Do yourself a favor and Don’t Starve! No, I won’t elaborate!
Some people are too stupid to eat, but this game makes such an essential physiological function very hard to use. If you ever took food for granted, you probably won’t anymore.
Don’t Starve comes out at a time when minimalistic indie games started to become trendy. Terraria, which came out two years earlier, is often compared with this game, though there are some substantial differences. This game is, at its core, a survival game, whereas Terraria is focused on combat. Still, both games share some design traits, and Don’t Starve Together (this game’s expansion) actually crossed over with Terraria some months ago.
Just as Terraria, this game is barebones. There’s no grand lore and no significant developments. In fact, there’s hardly any semblance of story or tale whatsoever (save for some backstories here and there). The very name of this game states the game’s purpose and doesn’t hide some subtle narrative behind its apparent straightforwardness. Some people may find this a bit disappointing, but the game never promised anything other than what it delivered.
One thing I can appreciate about this game is that it doesn’t hold your hand. There are a hundred different ways in which your ordeal can go wrong, even when you’re too sure it won’t. We were spoiled to take for granted many basic actions such as creating heat to cook food or not standing too close to fire, yet this game punishes you for not being reminded of these elemental facts of life.
And yes, you’ll die a lot, over very simple stuff in many instances. You’re not some sort of demigod here, nor does your character have “innate survival skills”. You must constantly do the heavy lifting to overcome challenges that would have been a breeze in other types of games. Whereas killing spiders was just another chore in games like Skyrim or Diablo, here, it’s a life or death situation. Nonetheless, the feeling of accomplishment will be immense once you defeat them!
The art direction in Don’t Starve is not unlike anything coming out of Tim Burton’s head. In fact, it’s eerily (no pun intended) similar to a Burton production. Alas, he was not remotely involved in this project. Some call this game Minecraft with a Tim Burton skin, but I’m still not sure about the Minecraft part.
The visuals are as weird and creepy as can be, without being overly disgusting. Graphically speaking, this game is not power-hungry in the least, so you can get this on a potato.
The sound design is deliciously weird too. The music that plays while you’re in the wilderness is strikingly similar to Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody in style: Jumpy, yet stern and methodic. Some sound effects are downright hilarious. You’ll hear some bells after performing certain actions, as well as badly-tuned horns during speeches. When your character eats, the game plays a weird and grotesque grinding sound followed by a drum. Don’t ask me why!
Don’t Starve is an action-adventure survival game with roguelike elements played from a top-down perspective. Roguelike games are role-playing games with a semi-procedurally-generated open world map and a permanent death feature (also called “permadeath”).
The game is played by clicking or tapping on the desired destination to move. Tapping/clicking on an object allows you to perform certain actions such as collect or attack. You can also install fireplaces and other devices on the terrain around you. Alternatively, you can play this game using a controller, which will change the way you interact with the game world.
The game enables you to choose among various characters, though at first you’re stuck with Wilson the Gentleman Scientist, who “grows a magnificent beard” according to the in-game description. Some characters can be unlocked as you gain experience points, such as Willow (immune to fire damage), Wolfgang (who gets stronger when full but is afraid of the dark) and Wendy (who’s used to the dark but doesn’t hit too hard). Other characters are hidden behind a paywall, such as Wortox or Wanda.
You earn 20 experience points with each in-game day that passes without you dying, but these points will only be given to you after death. As said before, death here is permanent, though you can “cheat” death by using rare expensive items like the Life-Giving Amulet, Meat Effigy, or Touch-Stone.
The game has a day/night cycle with significant repercussions on gameplay. At night, an invisible enemy called “Charlie” attacks you if you’re not near a light source.
It also has seasons, with each season handing you different gameplay challenges as well. During winter, food is hard to find and you must craft shelters and heat sources to prevent freezing. During Summer, you can stock up on food and resources to prepare for the next Winter.
You can craft items, structures, and equipment, but you must generally use a specific “prototyper” to unlock them first. Once unlocked, you can craft these items anywhere just as long as you have the right materials. Some of the “prototypers” you may use include a “Science Machine” or “Alchemy Engine” with which you can craft tier 1 items, and a “Shadow Manipulator” or “Sea Lab” to craft tier 2 items, though this is not an exhaustive list.
You likewise have to be mindful of creatures that may attack you, such as tree monsters, giant one-eyed birds, and spiders. Other creatures appear neutral at first, but may turn hostile depending on your actions.
Finally, Don’t Starve has an Adventure Mode, which is the game’s story mode. It follows your showdown against Maxwell, the game’s antagonist whom you meet at the very beginning. You can unlock Adventure Mode by activating Maxwell’s Door in Sandbox or Survival Mode. It’s split into various standalone chapters and your objective is to survive each one and gather four pieces of the Wooden Thing (or Teleportato) to fabricate it and advance to the next chapter.
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