Dying is just par for the course in Don’t Starve, where there isn’t any hand-holding, tutorials, or making things easy. Instead, Klei Entertainment built an in-depth world of magic, science and survival, where every night you stay alive is a night you want to pat yourself on the back. That is what you sign up for when you play a game that throws you to the wolves – or hounds in this case.
Art-wise, Don’t Starve has a just-right feel about it. Nothing looks too complicated, and yet everything is interesting. Every screen speaks to a Tim Burton-esque creepiness (he did not draw this – but wouldn’t a movie be great?). The music in the trailer above? That’s what you hear in game. The graphics mixed with the music and the sound effects (is someone out there?!), create an atmosphere of dark humour, mockery and heart-thumping goodness. And since the map and resources are randomly generated, it doesn’t get boring.
Furthermore, adding in the Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants expansion, expands the art to include the weather. Just watching the rain patter down while your little person complains and thanks trees, fleshes out the theme tremendously. And if you get rained on in the dark, expect your insanity meter to start dropping like mad.
Don’t Starve doesn’t tell you what you’re supposed to discover. Player set objectives are central to the experience, as you set your own goals (burn trees for charcoal, mine for gold – get a crock pot before day 5 for meatballs) rather than having an interface tell you what you need to not starve. It is refreshing to figure everything out on your own, and gives this sense of accomplishment that you will treasure for days afterwards – if you’re still alive. It is a balancing game between reward, frustration and a slew of challenges.
As a sandbox survival game, there isn’t much of a pre-built story to Don’t Starve. At least, that is what it seems like in your first 20 or so days where you work through the night on survival (don’t sleep, it is a waste of time). But a turning point comes at some point, where instead of survival, you start thriving. This gives you the luxury to begin wondering, what does that weird evil flower circle do? What about all the holes in the ground? Is that a freestanding door? Am I brave enough to explore holes with teeth? And if you are, be prepared. Point is, bring a spear.
The battle system for Don’t Starve is a simple hack and run. Most of the enemies have fairly predictable attack movements, and so anticipating when to strike before running away can become second nature. But that will take time. To begin with, I suggest running. Or find something that will kill your enemies for you. There is no experience to gain from killing, and death comes quick and easy.
My advice? Get yourself a stock of Buttermuffins to heal up by 20 health. Best way to do this is to plant a Butterfly Farm next to a Beefalo Herd. Just remember to collect your wings before they rot. This will all make sense once you start.
The best part? You can also play Don’t Starve with your friends and complete strangers. Don’t Starve Together is only available through Steam, and is an amazing multiplayer experience. I don’t often like multiplayer games, but this takes the cake. Mainly because you can all die together.
If you have gotten tired over the years of games that are dumbed down clones of each other, you will probably appreciate that Don’t Starve does not pander to that. Klei Entertainment are a rare breed of developers that care about the customer experience, as they constantly add things to the game for free. They even created an entirely new game – Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked – labelled it a DLC (Downloadable Content) and are selling it at DLC prices. Even their ports to mobile are a treat, and so far bug free.
This game won’t appeal to you if you don’t enjoy losing EVERYTHING very often. The most you get for dying is unlocking new characters, but there aren’t all that many to unlock. On the other hand, if you love a challenge that will reward you the better you get, Don’t Starve is for you.