Melee combat in RimWorld has changed drastically with the introduction of the Biotech expansion. The new xenotypes and melee combat perks have made it a much safer, more viable strategy for defending your base. To help you navigate these changes, we’ve put together this guide to the best melee weapons in RimWorld, along with some other helpful melee combat tips!
Our guide assumes you have the Royalty and Biotech expansions, since they add a massive amount of content for melee fighting. We’ll go over everything you need to know about melee combat and which weapon you should arm yourself with to deal with raiders (and other threats) when they get up close and personal in RimWorld.
Melee Combat Explained
In the full vanilla version of the game, melee can be incredibly dangerous if you lack the “tough” character trait. Without the trait, an unexpected blow to the neck or head could cut even the most experienced warrior’s career short.
Nowadays, with all the DLCs and updates, keeping a stock of quick-moving fighters to close in on long-range enemies is invaluable. Keeping some melee fighters around becomes especially important when you begin fighting mechanoids in significant numbers. This is because individual combatants in RimWorld can’t engage in ranged combat while fighting another target in melee. They’ll even resort to bashing their target with the butt of their rifles if an opponent gets too close.
Choosing Your Fighters
There are a few factors to consider when planning how to equip your melee fighters. The first is choosing who should be wielding a close-range weapon in the first place. Whenever two characters engage in melee combat, they both have an opportunity to hurt each other. The damage exchange is calculated based on the relative melee skill of the two fighters. Having a higher melee skill increases your chances of landing (or dodging) an attack.
Both DPS and dodge chances are also affected by a colonist’s sight stat. Anyone with a wounded or missing eye will take a hefty penalty to all aspects of melee combat. This makes eye injuries a high priority for bionic replacement later on in the game.
Finally, there are a few other skills to keep in mind. The melee DPS of a combatant, while primarily based on skill and equipment, also factors in their manipulation skill. You’ll typically on see this stat dropping if a colonist is missing some fingers or has something reducing their consciousness stat (like blood loss). On the opposite defensive side of this, dodging melee attacks is influenced by the movement speed of the target. This makes it very important not to put colonists with leg injuries on the front lines.
As soon as you can, you’ll definitely want to put shield belts on your close-range fighters. Shield belts can absorb ranged fire from both enemy gunners and friendly fire from behind. Mixing in some jump packs can help diversify your tactics and cripple the back line of an enemy.
Try to avoid putting heavy armor on your front-line melee fighters. Otherwise, they will struggle to close the distance quickly and will also have a harder time dodging attacks. If you can, set up three fighters on the other side of a doorway. This will let them knock down one enemy at a time in the case that someone breaks into your base.
Eventually, after a good amount of research and various quests to get the tech blueprints or needed materials, you’ll be able to start fixing up some of the damage that your colonists have taken in the past.
There are a good number of combat-focused body modifications you can use to either replace damaged parts or replace working ones with superior parts. Prosthetic limbs, acquired fairly early on, will always be worse than the parts they replace. As such, you should only use them as a matter of medical necessity.
However, bionic limbs and the various combat parts might be worth adding to someone with perfectly functional limbs. Bionics improve the baseline stat of whatever part they’re replacing. This means bionic arms will have higher manipulation (and thus melee DPS), and bionic legs will improve movement speed (and thus melee dodge chance).
Some parts are strictly for combat though. The base version of the game comes with power claws, which remain one of the most powerful of all the implanted weapons. They do come with a movement speed debuff, so there is no reason to install more than one power claw.
All implanted weapons are best used as a backup weapons for ranged fighters. This is partly to give them a melee option in a pinch. Without something like a power claw equipped, ranged fighters will be forced to use the butt of their gun against close-range attackers. It’s also partly because the game’s mechanics sometimes cause a very well-equipped melee fighter to use a weaker weapon and deal less damage than they should have. Best to just not give them the option.
If you have the Royalty DLC, you have a wider range of options for which kind of implanted weapon you’d like to attach to your colonists. Thankfully, none of these share the movement speed reduction of a power claw. You could give them an elbow spike, which doesn’t slow your colonist down or take away either of their hands. A knee spike delivers similar results, but will keep you from putting a bionic leg into the same slot later on. A hand talon delivers incredible damage and only takes a single finger, but it lacks the armor-piercing capability of a power claw. Venom talons or venom fangs can poison a target, so don’t give them to hunters — they might ruin their food!
Best Melee Weapons in Rimworld
With a lot of the early game focused on just trying to stay alive and avoid damage, it’s best to try building a defense strategy where melee combat is your absolute last line of defense. Ranged combat is less likely to end in the sudden death of a colonist, and it provides you the option to run and regroup if the fight starts to go poorly. Early-game melee combat provides no such relief.
One small thing you can do to boost your colonists’ chances in melee combat is to give them battle-drugs, like yayo or go-juice. Both of these substances increase their movement speed and thus their dodge chance.
Best Early-Game Weapons
In most basic scenarios for RimWorld, you’ll be starting the game with at least a knife as a melee weapon. In all likelihood, this early knife will be a stronger melee weapon than anything you’ll be able to craft for a while. This is simply because a lot of the stronger melee weapons require at least a little bit of research time to unlock them.
The best early-game melee weapon in RimWorld for dedicated close-range fighters is a longsword. Longswords made of uranium or plasteel can remain viable into the late game as well. At the very least, they’ll be a good option to hand to your less capable front-liners. However, you shouldn’t risk wasting what may be a limited supply of these valuable materials early on. Instead, you should stick to using steel for most weapons when it’s an option.
If you’re looking to inflate your ranks in the early game, you might instead opt for Warhammers. While they’re more expensive and less damaging than longswords, any weapon that does blunt damage (like a Warhammer) is less likely to kill their targets outright. Many victims in RimWorld will likely bleed out on the battlefield or die of blood loss during a sudden strike. Blunt damage increasing the chances you can take prisoners while they’re still alive, and hopefully still in possession of all their fingers and toes. Do note that you’ll need the Royalty DLC to have access to Warhammers.
Best Late-Game Melee Weapons
If you’ve got the Royalty DLC, melee combat is an entirely different beast than before. Supported by your psycaster leader from the back, your front-line fighters can tie up the enemy and deal incredible damage in the late game, rivaling the pulse shots and charge lances from your shooters.
The absolute best melee weapon in late-game RimWorld is a Persona Monosword. A persona weapon is a weapon embedded with a sentient AI capable of aiding its possessor in combat. Not only does a persona weapon do more damage than its counterparts, it also bonds with its user and buffs them in some way. Some persona weapons will increase or decrease your psychic sensitivity, while others will make their holder thirst for blood.
Best Persona Weapons
Of the three weapons that can have the persona tag applied (all of which are melee), the monosword is the best in RimWorld. It deals the most damage of the three. Monoswords are high-tech longswords with a molecule-thin edge, capable of cutting through the thickest of armor like it’s nothing.
Plasma swords can deal fire damage, and this can have great effects on enemy targets. However, by the time you’re using plasma swords, you’re fighting a lot of mechanoids that don’t take any heat damage at all. Plus, there’s always a distinct chance that a raider you’re fighting could catch fire and run off in a panic directly into your own colonists.
Zeushammers are fairly single-use in that they stun nearby mechanoids for a moment when first used. The downside of this EMP ability is that it will also cancel out the shield of the wielder. With that in mind, you should only use them when no other mechs can target you.
Biotech DLC Melee Changes
Melee combat in the Biotech DLC is very different from before. Now you need to consider the xenotype or individual genetics of your colonists when you decide who should be standing at the front gates with a longsword and a shield belt.
Editing your own xenotypes during a course of play might give you the opportunity to extract some of these genes and implant them into melee fighters on your own. You can create deadly super soldiers with these new tools but beware of the extra food it might take to sustain their super-metabolism.
Best Melee Xenotypes
Of the xenotypes that the DLC provides without any player input, the Sanguophage, Hussar, Yttakin, Dirtmole, and Neanderthal all gain some kind of bonus relating to melee combat.
Some of these xenotypes simply have genes that improve their outgoing damage or reduce their incoming damage. Additionally, some genes help you heal more quickly. This means mean a melee fighter can get into combat and bounce back the next day. Sanguophages in particular are incredibly hard to kill, with many genes giving them additional longevity. Additionally, some of the genes will make them do more damage up close.
Some xenotypes have genes that let them move more quickly, or in the case of the Yttakin, move more quickly when unclothed. While being unclothed may leave them more vulnerable to damage, it’s best to let these fur-skinned barbarians be nudists. The bonus they receive to their movement speed will give them a higher chance to dodge attacks in melee, offsetting the lack of armor. Yttakin will also tend to excel in close-up combat due to a genetic melee damage bonus.
Join the High Ground
No matter who you’ve chosen to send directly into battle with a sword and shield, we hope this guide helps your colonists find their way out to the other side. If you have any questions or think we should include something else in our guide, leave a comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more RimWorld content and other gaming news!