Rust is the best game I’ve ever played when it comes to voice chat. On the world’s tiniest island, you’re naked and lonesome. When there isn’t any narration or announcement, you’re instead immersed in the quiet of the uncut grass crunching beneath your feet as you aimlessly slam your rock against the nearest pine.
In addition to mushrooms and flax, you may have gathered enough to keep you from going hungry and make a burlap shawl out of your shame. Rust campaign success depends on having a well-furnished shack just a few feet away from fresh water and reliable resources, which you can build if you’re particularly diligent.
That is until you hear it. At first, it’s just a little bit. The wind carries you along. Rust has yet another narcissist.
I’m at a loss as to why this game is so frustrating. Rust has a distinct regressive effect on humankind, whether it’s because you spawn naked and uncensored, the brutal vastness of the design, or the simple uncouth joy of doing bad things to other human beings.
When you’re spotted by an idiot, you’ll hear the shit-talk tickling your ear because the voice chat merges with the draw distance. Suddenly, you’re hopping over shotgun shells and absorbing an entire dictionary of insulting slurs as they get closer and more confident.
I wish I could say I didn’t love it because it’s so hilariously antagonistic. One of those naked idiots charged me with their rock, and I switched to the battle axe I made out of scrap metal (which he almost certainly didn’t know I was carrying) and put him down with a single well-placed strike, which felt incredible.
“Hey man, wait a second!” screamed a prepubescent boy as I stood over his dead body, laughing my ass off. I wish I could tell you that I didn’t laugh my ass off. If I could, I’d say that I didn’t kill him. As a game, Rust is unlike any other, and I wish I didn’t mean it to be an endorsement.
Because we’ve had Rust for so long, it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time. Facepunch Studios first released the game in Early Access at the end of 2013; since then, it has been the subject of numerous parodies on YouTube. If you haven’t heard of Rust yet, think of it as a more nihilistic version of Minecraft.
Imagine waking up on a map with nothing more than a rock and a torch as your only tools of the trade. Your rock can quickly be turned into prehistoric instruments like a spear or a hatchet by banging it against a few environmental doodahs. These basic resources include stone, wood, and cloth.
Scrounging is a common feature in many survival games, but Rust stands out for its extensive tech tree. You’ll eventually be able to craft pistols, flamethrowers, and rocket launchers from the same basic ingredients and a few mechanical leaps of faith (like workbenches and furnaces).
As a result of Rust’s reputation for not shutting down its servers to keep beginners away from the roaming troops armed with advanced weapons, your journey may end with you matching another player’s revolver with the rock you’ve tied to a stick.
Rust’s core is found here. Do terrible things to one another and run for your lives in the morning. One of the greatest stories ever told, or mythos, or a winning condition can never be bettered. A strange sense of futility is created when the island is scrubbed clean of any lingering buildings or fortifications left behind by the players, which is the case on most servers.
You will indeed have to keep track of your health and other basic bodily functions as you progress up the technological ladder, but that is all there is to it. For all that there are radiation-stricken areas on the map that suggest you and your fellow misanthropes are living in a post-collapse society, they feel more like window dressing than reality.
From afar, I was impressed with the level of coordination. The multi-man raids that sprout from dedicated Discord channels all over the world are documented by several YouTube documentarians. Instead of interacting with the people of Rust on a more personal level, I only spoke to them on an ad hoc basis.
Crossbows are dropped at your feet by a heavily-armed man who takes pity on you. That’s rust! During an abandoned gas station heist with me, I give him the extra pair of pants I had been carrying around. When I’m looking the other way, he smashes his rock into my skull and runs away with my belongings. That’s Rust, too.
It’s not surprising that the community in Rust was characterised by a juvenile and toxic demeanour. My departure from the channel was necessitated by a high concentration of racism and misogyny.
Unsurprisingly, the onboarding process for newcomers is a rough one. Creating a tutorial was not a priority for the development team (which makes some sense, when you consider how long the game has been available). There are only a few faint hints when you first join one of the many servers:
“harvest wood!” and “build a hatchet!” A well-written tooltip for each item in the catalogue makes the crafting system fairly easy to understand; a few resource spawns can lead to some serious weaponry. PvP combat isn’t spectacular, but it’s satisfying to connect your hatchet to an idiot’s head and the accompanying sound effects are just what I needed.
Additionally, there is a strange post-release monetization model, whereby you can purchase ugly paint jobs for your weapons and clothes. Rust intrigues for a slew of reasons, but one of them is the lack of Counter-Strike-style weed-leaf AWPs.
However, I believe that everyone should at the very least try Rust. Considering how little faith it has in our ability to get along, I can’t think of many other games with such an uncompromising worldview. On this island, we could create a perfect society! A peaceful community where everyone is fed, warm, and loved could be built if we put down our weapons.
Fascinating how Facepunch presents us with the possibility of something great but offers us no real reason to act on it. On our terms, we will dehumanise ourselves and turn Eden into a battlefield.
When you finally succumb to violence in Rust, the sense of complicity is greater than in any other survival game on the market. If you don’t care about rankings, K/D ratios and exclusive vendors—even though none of this matters once the server is wiped out—you’re still at war, and you always will be.