‘Rymdkapsel’ Review: ‘Tetris’ Meets ‘Dwarf Fortress’

Webbfarbor AB is certainly a company with a rather odd sounding name, and their recently released title Rymdkapsel (out now, $3.99) is not exactly fairing any better in the fathomability department. The first thing you’re probably wondering is what exactly a game titled ‘Rimmed Capsule’ (at least as far as I can tell) is going to be all about, because the name itself is certainly not giving any hints. Well, the best way to describe the enigma that is Rymdkapsel would probably to describe it as a neon-infused minimalist presentation mixture of elements from both Tetris and Dwarf Fortress.

rymdkapsel6While I’m sure that nearly everyone reading this review is quite familiar with Alexéy Pájitnov, I would definitely venture a guess that most of you have never tangoed with the survival management behemoth that is Dwarf Fortress. This is – to put it briefly – a game where you are tasked with building a neon colored base out in the cold confines of outer space, all the while surviving a never ending onslaught of ever larger enemy attack waves. The catch is that while you are free to build your base however you like, the shape of each segment is determined by the next tetrad listed rather than the type of installation you are crafting.

Rymdkapsel’s basic rule of construction is that everything you build – including walkways themself – can only be erected next to a brown pathway block, meaning that right off the bat players must be careful to not build themself into a corner. Once a planned segment has been mapped out your minions will – if they have been properly assigned – begin building it, at least so long as you have the necessary resources on hand. The three chief resources in Rymdkapsel are cubes of energy – pyramids of food – and tiles of materials, all of which have to be harvested via their own unique factory and method.

1375790821The energy cubes are produced in reactor rooms, which don’t need anything to operate other than mere existence since they use collected solar energy from the sun as their fuel source. The material production plants must be built next to an undulating material supply field – which itself is a finite resource – in order to function, but will otherwise operate themself so long as the necessary fuel is present. The kitchens that produce the food pyramids are definitely the oddest duck of the bunch; while they will automatically convert sludge units into usable food, assigned minions must first move the sludge from the separate garden installations that automatically grow it.

Unlike RTS titles such as Warcraft – the original two games, not that the MMO juggernaut that the series has evolved into – resources in Rymdkapsel aren’t immediately ferried off to a pocket dimension for storage upon being utilized. If a minion needs a type of material to build a room – with every type of room requiring varying amounts of each resource – he will have to walk all the way over the nearest relevant production plant, afterwards walking all the way back the current construction project. This process will have to be repeated over and over until the requisite number of building materials have all been painstakingly transported over to the designated tetrad shaped construction area.

1375790898Because of this the shape of how you lay out your base quickly becomes a matter of extreme importance, since all progress will grind down to a near standstill if minions have to travel the length of your entire base to find the resource they need. That’s nothing to say of what will happen if the minions aren’t anywhere near a defense installation when the next incoming attack wave arrives, for they will be little more than sitting ducks standing around on their own. Of course, this is all assuming you even remember to begin assigning them to run for the defense stations early enough that they reach them before the aliens arrive with guns blazing.

Speaking of which, the assignment of minions is handled in a way that works extremely well within the touch screen environment one is always dealing with when making games for the iOS. At the bottom of the screen is a list of all the tasks your minions can possibly be doing at any given moment: engineering (accelerating energy production), construction (moving materials to build new installations), defense (manning one of the two attacks suits in each given defense installation), food preparation (making sure kitchens have sludge, as well as barracks having food), and research (I’ll cover more on this later). Dragging your finger from one section to another will cause a worker to leave that job and switch over the selected task instead, and Rymdkapsel is smart enough to start the reassignments with idling excess minions first.

rymdkapsel3At this point you’re probably wondering where you’re going to be getting more of these minions, since it’s always easier to ferry materials about if more workers have been assigned to the job. The answer to this is the barracks installation, each of which supplies an additional two minions – on top of the base two you begin Rymdkapsel with – so long as they are supplied with food. To this end – since you will often lose vital minions each time the regularly scheduled invasion arrives – it’s absolutely vital to make sure that kitchens are not only near areas of new construction, but your barracks as well

However, the ever increasing invading alien waves will – even with the best of base management skills – quickly outstrip your ability to increase your means of expansion and defense. It is here where the need to find and research the ancient monoliths comes into play, which become accessible to you whenever a walkway is built connecting them to your base of operations. Whenever one of these is 100% analyzed you will gain a bonus to the speed of your construction abilities, an increase to the range of your weapons, an increase the speed your minions move about the base, or something vital of that sort.

Obviously – much like Dwarf Fortress before it – the ultimate fate of every outer space fortress you begin in Rymdkapsel is to eventually meet with utter annihilation, because “Losing is Fun!” This wouldn’t be too much of a problem since this is a standard end result for games such as this, but the annoying part here is that the earliest parts of the game move at a pace that might best be described as maddeningly plodding. While the mix of randomized tetrad dictated construction meets Dwarf Fortress style survival is certainly a unique blast for the genre, the game would be far more interesting if there was a way to start each session with more than the most barebones of space fortresses.


Rymdkapsel manages to combine the resource and pathway management sensibilities of Dwarf Fortress with the shape management madness of Tetris, with the end result being something wholly unique. With the order of incoming tetrads being different every run, each play through will always be unique since the randomness will require a custom strategy to be employed every time. The chief downside to all of this is that the extremely slow pace of the minion’s starting abilities means that there will always be a lengthy lull period before things ever start to become interesting.