I love Rust! Ever since I first woke up naked and armed with a rock during the early months of the Alpha (which is probably the longest running Alpha in human history), I was hooked. I had played Day Z and was not really a fan, but something about the weirdness of Rust just sucked me in.
Rust’s core revolved around survival, building, and blueprints. Irradiated ruins held rare items and blueprints which taught players how to craft new items. Since dying resulted in your character losing everything, players progressed by accumulating blueprints, since these recipes were permanent. The blueprints allowed for progression and motivation for players to explore ruins.
But recently, this has changed. Blueprints are now gone, and have been replaced with an XP system which includes leveling and unlock tiers. This is similar if not identical to Ark, a game which actually borrowed a lot of features from Rust.
At first, I was not happy with the changes. The Blueprint system was an interesting take on progression, and it forced players to converge on ruins and airdrops, creating contested hot zones on the map. He who controlled the blueprints controlled the Rustaverse!
So I spent some time playing the updated game, and got to level 10 to give the new system a go. I gotta say, the new system isn’t that bad. Sure, It was great stumbling upon rare blueprints early on, but it became rather repetitive with players spending a majority of their time spamming building sleeping bags (which act as spawn points) near hotspots, and running in to get as many prints as possible before setting up a base. Later down the road, it became frustrating finding the same blueprint when you needed just that one blueprint which allowed you to craft ammo for a sweet rocket launcher you unlocked. They did add features like blueprint fragments and research tables, both of which made things easier, but the system still remained repetitive.
The XP system rewards players for doing general survival stuff like killing animals, crafting, chopping trees, and mining. This allows the player to progress by actually playing the game, rather than by bum rushing into a rad town to find an AK47 Blueprint. Since you're locked into a tier system, combat using more primitive weapons is more common, making the early game feel more brutal. The biggest plus is being able to inevitably acquire rare items which would usually take weeks of “barrel farming.” Even though you can’t acquire blueprints, ruins still remain useful since they can still drop items that are potentially a few levels ahead of you. This allows ruins to remain the chaotic hot spots we know and love.
As a diehard fan who has seen the game grow, I feel that the xp and tier features are the most dramatic steps the game has taken. These features are possibly the best ideas Rust has implemented. We shall see how they continue to work! I hear the Beta will come out alongside Half Life 3 (It says it on the tool cupboard so it must be true).