Rust is an online only, always active survival game where your player character is random and fixed and the world is full of other players who want to ruin your day.
Yet it’s a game that I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into, and it is fascinating to play.
So there I am. Halfway up a cliff face in my house. I built it up there so it would be an effort to raid, and keep me out of harm’s way. Even so, judging by the public chat in the edge of my screen, someone has decided to pick a fight with the Ukrainian people in the valley below. They’re nice enough. We have an agreement to trade now after I accidentally shot one a few days ago. I give them spare sulfur when I see them, they don’t wipe me off the map. The system works.
I’m working on smelting some metal fragments. Need them to reinforce the ceilings on my little shack.
I finish off, and go to place the spare materials in the chest beside my bed in the safe room.
That’s when the explosion happens. I quickly take my rudimentary water pipe shotgun out of my box. I throw on my flimsy wooden armour, and open the door. There’s a man outside the door, inside my house, staring at my furnace. He’s got heavy roadsign armour on, and he’s clutching a rifle.
I may have panicked. I fired wildly, slamming the door closed again. Didn’t even come close to hitting him.
With very little chance,I resort to pleas. I type in the all chat that if they leave the room I’m in, they can loot the rest of the house. The message flashes up on the screen, next to my player icon.
A second passes. A heavily accented voice calls out from outside the door. “Friend? Is this your house?” It is the Ukrainians. I didn’t realise.
Catching someone in a talking mood is rare, so decide to make the most of it.
“I didn’t mean to shoot you? I thought you were raiding my house.”
“Oh no! Friend, we are sorry. We were chasing a raider. He ran past and we lost him. We thought he was hiding in here “
“Accidents happen. It’s okay. Could have been worse.”
“No. You wait here. We will fix this for you.”
At this point, he clearly switched over to whatever voice server him and his friends were using, as I caught the switches of voip channels and snatches of Ukrainian.
60 seconds later, a man runs up the hill to my house. He is carrying more resources than I could mine on my own in a week’s worth of play sessions.
I try to refuse, saying I barely need anything.
“Take it! It is nothing. And you are a good neighbour. Hardly ever shoot at us. Hard to find in Rust.”
Rust is an online survival game. You wake up on a beach, naked with only a rock and a torch. From there, you smash trees and rocks for resources. You scavenge from junk piles and crates. You build yourself a home and hopefully find others to survive with. And then you will die. And maybe have to start completely from scratch.
Rust is hard to justify playing sometimes. It’s difficult to recommend to most people. The game is 100% online and persistent all the time. There will literally always be people around on the server to take away your progress. Going from the beach to a secure house can take around an hour of playtime, which can be drastically cut short by being caught off guard by other players.
There’s a saying in the all chat. (Between the usual drivel on public servers)
“No Trust in Rust”
Everyone is a potential, and probable, threat.
And yet, there are two things that make Rust utterly compelling. One, as I’ve suggested above, is the utter infinity of possibilities that exist when the entire world is being run by players. A potential threat is not a guaranteed one. There are those players who will just wipe you from the map. Or sometimes, after a protracted series of engagements, a kind of mutual respect emerges. You stay on your patch, they stay on yours. And both of you say screw the guys on the far side of the island. They’re asses.
Or you just run into some nice ukranian folks.
Second, the constant possibility of losing everything is actually very freeing. There’s a sense of accomplishment in building a spot sure, but there’s no point in being anxious at the thought of losing what you’ve worked on.
Rust encourages players to accept that whatever they build is temporary. And that you shouldn’t trust anyone. It is engrossing and compelling to a fault, but with a serene ethos that stops it being infuriating to play.