Don’t Starve – PC
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Release Date: April 23rd, 2013
Nerd Rating: 8.5/10
Reviewed by: Uber_Nerd
At first glance Don’t Starve may seem childish or cute. Hand drawn characters and environments look as though they were pulled straight from a children’s novel. But don’t let its storybook appearance fool you. The game is hardcore and it is brutal. After an hour of playing you’ll be battling monsters, fighting off starvation and trying to stay warm through winter all while attempting to manage your own sanity.
Created by indie studio Klei Entertainment, Don’t Starve is a rogue-like survival game with depth unlike most survival games on the market. It seemed like every time I played I would discover something new to explore or experiment with. Even after 40 hours of playing I don’t believe I have seen all there is to see. For such a small price ($14.99 at the time of writing) you are given an extremely large and vast game.
Don’t Starve’s style is the first thing to draw you in. The game appears to be inspired from Tim Burton giving a dark yet approachable feel. Characters and environments are consistent in their hand drawn styles and are a joy to look at. Menu’s play cheery yet dark carnival music while characters are voiced by instruments. For instance the voice of Wilson, the character you’ll start with, is the sound of a clarinet. The more manly Wolfgang, an unlockable character, has his voice made as the sound of a tuba. These small touches really bring the game’s theme together and keep you interested in the world.
When you start a game your character will awake on the ground of your new world. The maps are automatically generated so you’ll get a new map each playthrough. A small cutscene will play with a strange man who lets you know that night is coming soon and you should get something to eat. Afterwards he vanishes and you are given control. This is about the only tutorial you will get in the game. As I said, there is zero hand holding and you’ll have to discover most everything for yourself save for a few recipes you’re shown. Your goal in Don’t Starve is to… well… don’t starve! A day counter rests in the top right of your screen that shows how many in-game days your character has lived. All you need to do is keep that number going as high as you can. But it will not be easy.
If you’ve played a game like Minecraft then things will feel fairly similar. You start with nothing and must work, gather, and build your own safe haven. You’ll need to gather things like wood, straw and flint so that you can create things like axes, chests and science machines! The world is loaded with resource nodes for you to gather but you’ll need to be careful as most resources can only grow back if replanted. This makes farming and re-planting your own resources vital.
Besides building and protecting your home there are many other things you’ll need to keep a watch on. Your hunger depletes constantly and you’ll need to keep your character satisfied or he/she will begin to lose health. Getting food can be as simple as picking carrots out of the ground or as challenging as killing a Beefallo. You can even cook your own meals by combining certain ingredients. Along with health and hunger there is one other gauge you must be mindful of: your sanity. The more time you spend fighting monsters or staying in the dark then the lower your sanity will go. If your sanity drops too low your character will see the world differently and also be in danger of being attacked by shadow creatures. This adds a unique twist on the typical survival genre because you need to balance the amount of time you spend running in the dark or fighting monsters.
(My character is frightened of those shadow creatures)
There are three times of day you will play in Don’t Starve. The first is day time. This is when the sun is up and shining. Gathering things is easy and there is plenty of light to see. As the sun sets you will head into dusk. Here the light has dimmed and it is a tad bit harder to see. You’ll only have a short amount of time from when it hits dusk to find a safe haven or torch for the night. Once dusk passes it will be night time. Here it is pitch black. You will not be able to see anything on your screen without some sort of light source. If you do not find a torch or source of light you will soon be attacked, and probably killed, by the beast Charlie. Charlie is the name of the creature that attacks in the dark of night. Should you find yourself without any form of light be prepared to take a beating from Charlie. If you’re under-equipped, expect to die as Charlie hits HARD. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of exploring far from your base during the night.
Along with day and night cycles there are also season cycles. When you begin a game it will be sometime in summer. As the days pass the temperature will slowly drop and soon snow will fall from the sky covering everything in white. This great feature adds a lot to how you play the game. During winter you’ll be left with less daylight during the days and much longer night cycles. You can no longer grow vegetables during winter so having some sources of meat will be almost mandatory. But beware while hunting, you will begin to freeze and lose health if you spend too long away from a heat source!
Since this is a rogue-like survival game, be prepared to die, a lot, especially in the beginning. With no true tutorial it’s often hard to get a grasp on what to do or when to build certain items. This was one minor gripe for me. While I do love a challenge this game really offers no assistance in learning its mechanics. It is quite frustrating to make it to 30 days of survival only to have it ripped from you by a lowly frog you had no idea could attack you… (yes i’m still bitter). But these experiences will not likely push you away. They make you reformulate your plan so that next time you are prepared for anything.
An interesting addition to Don’t Starve is an Adventure Mode, also known as Campaign, hidden in the primary sandbox gameplay. Adventure Mode is hidden in the form of items you need to collect, from around your map, and assemble at a certain location. Once assembled a portal will be created for you to enter. Your game will be saved upon entering the portal and you can pick a character to start Adventure Mode. To complete this campaign mode you will need to beat 5 chapters, or worlds, and an epilogue. These worlds all have a theme and different features to them. Some worlds rain constantly while others are locked in eternal winter. These unique challenges give a breath of fresh air to the game especially for those who have built immense bases on their original world.
Along with this hidden campaign there is an experience system which allows you to unlock new characters. You earn experience by surviving in the game. The longer you survive, the more experience you get. As you gain experience you will unlock characters. There are 9 characters to be unlocked; each with its own ability. Your starter character Wilson can grow a beard over time. This is especially helpful as a full grown beard provides extra warmth for winter! Wolfgang features a larger stomach and can grow huge muscles when completely full making his attacks stronger. Every character features a fun and unique ability that gives a huge amount of replay-ability when combined with the randomly generated worlds.
There is so much that Don’t Starve offers but I don’t want to go into too much detail. The true fun in this game is exploring and experimenting. Check every corner of the map and search for as much as you can. Things will be hidden and often items can have no description as to what their use is. This makes you think about what you want to keep on your character while exploring. Don’t Starve will challenge you and often deliver a death so quickly you can’t respond. But if you enjoy survival games and like learning from your experiences then this game offers some of the most fun I’ve had in a while.
My Rating 8.5/10: If you’ve been itching for a survival game give Don’t Starve a try. It is challenging and a joy to play.
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