We wrote about the indie game Don’t Starve a while ago and I mentioned that I had early access to the game. I’ve played the game thoroughly and now it’s available on Steam there’s no better time to publish my review than now!
As I mentioned before players take the role of Winston, a lost scientist who wakes up in a weird and mysterious world. There are no rules to the game other than having to forage, survive and as the title may give away, don’t starve. As soon as you get in the game you’re awoken by a strange devil-like man who says that you “don’t look well” and as if by magic he disappears! Then you go on your way.
Though there’s no clear instruction, the title really gives away the main objective of the game. Unlike other survival games it’s less about avoiding death by monsters and more about not starving to death.
The game has the same survival principles that games like Minecraft possesses such as crafting tools like Pick axes to collect rocks and Axes to chop wood in order to create other items such as a camp fire and small animal traps. The game has similarities in other areas too with monsters coming out at night, and Wilson’s hunger gauge going down after time. Where it differentiates from Minecraft is the artwork. Don’t Starve has the most cookyest character and landscape designs. It’s very Tim Burton-esque and has a hand drawn effect. This for me is what makes the game. It adds a very dark feeling to it that makes the game play even better.
The game isn’t just a simple crafting and surviving game, it could almost fall into the puzzler category because it often gets you thinking. There aren’t really any rules to this game so you’re often left scratching your head as to what to do next once you’ve collected 50 saplings and chopped down 35 tree’s. This is something that I occasionally found quite annoying. Though each item that you can create displays all the materials needed, you’ll often find that you’ve wasted a day and half of your hunger in order to find one piece of gold, and with food being quite scarce you’ll often find that you’ll be half dead by time you’ve created the Science Machine. The overall debacle of trying to create something requires several different items in order to achieve the final item you desire which often takes a long time and requires some sort of battle with the creatures you so wish to avoid.
The act of trying to catch animals using various traps is something out of a cartoon. Catching a rabbit-like creature with your small trap made out of grass and twigs plays out like a benny hill skit, with your trap all set up near the animals home you then have to pursuade the creature to run back to its home hopefully falling under the trap on it’s way. I often found myself running around in circles trying to sway it back to it’s hole in the ground but more often than not it’d decide to go into the opposite direction and miss the trap completely. I have since learned that you can combine the trap with berries in order to avoid the chase, but where’s the fun in that? The only downside to this fiasco is that the meal you get from the bunny is hardly filling..
Onto the morbid subject of dying, usually if you die you have to start from the beginning with all of your previous progress getting erased (sort of). That is unless you find a weird ritual area where you can activate some sort of stone. There’s no clear indication as to what the hell it is, until you die of course then you’re zapped straight to the huge rock which gets destroyed on your arrival.
Where Don’t Starve differentiates from other survival games is the newly added sanity gauge. Over time this gauge goes down and your surroundings start to warp and you begin to see things in the corner of your eye. This has been done really cleverly as you yourself aren’t quite sure if you saw that weird monster or not.
Over time however this game did become quite boring, with the lack of direction and fairly difficult to obtain resources I often found myself stumped as to what to do next. The further you progress throughout the map the more the areas feel like they’re repeating themselves, and once you’ve got your axe and pick axe the other materials needed to create other tools seem impossible to find.
I believe the developers have touched upon this however as they’ve now added in the choice to customise your game map with added food resources, less monsters, and more materials, something which I’d recommend doing so you can get to grips with the game’s mechanics and enjoy the game a little more before you’re aimlessly wandering around this quirky environment looking for carrots and berries.
Overall this is a nice little game that you can get lost in. Though it does get a little boring after a while you can tweak the game before hand to make it a little easier, or harder if you so wish. The art of this game is the real winner for me as it’s really interesting to see what the artists have created within this game – the Tall Bird is probably my favourite looking creature.