Instead of doing minor edits and publishing the last post, I continued playing Rimworld for about 25 hours over a week. Yeah, all other games in progress (aside from GW2 dailies) have been blown away. However, in that time, I have come to a number of conclusions. Or maybe just a primary one from which all others follow.
The Rimworld DLCs make no sense.
Royalty was the first DLC to be released. The big addition was the sort of Fallen Empire faction that you interact with almost immediately in every playthrough. If you ally with the Empire, you can select one or more pawns to start accruing Honor via quests and such, which is used to ascend royal ranks, which in turn unlocks the ability to have Psycasts. Higher ranked pawns will need increasingly spurious luxuries befitting their titles, requiring the creation of a throne room, better quality clothes, and so on.
If you don’t ally with the Empire, you basically don’t get to play with Psycasts. There are a few opportunities to waylay Imperial caravans and steal the items that grant Psycast levels, but they are few and far between from what I have heard. That said, each map also has an Anima Tree somewhere that allows Tribal-based (and only Tribal-based) pawns to meditate/worship at its trunk to eventually unlock all Psycasts and assorted goodies, no Empire needed.
In practice, the entire Royalty DLC feels at odds with its premise. Roleplaying as a royal colony and eventually using the Empire as a win condition (joining the Imperial flotilla) is perfectly fine. Tying Psycasts to royal titles is not. The earliest Psycast that has any particular use (Vertigo Pulse) requires the Knight rank. The next one is Praetor, which unlocks Skip (tactical teleport) and Wallraise (cover on demand). These are very useful abilities, but each individual pawn would need their own separate throne room and gain the appropriate amount of individual Honor to gain them. It also gets a bit goofy having a Count, whom “might have a personal fleet of capital ships,” be slumming around with the rest of the fighters to take out a Mechanoid Cluster.
Tribalists being able to short-circuit the entire Psycast system by spending time at an Anima Tree kinda drives everything home. I haven’t done so myself, but there is plenty of chatter about how you can get your entire Tribal colony to be level 6 Psycasters very easily, which would otherwise require a half-dozen throne rooms and other goofiness the “normal” way. There are probably mods out there to fix things, but why not have rituals or research or whatever to allow non-Tribals access to Anima Tree benefits? Royal ranks would still have a purpose – Permits are enough of a thing IMO to justify the title system – plus perhaps you could make it easier for royals to find/buy/hand out the Psycast-level items.
For the Ideology DLC… there isn’t much to say, actually. It opens up some directed roleplaying and/or absurd min-maxing opportunities. In my current playthrough, it doesn’t really add much to the gameplay aside from some annoyances. For example, at least two of the main factions on the planet are Supremacists, which means they are effectively permanently hostile (on top of the always-hostile pirates, raiders, etc). Beyond that, my colony can… uh… perform one dance party a year. Two of my pawns can give a few speeches, but even if you max out the chance of success, there’s still a minimum chance of failure. There are also a series of quests to find a relic, but near as I can tell, that ultimately gives a mood buff equivalent to eating at a table during the once-per-year dance party.
For the Biotech DLC, we come around again to absurdity.
Using Biotech to create custom starting scenarios is perfectly fine. Cannibal mole men? Beautiful furkin? Straight-up vampires? Go for it. However, there’s a big chunk of the mid-game revolving around Genebanks and such that allow you to acquire genes (purchased or extracted) and augment your pawns. But… why? The system is extremely random and requires a colony with excess resources to the point that you may as well just be installing bionic limbs and such. Moreover, if you are creating a custom xenotype at the outset, things would be much faster just having your existing pawns have children of said xenotype versus some convoluted system of extracting genes from your pawns and mashing them together into a former prisoner you converted. There may be some point to the system once you start looking at the more OP Archite genes, but that requires purchasing Archite capsules, then the Archite genes, and then implanting them. All to do what? Make one pawn superhuman in a way fully bionic organs in Cataphract Armor does not?
On the other hand, children are amazing in Biotech. It allows your colony to grow in an organic way, it ups the stakes during raids, and I appreciate watching them become more useful additions to the family. The stories that get generated in this way are also novel. For example, I took in a small refugee family of a father, mother, and small child. Things were going well… until I got the notification that a Fennec fox was hunting the child, who for some reason was trying to haul boulders from across the map. Unable to reach the fox in time, the child was downed and then eaten. This caused the mother to fly into a murderous rage… in the middle of a classroom where she was teaching my colony’s first child. She beat him to death with a club, which I had not removed from her inventory.
And that’s how I learned to always restrict the zones where children can roam. And disarm refugees.
After I reloaded an earlier save game, of course. Iron man, I am not.