they sleep? Games like Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto give animals like that a realistic place to be so they don’t seem out of place. In Rust, they’re basically just reskinned zombies. Maybe I’m asking too much from a game where all raw meat is described as “raw chicken breast” no matter which animal you harvest it from.
The controls were tricky at first. They shouldn’t have been, since they’re pretty much the same as any other survival game. You spawn with a rock and a torch, and you can hit things with your rock in order to harvest materials. The problem I had is that the hit box for the rocks and trees is oddly shaped, so if you’re standing even slightly wrong, you don’t actually hit what you’re aiming at and it appears that what you’re attacking isn’t actually harvestable. I assumed I was doing something wrong, so I went looking for a newbie tutorial to find out how to start the game.
Okay. Thanks for that. I’ll figure this out myself.
On my second attempt, I spawned at night, laying on the beach. A plane was just skimming by overhead, and a tiny supply drop was coming toward me. What luck! Would I be able to get supplies immediately?
Lol no. I made it three steps before coming across two players who had also seen the supply drop and were waiting with crossbows. One of them shot me and tried to loot my body as I screamed and writhed on the ground, slowly bleeding to death. Dying in this game is a little more extreme than in some. My only comfort was that I had nothing to loot.
Third attempt! It was dawn by this point, so I was able to wander a bit through the country side. I figured out how to hit a rock with another rock and harvest stones and metal ore. I demolished one rock, then went to another one. Pounding footsteps behind me were the only warning I had. I spun around in time to get a pickaxe to the face, and died instantly.
Fourth attempt. I kept far away from the slightest sound of other players. If I heard someone chopping a tree or shooting a rifle, I ran. I gathered some wood and stone, and for the first time began to get a little into the game. With 100 wood, you can make a sheet of (really dense?) paper. With the paper, you can make a blueprint, and with the blueprint, you can start to build structures.
This is actually pretty useful. Rather than filling your inventory with walls and floors and things, you just hold the blueprint, right click to select what you want to build, and then hover over the place you want to put it. If you have the materials in your inventory, it will automatically build it. Later in the game, you can find blueprints for more high level items.
I found a lovely little place that was actually free of other players’ settlements, and started to build. I got a floor, and a wall, and then I tried to make a basic shack door—
So I tried again.
And then again.
At a certain point, however, my luck turned, and I finally found a part of the map where other players were few. (Bear in mind, I’d chosen the least populated server I could find.) I managed to build myself a cute little hut. I still haven’t worked out food and clothes, but it’s a start. I mean, to be honest, I’m sure it won’t still be there when I start the game again. But at least I got that far.
It’s a pretty game, I have to hand that to it. I do find the game dev’s social experiment interesting. If I didn’t already have 7 Days to Die and Ark: Survival Evolved to get my survival sandbox game fix, I might like this a lot more. But I don’t want to be forced to play multiplayer with strangers on the internet, and I don’t like the game enough yet to drop money on a private server. Apart from PvP, which doesn’t interest me, there’s not a lot to this game. The animal attacks are so sudden and random that they’re more like an aneurism than an enemy. Unlike in other games, you’re not building up to hold off the zombie hordes. You’re not harvesting berries to tame dinosaurs. You’re just killing other players so they don’t kill you first, and frankly that’s not my thing. If I’m going to slaughter people, I prefer they be NPCs. I certainly don’t play games because I want to interact with people.
On the other hand, if you do like multiplayer games, or if you have a load of friends who all want to play it with you, it could be pretty cool. If you set up your own server it’s even better. Perhaps you’re less of a misanthrope than I am. If so, go ahead and check it out.
I’m going to give it three out of five stars.