Rust’s head developer Garry Newman doesn’t like it either. In his end-of-year developer blog, he graded Rust’s progress at C-. They called that ‘significant room for improvement’ when I was at school, and it certainly applies here. “The game looks better than it ever has, but what we gained in graphics we have lost in gameplay – and that’s unforgivable,” said Newman. That loss can seen in the gaping hole left by so many cut elements. Roads are missing, which were essential for navigation. Blueprints and research opportunities are absent, which were vital for providing something to discover and work towards. And the zombie-infested towns are cut, which previously offered a genuine sense of danger.
So what has improved? It’s a much prettier game; its visuals now betray that it’s still very much a work-in-progress. The UI is lovely and slick with simple colours, bold text, and contextual menus. The island map has been abandoned, and the world is now procedurally built up from a handful of different biomes. A trek across the landscape takes you from snowy mountain slopes, through cactus-sprouting deserts, and into dense forests. The world feels a little less barren thanks to ‘monuments’ – interesting structures like satellite dishes, lighthouses, and even huge wolf statues that hint at a long-dead civilisation. Not only are they great exploration opportunities, but also points of reference that make navigating the map easier. Combined with the fact that a default map is now 16km² rather than 64km², finding other people is now less like diving into a hay bale to find a needle.