Ragnorium is a planet recolonization simulator where you must guide human clones to create a self-sustainable settlement and survive an oncoming Holy Crusade. While Ragnorium’s gameplay loop is engaging in theory, it is unfortunately mired by confusing UI, upgrade paths and bugs.
In an alternate universe, an event called Ragnorium destroyed the existing population and created a new world. In this new world 2 factions came about: the Clone Union and Ark Empire.
The Clone Union consists of corporations, scientists and clones. The Ark Empire is a coalition of religious communities. Despite having different ideologies these 2 factions tried to coexist. Unfortunately, the peace didn’t last and the Ark Empire has begun to wage a Holy Crusade against the Clone Union.
In this world, the privatization of space exploration has made colonizing with clones a commodity. As part of the Clone Union, you are a commander of such an odyssey and must assemble your ship, choose your clones and create a settlement on a barren planet. However, the Ark Empire are an ever present threat to you.
Ragnorium’s gameplay consists of different sections. Initially you build a basic spaceship with in-game credits that will be used to create a colony with a few clones. You can select specific clones with their own buffs and they cost different amounts depending on what you require. You have to also account for supplies so adding cargo is recommended as well.
After you’ve constructed your ship, you deploy it to a planet for recolonization. Here begins the mishmash of “god-game”, survival simulator, and RTS (real-time-strategy) mechanics. The learning curve at this stage is rather steep, even with the tutorial.
Each colonist has stats, a list of status bars representing their needs such as hygiene and thirst, places for skill capsules, and an inventory. It’s important to maintain their needs, keep helping them level and obtain more skills as the game progresses.
In order to create this self-sustaining colony, you can assign tasks to your clone colonists such as crafting, building and harvesting. These tasks can benefit the colonists, improve your colony’s sustainability and make the colonists happy.
However, whether they perform these tasks can be entirely based on their AI. Your colonists are not units you command but rather give suggestions to – they are automated. If they have more pressing matters such as pooping, peeing, resting or talking they will perform those actions instead. This can be quite frustrating when you have an urgent task that needs completion but your colonists are far too busy sleeping or crafting. In one instance, my campfire went out because the colonists weren’t maintaining the fuel and it happened at night when it was cold. More than half my colonists froze and the rest were killed by Crap Golems. Yes, your colonist’s poop can become a sentient, aggressive lifeform.
The upgrade paths in the game are also somewhat confusing and frustrating. You have influence and research levels that represent what you can construct. Some key construction paths require you to finish objectives to gain blueprints to be able to construct that item. Unless you’ve done an objective in a previous game, you can’t tell what kind of force you may have to fight. This can set you up for failure, as cancelling objectives can reduce your influence in the game and you need to increase your influence to reach new research levels. But continuing on a difficult objective can annihilate your colony.
Despite these problems, it’s still satisfying to get a smooth ship sailing. Keeping your colonists happy and making good progress is very rewarding since it is quite challenging. I really don’t know why it is so engaging to watch my little people grow.
The art style of Ragnorium is quite unique. It sets itself apart with pixelated 3D graphics and lots of post-processing effects. You really do feel like a commander at times as objectives and events flash on screen and distort the camera. The small cosmetic touches such as colonists getting specific hats or storage crates getting a specific item on top add to the charm of the game. Nearly every living thing also has googly eyes. I have no idea why such a choice was made but it definitely made me laugh seeing even the fish have googly eyes.
One shortcoming of some of the UI is that you can get lost trying to find a construction item that you are looking for. It’s also difficult tracking the needs of your colonists as a whole. I think the current layout isn’t too problematic, but there’s definitely information that gets lost in all the clicking and clutter. There’s a lot of room for improvement here.
The audio is good. There are audio cues that distinctly tell information such as level ups, finished constructions, critters, injuries etc. One critique I had was that there was a lot of beeping during the tutorial but I think a recent update must have toned that down since my second run didn’t seem as annoying. I could also the poop sounds are extremely cartoony but again it just made me laugh. The game doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously because you can find skateboards in the wasteland.
The music is also great despite the soundtrack being somewhat limited. The music reminds me a little bit of Battlezone and definitely keeps you immersed in the game.
BUGS. There are still lots of bugs in the game that are being worked on. Some bugs were game-breaking and were fixed within days such as colonists getting stuck on a bed and not being able to sleep. Often to solve a bug, I’d exit out and go back in. Still wasn’t a good start, especially after spending so much time in-game. Another bug was my colonists’ routes getting stuck for seemingly no reason or just being inefficient. The path-finding really needs some improvement.
This needed its own section. In game time is represented like so: roughly more than 1 minute in real life is 1 hour in-game. The pace can thus be achingly slow. Your run’s success can depend on how well you were setup and lucky in the first stages. The lack of being able to “save scum” (go back to a previous save where you didn’t choose the wrong objective or were annihilated by poop men) makes playing Ragnorium all that more difficult and frustrating. While I am more than up for challenging games, not being able to rectify a critical decision in such a long time-lapsed game can be very demoralizing.
Harvesting resources can take so long as well that Ragnorium feels like an “idle game” where you must wait and prepare and wait again to be able to succeed. An example is getting the best gear possible for a dangerous objective. Harvesting takes quite a lot of time, crafting takes more time. Hauling as well. The game doesn’t necessarily play poorly but it can definitely feel like a time sink when you’ve spent half a day playing but have only made it to day 2/3 for example.
There also needs to be more guidelines if you don’t want your players to try and guess what everything means. It would be nice to be able to somewhat sandbox and play without worrying about too many stats to see what upgrade paths there are. Maybe I’m being a bit soft here but time sinking to figure out how the cluck chickens work can deter people from investing time in the game.
Ragnorium has a lot of potential. It is engaging and fun for the most part. The major drawbacks are confusing UX, some wacky difficulty, bugs and time sinking. If this type of gameplay intrigues you then I definitely would recommend checking it out. The developer seems very active on bug fixes and feedbacks. One neat thing is that he has included his dev logs in the game itself and themed them appropriately. There’s clearly a lot of passion that went into Ragnorium and I hope it gets polished nicely!
Release date: September 18th, 2020 (Early Access)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Vitali Kirpu
MSRP: $24.99 USD