Rusty’s Retirement is both a lifesaver and detriment to my writer’s block

Posted on May 5, 2024

Often when I’m busy working or even writing about games, I’m still finding myself missing playing games. Perhaps that says something about my broken brain and constant need for dopamine, a conversation that’s due for another time. Until then, I finally have my fix. Rusty’s Retirement, an idle farming simulator that is situated at the bottom of my screen, offers small piecemeal tasks to complete while never wholly getting in the way. It is both a wonder and a detriment to my writer’s block.

Rusty’s Retirement comes from developer Mister Morris Games, the developer behind the 2022 Metroidvania title Haiku, the Robot. Oddly enough, it’s set in the same universe, depicting the minor character Rusty entering retirement and taking to tending a farm. Even though the adorable little robot seemingly does more work than I do in my professional life, seeing their estate grow tenfold, they’re living my dream.

Your plot starts small, featuring Rusty’s house at the centre and room for scarce plots of soil to place wheat, cabbage, radishes and the like. Before long, you’re getting two essential currencies out of crops when harvested by Rusty: biofuels and spare parts. These are basically how you do anything in-game, funding you for later land expansion, building homes for other helpers to increase productivity and other functions such as barns to house farm animals.

Upgrading helper bots to more efficiently water and transport crops, shipping enough crops so that you unlock the next one… there’s a really good and tangible progression found in Rusty’s Retirement. If you find progress slowing to a halt that little bit too much, my big suggestion to overcome this is not to be afraid to use that little button that converts biofuel into spare parts. Some buildings are very expensive and thankfully if you optimise right, you’re always raining in biofuel even when the spare parts dry up.

You get what you put out in Rusty’s Retirement. No real ‘end’ seems to be present, only further unlocking of other farm types and just the temptation to start anew to min-max  There are a lot of meaningful gameplay and experience modifiers and tweaks that can be made to suit the game to your needs. For instance, you can customise how present the game is when you’re trying to get other stuff done, easily changing on the fly what monitor the game is open on, its size on the taskbar or whether or not it is always open on top of other running applications. While it’s an idling sim and planting crops themselves never really takes longer than a minute depending on your setup, it still can be incredibly distracting, wanting to make sure everything is optimised for the future to make the next few hours of idleness run as smoothly as possible. It’s gotten to the point where Rusty’s Retirement itself has distracted me from… well, writing about Rusty’s Retirement.

If you do find yourself wanting to bunker down and get more actual real-world work done while the game is chipping away, there’s the unique function of ‘Focus Mode’ which slows everything down to half, doubling production time. In any other game I would find this feature terrible but in Rusty’s Retirement, it’s genius. With how many games are released this year, I sometimes feel this unfortunate but innate pressure to breeze through a game to move on to the next. I don’t want more time with a game than I need… except with Rusty’s Retirement. It’s a game I quite simply can’t get enough of. I don’t want to burn through its content too quickly. Focus Mode also quite simply lends itself to the idle-sim genre and should be a requirement for other titles in the niche going forward.

Make no mistake, this is an essential title for your Steam library. Rusty’s Retirement is doing what nothing else does. Its automation pipeline is incredible. Never have I seen a video game so beneficial to real-world productivity. I’m a serial multitasker with a short attention span, but Rusty’s Retirement is the perfect balance of feeling like you’re still getting some good gaming in while leaving plenty of space for your digital errands. Undoubtedly, it will be a trendsetter and it won’t be long before we’re seeing titles emulate all the good Rusty does.

Rusty’s Retirement sold over 100,000 copies in five days. In the days that have followed since that, those numbers are still ticking up and up. It’s easy to see why. It may not be the first to gamify productivity. Not even the first of this year. Still, Rusty’s Retirement is the real deal and is the absolute peak of its niche.

It’s available now and you should definitely check it out.