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Review: Don't Starve

Klei Entertainment PC Steam Dont Starve

Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Platform: PC (Steam, GOG, Web)
Release Date: April 23, 2013
ESRB: N/A (E10+ suggested)

A review code was provided by the publisher for this review



Chances are, you’ve probably heard of Don’t Starve before, even if you’re not sure what the game is. The Klei Entertainment-developed title took a page out of Minecraft’s book and launched itself into a buy-in beta a while back. Because of this, many players got a taste of the game long before launch. Now that the game is officially available we can judge it and see if this is a finished product worthy of your time and money.

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Don’t Starve begins by transporting us to a strange world where your biggest pressing focus is staying alive. The world itself is a vast, randomly-generated wilderness that is full of wonderful and terrible things. Starting the game as a lone scientist, you must venture forth and gather resources, craft new items, and overall, keep from starving. Of course, there’s a great deal of evil lurking around that is happy to kill players who can keep their stomach sated.

The biggest update to the game is adventure mode. It came at the perfect time as well, considering gamers still often expect to come into a game that has a set goal. It’s true that games can be so addictive that there’s no need to have a game-specified ending, but there’s no harm being done either. With this mode, players must do more than simply survive each pitch black night. They must now discover strange portals that take them to new levels, trick enemies, and figure out why they ended up here in the first place. Considering the main mechanics of the game, though, this is easier said than done.

After being dropped into a randomized world, there is no explanation. Sure, you know not to starve, but what else can you do in the environment? Players can gather berries from bushes, pluck grass and rocks from the ground, and observe wildlife. Of course, pure vegetative foraging won’t get you very far. You must quickly learn how to craft a multitude of items to become a capable survivor. Axes, pickaxes, shovels, and spears are some of the useful items which should quickly be fashioned and used.

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Meat can be taken from dead animals and eaten raw, or dried and cooked for a much more refined meal. Similarly, you can suffice off meager craftable items, or truly try to advance in the world by putting your scientific brain to work. Building machines which aid your research make other items available for crafting. Without such scientific inspiration, players might be left thinking the game is simple. Once these avenues open up, it’s easy to see there was a great deal of thought put into Don’t Starve. And unlike its contemporary Minecraft (on PC), crafting recipes are shown right to players so you don’t have to blindly try and work something out.

Unfortunately, death is always around the corner no matter how well-prepared you think you are. Even with armor around your character’s small frame, and a backpack filled with foods, it’s all too easy to find yourself killed. Many enemies won’t attack unless provoked, but others will stomp toward you when they see you run by. It’s a tough world you’re stuck within and there’s little time to rest. At the very least, you’re able to build up a home base with various amenities. Of course, the most important part of any base is some walls to keep you secure in the wild.

Death by nefarious creatures or your own lack of sustenance are not the only systems in place, however. Another meter players must contend with is that of their own sanity. When getting smacked around, it decreases. If you do disturbing things such as pick evil-looking flowers it also goes down. What is the result of lowered mental fortitude? Well, you start to see things. Sometimes the hallucinations are even made real. There are items to restore sanity, just as there are for hunger and health, but sometimes it is worth wandering around just to see what’s it like to lose your virtual mind.

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The game is sometimes hard, and even unfairly so, but is not opposed to more casual players. If you’re starving too often, there are options to increase the amount of food in a world. Those who only want to adventure around in a perpetual summer season can do that too. Or, if they can’t stand huddling around a fire during the dark night hours then users can even choose to eliminate night from the daily cycle! On the other hand, gamers who want a real challenge can lessen values for any good items, shorten the day, and a whole other wealth of things. Klei Entertainment was wise to give players the ability to tailor worlds to their needs.

Gameplay works so well that any old graphics could have been slapped over the package and it would still be just as addicting. However, Don’t Starve is graced with a very attractive art style that appears to have been drawn with pen. The whole game looks like a storybook and as such includes various fictional creatures. Some are expected, such as hulking tree men, but others, like a big black eye on two spindly legs, are much stranger. In this case, graphics aid the game by making it feel like a fully realized product rather than just a cool bunch of ideas.

There’s a lot more to Don’t Starve than I’ve been able to describe, but hopefully there’s enough to get your mind wrapped around the game. Players of varying skill levels can all enjoy the experience of being dropped in a strange land, foraging for survival and discovering new things along the way. Discovery is one of the greatest aspects of gaming and is the heavy driving force for the title. If you’re willing to test your skills and see just how long you can survive then grab yourself a copy of Don’t Starve.

 

Pros:

+ Bevy of options to tailor worlds to your gameplay style
+ Great deal of craftable items
+ Randomly generated worlds keep things fresh
+ Attractive art style

Cons:

- Heartbreaking defeat at the hands of powerful enemies
- Starving!


 

Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)
Fantastic


Don’t Starve is a completely enthralling survival experience that is likely to hook most who give it a shot.




3 Comments

I had heard of this game a few times before but this is the first time I actually read a review on it.

 

Seems like a pretty fun and off beat game.

Great review! Pixel, Rex, and others were talking about this game a while back in chat. They begged me to get it. Maybe I'll pick it up if my new laptop can play it or maybe see a PSN/XBLA version.

Great review! Pixel, Rex, and others were talking about this game a while back in chat. They begged me to get it. Maybe I'll pick it up if my new laptop can play it or maybe see a PSN/XBLA version.

 

It's pretty low-resource as far as I can tell (despite being really attractive for what it is).

 

 

 

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