RimWorld’s new horror expansion also happens to be the best

In RimWorldYou play as crash-landed survivors who must build a new life on a hostile planet, surviving and perhaps thriving among raider attacks, AI insurgencies, and swarms of hostile insects. The game has a handful of expansions with new events and the latest, Anomaly, is the scariest yet. If you have even a small scratch to pick one up RimWorld expansion, Anomaly is by far your best choice.

RimWorld is a game about rolling with the punches, which are thrown by the game’s narrator, who controls the speed at which random events occur. For example, Phoebe Chillax leans toward the Stardew Valley side of the game, allowing the player to build farms, store food, and focus on the daily lives of the settlers. Meanwhile, Cassandra Classic slowly increases the tension with escalating events and only pauses after particularly difficult encounters.

A tough colonist may be able to fend off an attack from a raider, but then contracts a deadly infection. I might come across a temple full of wealth just because it’s full of killer robots. A prison guard gets so angry because his girlfriend says no to a proposal that he punches a gun turret until it explodes, killing him instantly. It is this inevitable tragedy that makes this RimWorld so convincing.

The other expansions of the game are Ideology, RoyaltyAnd Biotechnology, all of which add new ways to build your colony and change your colonists. Having to follow a set of religious principles Ideology makes for a fascinating social challenge, and I always have fun creating new genetic templates for my colonists Biotechnology. But none of the expansions feel like they dramatically change the cadence of the game. I always just build my base and wait for bots, bugs or bullies to attack me. Once I win that fight, I put out all the fires (both physical and metaphorical) from the aftermath and build it back up – rinse and repeat. It’s certainly fun, but over a long timeline it makes the game feel a bit stale.

Image: Ludeon Studios

Enter Anomalyan expansion inspired by The thing, The cabin in the woodsand other horror media. New settlements are always filled with ruins and resources, but now there’s something new: an ominous monolith. Attuning a colonist to the monolith triggers Anomaly events. Of course, that also includes new enemies, like creeping shadow figures and giant slugs that can swallow my poor colonists in one gulp. If I want to overcome these new challenges, I need to build containment fields, capture these bad guys, and then study them for new technologies and rituals.

As anyone who’s ever seen a single horror movie knows, this is a situation that can absolutely go wrong. But there are tons of new, non-monster related events that dramatically change the game and force me to play in a whole new way. I control the escalation of events by studying the monolith; The more I poke at it, the bigger the problem becomes. This means I can’t come at overwhelmed by new events, and I need to take the time to study subjects and prepare for the next escalation step.

Take, for example, the disturbing example of the golden cube. I received a call from a trusted ally who asked me to take something off my hands. They even gave me a bunch of extra supplies and military equipment as a thank you. Maybe I should have been suspicious, but I’m a giver at heart, so I agreed. They sent a cargo capsule and inside was a golden cube the size of a fist.

In the beginning everything was great. My villagers loved watching it and it put them in a good mood. I had my lead researcher look at it, but she didn’t see anything alarming at first glance. But things quickly got complicated. The cleric of my settlement began to stop her regular duties and began to wander around, absent-mindedly thinking about the cube. Then she started building small cube statues from earth and scrap metal. Eventually she stopped doing things altogether. Other settlers began to join her, and it wasn’t long before you couldn’t take a few steps in my settlement without tripping over a cube.

An obelisk in RimWorld's Anomaly expansion has backfired, creating dozens of clones of a single colonist, who tries to fight them in vain.

Image: Ludeon Studios

The affected colonists did nothing productive because they were too focused on the cube. They couldn’t leave the colony either, otherwise they would be too angry if they left the glorious cube behind. By the time my researcher realized there was a way to break the bond, a large portion of my population had been affected. Breaking the bond caused them all to go mad, and a civil war broke out in my colony between the cube-affected and the cube-immune. I lost my clergyman and a few other guys, but I made sure the funeral went smoothly.

You would think that would be the end of my troubles, but soon after, another faction offered me a non-specific gift. This time it was a mysterious obelisk that duplicated my best miner, Paul. I now had two identical miners, both claiming the Real Paul. This seemed like a great resource, and I started harnessing the power to pump out a large number of Pauls. But then I learned that every clone would inevitably experience organ failure. Happy, RimWorld allows you to harvest organs from your enemies, and raiders still showed up at my base every now and then. So I managed to improvise a solution for Paul’s several failing organs, and all I needed to do was set up a shaded harvest room.

This wild variety of events in Anomaly does that mean RimWorld feels much fresher. The other expansions affect what happens during your downtime, but the regular flow of battles and conflict feels the same. Anomaly adds so many weird and absurd events, and few of them can be summed up in “a bunch of bad guys running into your base.” These new forms of conflict can come from within The thingAn entity in style takes over the bodies of your cult members, or they can come from below, as a giant pit full of flesh beasts opens up in the ground. Anyway, I love these new and terrible stories that come out of it Anomalyand it feels essential for waking up a worn out one RimWorld experience.

RimWorld anomaly was released on April 11 on Windows PC. The expansion was reviewed on a Windows PC on a Steam Deck using a version purchased by the writer. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy can be found here.