That was literally all I had to say about the game when my boyfriend told me he had received it as a gift. It seemed to be enough at the time, I had plenty of games to play, and the seemingly constant presence of Don’t Starve on Steam’s Featured Items page made the game feel like it would be a boring choice. I let the game sit for some time, assuming I’d probably never play it, until my boyfriend became addicted to it. He asked me if I would like to play as well and, trusting his taste in video games, I decided to give it a try. We sat together in front of his computer, and he was happy to guide me along as I began to play the game.
It was then that I found out he had been transported into a very peculiar world, and now I was there with him. I had been terribly wrong about this game.
In Don’t Starve, you initially play as Wilson, a Gentleman Scientist on a quest for great knowledge. He gets more than he bargains for when he unknowingly makes a deal with an evil presence, and ends up building a one way portal into a strange, foreign world. He awakes to find he has been brought there with no supplies, no tools, and worst of all: no food. Wilson is faced with the choice to either find a way to live off the land or die of starvation. Combine all this with incredible environment and monster design, and tack on a soundtrack that is appropriately labeled “dapper”, and you’ve got a game that is as visually pleasing as it is mentally stimulating.
The controls and interface of this game are clean cut and simple. The camera can be rotated at any time, allowing the player to find the viewpoint they feel is best for the situation. Combine this with an interface that conveys the atmosphere of the world without getting in the way of anything the player is actually doing, and you’ve got yourself a comfortable gaming experience with a surprising amount of flexibility. While this simplicity does the game a lot of good, that’s about all the simplicity you’ll find here.
Not only are you without any sort of instructions or guide, the worlds of Don’t Starve are randomly generated, and this is where the game can become very challenging. No two worlds are alike, and they are so huge that you may never find whatever it is you are looking for. Furthermore, the monsters generated — and their locations — are random as well. While there can only be a certain amount of any particular monster in the game at once, it can still make for some hairy situations. Thanks to these factors, tasks that seemed simple in one world can be difficult to achieve in the next. Your survival is based almost entirely on luck in some cases. If that’s not your cup of tea, worry not: you have the option to customize your game to include or exclude whatever you see fit.
No matter what changes to the game you make, you will more than likely die. There are certain in-game items that will allow you a second chance of sorts, but eventually your luck will run out and you will die. Once you’ve recovered from your existential crisis you will find that in Don’t Starve dying is not the end of the world. Dying certainly means that you’ve lost the world you’ve been exploring and any items found within it, but you won’t be leaving without a prize. At the end of your game, experience points are tallied up and rewards in the form of new playable characters are given. There are currently nine characters in the game, including Wilson. Seven of them are unlocked via experience points. Each character has a different personality and perks, which allow the game to remain fresh and fun.
Now that I mention “fresh and fun”, another factor that gives Don’t Starve a lot of play value are the updates that Klei Entertainment constantly makes to the game. Sometimes these updates take months, other times it’s only a few weeks, but every time they add something new and interesting. Their most recent update, “Strange New Powers”, gives the unlockable characters extra perks while fixing the perks they already had. This sort of developer devotion is yet another thing that helps Don’t Starve stand a head above the rest when it comes to open world gaming.
All in all, I have found my initial indifference about this game was completely misguided. I have been bowled over by what Klei Entertainment has done with Don’t Starve. It’s fresh and entertaining, challenging and interesting, and certainly unique. You are not likely to find an experience like Don’t Starve in any other open world game, and with a PlayStation 4 release announced, it is only going to get better from here.
If you would like to learn more about Don’t Starve, you can find plenty of information on the game’s website. You can also purchase the game directly from the site, or via Steam!