Whatever You Do, Don’t Starve!
When it came time to work on my Don’t Starve review, I came down with a horrible fever. This was the sort of fever that had me in bed for three entire days sweating profusely, having insane dreams, and flat-out wishing I were dead. It was terrible. But on the other hand, the incoherence of my sick mind actually put me in the perfect mental state to enjoy Don’t Starve. See, this is a nightmarish fever dream of a game, chock full of bizarre creatures, weird art, and elements of insanity.
The basic premise is that your character was transported to a demonic “wilderness world,” and now he (or she) must survive. In order to do so, you must gather resources, build fires at night, combat monsters, and craft tools. But whatever you do, don’t starve !
Obviously, food is a big part of this game. You have a hunger meter (with a stomach icon on it) that lets you know how full you are. If this meter reaches empty, it’s game over. You can fill your hunger meter by eating most types of food, though you’ll want to avoid things that are poisonous. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, this is made a bit more challenging by the addition of a sanity meter, which will drain whenever you do something the game considers insane, like hiding in the darkness or eating poisonous mushrooms. You can refill this meter by doing things that are sane, though Don’t Starve’s developers obviously have a fairly odd definition of the word sane . For example, picking flowers and wearing a top hat are two of the activities that will replenish your sanity meter. The penalty for letting your sanity meter drain is that you begin hallucinating, and when the meter gets low enough, these hallucinations actually begin attacking you. Yes, even the figments of your own deranged imagination can kill you in Don’t Starve.
Oh, and death is permanent for the most part. So don’t die.
See, as you’re playing the game, there’s a counter that lets you know how many days you’ve survived for. Your goal is just to see how long you can survive without starving to death. After you finally succumb to your hunger (or any one of the game’s myriad of other dangers), you’re given XP based on how many days you survived for, and this allows you to level up and unlock additional characters.
And the extra characters are tons of fun. All of them have a name that starts with a W and a unique set of skills. For example, Willow is a firestarter who tends to make things burn with her mere presence.
Your world is randomly generated, meaning every time you play feels like a completely fresh adventure. The game is unforgiving, so you’ll die a lot, but successful players will learn something new from every death, something that will allow them to continue to survive longer with each attempt. For example, one of the things I learned the hard way was that it’s possible to overfeed your fire. I threw over a dozen pinecones into my fire, only to cause a massive forest fire that ultimately burned me to a crisp.
There is also an “Adventure Mode,” which you can only access by finding a magical gate in the game world. This mode has you trying to get through five increasingly difficult chapters. If you die, you return to the game world and lose everything you’ve earned during Adventure Mode. However, you can continue to try as many times as you’d like.
Don’t Starve has this insane hand-drawn visual aesthetic that looks like it came out of the head of Tim Burton, managing to be whimsical and sinister at the same time. And the world you’ll traverse is deceptively 3D, which you might not even notice because it’s dotted with 2D objects. It creates a really weird yet subtle sense of movement and depth.
And this world is full of bizarre things to see and do; it’s an environment that’s constantly trying to kill you, yet one that you can use to your own benefit once you figure out how things work. For example, if you want to make your own garden, you’ll have to collect the droppings of animals called beefalo. You can mine stone to build walls, or farm wood to build fires. You can craft various types of shelters and clothing to protect yourself from the wilds. You can even get really crafty and use magic.
According to Steam, I put eighteen hours into Don’t Starve, and in that time, I felt like I barely scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. There’s a heaping pile of content here, and all of it is absolutely fantastic.
If you like survival games, if you enjoy Tim Burton-esque artwork, or if you’re just looking for an unforgiving challenge of a game, pick up Don’t Starve immediately. Pretty much everything about this game is fantastic, and you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with it. In fact, if you like survival games at all, I’m pretty sure Don’t Starve will be your new addiction.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
A fantastic hand-drawn Tim Burton-esque art style. Control
Point and click, or WASD. Either way, combat is awkward. Everything else works great though. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is incredible, and the sound effects are delightfully creepy. 5.0 Play Value
This game is almost infinitely replayable. There’s an absolute ton of content to see, and you’ll constantly be trying to outdo your previous survival run. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best