Due to the nature of early access, the games we will be looking at are incomplete and much is being added to them. What we are reviewing is whether or not the early access program is worth the money right now. When – if ever – the games are officially released we will complete a new review and give it an actual rating.
Rust appeared to be a DayZ clone. You spawn with very little, you’re at the mercy of other players with no limits on the PVP and death can mean losing nearly everything. There’s even zombies at the moment (although these are due to be removed) and a range of weapons from melee tools all the way to automatic weapons. In some ways Rust is definitely derivative. At the very least it wouldn’t have been possible without DayZ leading the way with this kind of multiplayer survival sim. The big differences come from the setting and the focus. DayZ is about surviving and then killing. Rust is about surviving and then building.
When you spawn on most servers you’ll have a rock in your hand, maybe some bandages and a flaming torch with a limited lifespan. If you’re on a low population server you’ll see mountains, forest and maybe a beach in front of you. There isn’t an incredible sense of scale, even the mountains are small – foothills really – but they take the appearance of mountains. The forest are collections of maybe thirty trees, but with a little bit of imagination you can appreciate it. The graphics are reasonably poor – obviously in an early state although there is a nice lighting system that ties into the day/night cycle and can create a few spectacular sunsets if you’re in the right place at the right time. Night-times are also suitably dark so it’s difficult to get about at night without some kind light, but obviously a light will give you away should any other players be out on the hunt.
Your first port of call is usually to try and get some wood together (gained by hitting trees with a rock) and some rocks (gained by hitting a bigger rock with your rock). You might be able to scrape together some meat if you hit an animal (pigs are your best bet as they can’t run quickly) with your rock, and better prizes are on offer should you be able to take down a zombie. Of course the zombies are likely to fight back and with your starting equipment they’re pretty likely to win.
If you spawned on a busy server you’ll be greeted by a shantytown of little wooden sheds and maybe some larger forts. All of these are built by players and the creation tools are surprisingly powerful. They work on a grid system but there’s a fair amount of freedom – even if the creations end up slightly blocky looking. Trying to enter any of those sheds will be met with disappointment as doors can only be used by the player who created them unless you’ve got something like explosives to take the doors off. If you’re in a busy area you’ll also notice there’s a lot of other players about. Despite similar player counts, Rust seems to have a smaller map than DayZ’s, so you tend to see more players in any given area. To compound this is one of Rust’s coolest features at the moment. Sometimes there’ll be an air supply drop where a very visible and noisy plane will fly over the map and drop supply crates with all kinds of good stuff in. Naturally lease lead to hotspots where going anywhere near these crates is likely to lead to your demise, so players begin to stake the area out, working in teams to secure it until they feel confident they can get to the box and back safely.
If you die in the game (which you will) be it at the hands of a zombie, bear, another player or just sheer hunger – you’ll drop everything you’re carrying and can respawn wherever you have placed a sleeping bag. This is a little more lenient than most roguelikes, and often it’s entirely possible to reclaim your possessions if you were killed by an animal or zombie. You even get to keep any of the crafting blueprints you’ve learned, so there is a kind of persistent progression whatever you’re doing. That being said last time we died we’d amassed a huge amount of items and were around 100 metres away from our base. Upon respawning our bag was nowhere to be found, possibly hidden by the long grass, possibly destroyed by some kind of bug – the most annoying part was that it was impossible to tell which it was. Once lawnmowers are added to the game I’ll be heading back to that little glade with avengeance. (note: Lawnmowers are not planned for the game).
The atmosphere in Rust in unusual, there’s an element of Minecraft where you’re hiding at night but building in the day, there’s the constant fear of other players, there’s some kind of natural beauty to be found in the surroundings. There’s also a lot of bugs and jankiness due to the alpha nature of the game. All of this adds up to some kind of charm that’s half way between irritatingly broken and huge amounts of potential. There’s spectacular moments where you’re sitting out on the balcony of your colossal fort, warming around a fire (you get health back quicker if you’re safe and warm) and then suddenly a plane drops supplies right outside and you’re torn between getting your guns out to snipe scavengers, hiding inside your soon to be invaded home or simply going out to join in the fun – but then there’s also hours of frustration as you search for enough rocks to be able to build anything worthwhile. With a big group there’s definitely fun to be had with the early access – but if you’re a solo player with no support network it’d be better to wait it out until it’s a little less of a pain to play.