Don’t Starve (iOS, Linux, PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, XBox One, and that ramshackle contraption you made out of your microwave and root vegetables.)

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Wilson is your average every day gentleman scientist with great aspirations in his steampunk era. One day, after several unsuccessful experiments his gramophone begins speaking to him — a not too uncommon experience apparently. It teaches Wilson how to make a bizarre machine and start doing some real science! Hesitant to activate it, but coerced by the forceful voice, Wilson turns on the bizarre device. A portal opens to a strange world and living shadows erupt, dragging him in. Thrust into this new place, similar to our own, he must find the man behind the voice and figure out how to get back home. But first things first, Don’t Starve.

History

Don’t Starve was developed and published by Klei Entertainment. You might know them as the creators of Shank, Shank 2, and Mark of the Ninja. Don’t Starve started as a 48 hour game jam in 2010 but development didn’t hit full swing until after the release of Mark of the Ninja in 2012. Capitalizing on the success of games like Minecraft, Klei endeavored to take an exploration game in a far darker direction. As such, there is an end-state to the game but no powerful indication of how to find it.

Fun Fact: Despite being adamantly against it Klei compromised the lonely atmosphere somewhat with Don’t Starve Together. Which allows you to get fangoriously devoured alongside your friends!

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It Might compromise the principals of the game but IT’S FUN!

Don’t Starve was released on April 23rd, 2013. It’s competition was BattleBlock Theater (XBLA), Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine (PC), and Fez (PC).

Experiences

My experience with Don’t Starve is one of sheer wonder and discovery. Like Wilson himself I’m just experimenting over here and trying to figure things out, wiki be damned. Every time I play — and don’t get ganked by zealous spiders — I discover something new and work my way toward building an item I’ve never used before or finding something new. I like to figure things out on my own but if I’m totally stumped there’s a well maintained wiki to enlighten me. What happens when I eat this mushroom? What does this dapper top-hat do? How does this character’s abilities impact play? What exactly is the win-state and how do I reach it? All these questions can be answered with a click and the willingness to accidentally screw up.

Gameplay

Don’t Starve is a 3rd person, 2.5 dimensional, exploration, resource gathering, and survival based roguelike. Or in human terms, you run around, try not to die, find cool stuff, and if you do die then you gotta start the whole game over — so try not to do that. I wish I could say more but that’s basically it. You control your character with the mouse and make them pick things up, put things down, fight monsters, or craft things. The things you craft make you more efficient at getting more things and fighting more monsters.

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And there are many monsters to fight.

The three main stats are Health, Hunger, and Sanity. Running out of Hunger will drain your health. Running out of sanity will make… um… your environment more hostile among other things. And running out of Health makes you die — duh. Monsters drain sanity pretty slowly so the mere act of fighting them can be dangerous, then again there are benefits to going insane — like killing Beardlings and getting that sweet beard hair.

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Or the shadow monsters could kill you — it’s a toss up really.

If you’re looking for the win-state then exploration will be key — I mean, you never know what you’ll find out there. The items required can only be found by going out on the road and searching abroad. This means setting up several camps and not overextending yourself. Seasonal changes like Winter and Summer can make these excursions very difficult and it’s unpleasant to get caught away from your main camp in the dead of Winter.

The Gush

The characterization is incredibly strong for such a setting, lack of voice acting, and limited design space. Each character has their appearance, lines of dialogue, a couple of abilities, and an instrument’s music for a voice. And I feel so interested in them and their personal stories — except Wes, that mime can burn for all I care. Everything about them lends to their character and it’s not difficult to see what these characters are like.

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Wilson’s well informed and dead-pan style are clearly evident in his speech and voice.

There aren’t many tracks of music but they all stand out and are extremely memorable. I’ll never forget the ‘night is coming’ ditty and the main theme for the game is a piece of thematic perfection. When I think of Don’t Starve that theme starts in my head, when that theme starts in my head I think of Don’t Starve. The game is just the song in game form and the song is the game in musical form.

There are 290+ unique items in this game and most of them can be cooked, smashed, burned, refined, or crafted into something else. The thought of doing all this SCIENCE excites me!

The Kvetch

Call me a filthy casual if you must but I wish there was a way that I didn’t have to start over every time I died. Maybe some sort of training mode or something where it saves each day and they put a diaper on my character or something because I’m such a baby. I want to get further than day 10 but I just keep dying during experiments with things like starting a fight with a beefalo or trying to get some frog meat from the FOUS-es (Frogs of unusual size). I could try to make all sorts of nifty weapons and armors but I just wanna fight a pig-man or something. TLDR: GAME IS HARD WAAAAAH!

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This is Willow. Whenever I get salty I play her and burn everything in sight.

Holy bad spawns gentle-fops. It’s totally possible to start in a location with no access to gold, without which it’s impossible to build a basic science machine and therefore build anything else in the game. I’ve traveled for two days before I was able to find one, picking up carrots and berries as I went to sustain myself. That’s two days fewer I had to prepare for a wolf attack or something similarly miserable.

Also, look out for the Krampus.

The Verdict

Minecraft not scratching the itch anymore? Want something a little more grim? Something more sinister that will truly put your planning, explorationg, and fortunes to the test? Then make a $15 shaped hole in your life and fill it with Don’t Starve! And if you can dupe — I mean convince — some poor sap — I mean good friend — you can get in on Don’t Starve Together for another $15$. Both being prices that I find to be equitable.

Next Week: Earthworm Jim 2

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