A gaming friend and I recently logged onto a Rust multiplayer server—we knew what to expect. As the server populations can sometimes get to be pretty high, we figured that the chances of us running into some hostiles here and there could be likewise high since my friend picked one of the busier servers.
In Rust, you can choose to play in official servers, which have pre-determined maps (at least much of the time), or you can jump into community servers, which usually featured procedurally created maps as well as user created mods. Since we like a bit of randomness and unpredictability in our games, we always go with the community servers.
Also in Rust, everyone spawns in with three things. A rock for smashing trees and stones with which to accumulate basic building resources, a torch for illumination at night (Rust has full day/night cycles), and your life. So after my friend and I spawned in at random places on the map, we quickly noted and relayed prominent geographical features to each other so that we could better locate each other.
Unfortunately, both of us individually ran into hostile parties (every person you see in Rust is another real life human player), and were promptly killed. Whether by gun, bow and arrow—it didn’t matter. We died, and we died yet again…and again. Finally, I came up with the brilliant idea of (gasp!) switching over to another server. Hopefully one that wasn’t so toxic and had a lower population count.
That ingenious decision served us well. After going from a server (ironically titled “Don’t be Mean,”) with a pop of 140+ to one with only 55 people, we spawned in and immediately repeated the chore of having to locate one another on the map. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. We remained unmolested, and reported to each other that although we’d run into random people, none of them had been hostile. They’d either been indifferent, or in some cases had even helped us by offering upgraded tools as well as food for our ever-growling bellies.
Soon, my friend reported that he’d come across a desert biome that looked ideal for setting up a base. There was silence for a while and then he suddenly chimed in again: “Hey, I met a friendly guy who wants to ally with us!”
“Really?” I replied, excitedly.
“Yeah, and he’s already set up. He says we can build right next to him if we want to.”
After locating my friend and our new ally, we built up our little starter base nearby. Our new comrade also crafted tools and weapons for us, seeing as we were still in our burgeoning phase. In the following timespan (I think our first session was around ten hours), we took in some other wayward players who were looking for respite from the normally dangerous wilds of Rust. Within days (real days, not digital ones), we’d amassed quite a following of like-minded folks and became the largest group on the server.
And that’s Rust in a nutshell. Set in a post-apocalyptic setting, Rust is all about survival of the fittest. You start by gathering the most meager of resources and then plant a small shack or tower down as soon as you find a spot that’s favorable to you. Rust also sports a very robust crafting system, allowing you to manufacture all manner of building supplies, clothing, weapons, and so forth.
In the past, Rust’s developers experimented with an experience system. The more you performed such tasks as gathering resources and building things, the more XP you’d gain. This in turn gave you access to higher tier items. Unfortunately, this system was exploited by too many clans online, who would simply level up through hours and hours of playtime, and then horde all of the higher level weapons and equipment. From there, they’d sally forth on raids and pretty much obliterate everyone else on their particular servers.
Just earlier this month (November), Rust’s very active developers announced that the XP system had been done away with, and replaced with the old component system which the game originally utilized. With the component system, you have to scavenge for resources in order to build specific items or equipment. The lower value weapons and equipment, such as bone knives and hide pants, are easier to manufacture since their components are more common. On the other hand, the more valuable stuff, such as bolt action rifles and armored vests, require harder to find resources.
This now makes your typical game of Rust much more dynamic, and allows for more emergent storytelling opportunities. For example, should you focus on building a certain weapon with which to fend off a band of frequent raiders? Or should you construct a walled metal forge so that you can more efficiently convert metal ore to metal fragments, and in doing so, craft snap traps and landmines for defense? Want to be your group’s tailor (as I have), have everyone donate their cloth to you so that you can manufacture everyone’s clothes. Or maybe you want to be a weapon smith—done.
Rust’s most recent updates have really improved the overall game, and have given newer players the opportunity to experience the game on a much more even playing field with the veterans. My only suggestion would be that you play with a group of friends. Rust can be a harsh and unforgiving world. One in which you can spend hours and hours gathering resources and building a base, and then get raided and have it all taken away by a mob of ruthless bushwhackers and scallywags. Therefore, I consider Rust a survival game in the truest sense. Brutal, unrelenting, and in many cases, daunting.
But when Rust works, it really works. There is nothing like the feeling of encountering other real live people and trying to see where they’re coming from. Are they going to be hostile or is there an opportunity for peace, and perhaps comradery? Or how about following a group of raiders who recently attacked your base, back to their area, and then returning the favor, raiding them? Pulling off a successful raid on a band of bullies is the sheerest form of come-uppance I’ve ever experienced in a game. It can also give your adrenal glands quite a workout.
Weapons and equipment aren’t futuristic in Rust, by the way—you won’t see any laser beams zipping through the air nor hovercraft traversing the varied landscapes (Rust has snowy, temperate, barren, and desert biomes). Everything is pretty much rustic (no pun intended). We’re talking salvaged items here, basically whatever you can get your hands on that works or is in decent condition. It also has a full-fledged base building system that can bring out the architect in every gamer. From smaller, more humble abodes, on up to mega fortresses armed with auto-turrets and high walls. Rust allows you to customize your base how you see fit.
Rust’s graphics have also seen a significant improvement since its original inception back in 2013. For anyone out there who hasn’t touched the game since that time, it would behoove you to try it again. Rust’s updated graphics are some of the best out there, not only just within the survival realm, but in any genre. Advanced shaders, light bloom, reactive vegetation, it’s all coming along very nicely. The developer is even talking about adding in different modes of transportation, such as horses and boats. This is one lovely game to show off to your friends on a buffed-up gaming laptop.
Although it can sometimes be frustrating, Rust is probably the purest form of survival (in the digital realm) out there. It’s robust crafting and base-building systems, sharp and fluid combat mechanics, beautiful graphics, and sense of comradery, combine to make Rust one of the most played games on Steam right now (just look at its popularity on Twitch for instance). I can’t wait to see where the developers go with it next.