Don’t Starve Review
Don’t Starve Box Art
System: PC
Dev: Klei Entertainment
Pub: Klei Entertainment
Release: April 23, 2013
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p
Whatever You Do, Don’t Starve!
by Josh Wirtanen

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!

Don’t Starve Screenshot

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.

Don’t Starve Screenshot

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.

Don’t Starve Screenshot

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.

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