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Games Vintage and New - Don't Starve, PC

Updated on November 9, 2013

Don't Starve Trailer - GameSpotTrailers

Pros and Cons

Pros -

  • Engaging gameplay based around experimentation, adaptation, and survival
  • Unique artistic styling
  • Easy to pick up, difficult to master

Cons -

  • Perma-death (feature of the game but definitely not for everyone)
  • Gameplay is somewhat time consuming
  • End-game objectives are very, very difficult to achieve

Game Synopsis

You are Wilson, a scientist who has been trapped by the mysterious Maxwell in a strange, alien land. You must discover all you can about this land and its inhabitants, re-invent many objects, and ultimately survive and escape. Maxwell will not make this easy for you, however...

This is a fun gem that rewards players who experiment and discover all the game has to offer. World randomization, changing seasons, and different playable characters are but a few of the things it offers to potential players. Just when your game begins to get stale, the publisher tosses on yet another update, making this a game that remains evolving and a worthwhile buy for the dollar strapped gamer.

Gameplay In A Nutshell

The game starts with the protagonist dropped in a random area in a randomized world. The player is tasked with leading the character through the world and gathering supplies, combining them into new forms and ultimately surviving with the tools, structures, and strategies he or she utilizes.

As an example, beefalo, an animal the character might encounter, routinely produce manure. The player could utilize this resource as a fuel for fires, a resource to build farms with, or to fertilize wild plants he has relocated closer to his campsite (berry bushes, wild grasses, etc.). The game world might counter any strategy the player relies too heavily on by introducing a berry hungry turkey at an inopportune time, or worse, a lightning bolt that burns down flammable structures.

The character has to routinely monitor his characters physical health, hunger, and mental health. He can compromise one value to improve another. For example, he might get in a difficult fight to kill a beefalo by himself if his hunger drops too low, compromising his physical health. Conversely, he might consume mushrooms to satiate his hunger at a penalty to his mental health.

Evolving technologies while balancing your ability to survive is key. Cooking food on a fire provides superior nutritional value, and using a crock pot increases the value even higher. In some cases the player is able to trade up in nutritional value - he can use a carrot to catch a rabbit and eat a more nutritious morsel via a trap, or seeds to catch a bird for a morsel from a bird trap.

The Robot Character, WX-78,  in a herd of Beefalo
The Robot Character, WX-78, in a herd of Beefalo | Source

Characters

As you progress in the game, you will unlock different characters to play who have different strengths and weaknesses. Wilson's strength is that he can grow a beard (this helps to insulate him in the winter and can be used to craft a Meat Effigy in the late game - an item that allows Wilson to come back to life).

The next character is Willow. Willow is able to light fires with her lighter she begins play with and happens to be immune to fire damage. This makes acquiring ash easier and takes most of the danger away at night as the player has an infinite light source.

Numerous other characters have been introduced as the game has progressed through development, each offering a unique edge the others do not. A much more current list can be found here.

Don't Starve Gameplay by ZackScottGames

Monsters

Monsters add to the difficulty of surviving in the world. On the players fifth or six day, he will begin hearing barking in the distance which will prompt Wilson to ask, "What was that?" Later in that day, the character will be attacked by hounds, aggressive dogs who actively hunt Wilson down and outpace him slightly. They continue to appear periodically throughout the game.

Spiders appear out of spider nests that are placed at world generation. They'll roam openly at dusk and night, but otherwise, hide in the nest unless the player gets too close (or gives it a whack!). Spiders are aggressive towards anything that gets too close, and will consume any meat on the ground. Characters can harvest spider silk that allows some unique crafting options, and spider glands that heal the player when used. Nest guardians and spider queens can be found in larger nests - and it possible for a small nest to become larger if its occupants are well fed.

There are several more varieties of monster. A current listing can be found here.

You have to be ready for night... and winter!
You have to be ready for night... and winter! | Source

Criticisms

The most serious criticism I can level at Don't Starve is the time commitment it requires to play it. While you can play it in as short of a session as you would like (it saves after all), the rewards of the game definitely come from playing long games and having successful, long-lived characters. Those who only play seldom and for short sessions will have great difficulty remembering aspects of gameplay and developing and seeing through plans.


The twitch element of the game, while present, is not as involved as other games. Combat often requires striking after an opponent attacks and then repositioning away prior to the counterattack, which just involves clicking the opponent and then clicking on the playfield away from it. With planning however, a character can acquire better/advanced weaponry, pig-men allies, and armor to reduce damage from the attacks that do land.

A player who has made a well-established base for himself. This picture features the in game HUD as well.
A player who has made a well-established base for himself. This picture features the in game HUD as well. | Source

Rating for Don't Starve, PC

4 stars for Don't Starve, PC

Conclusion

A strong game despite lacking the sophistication of its mainstream peers, solid and challenging gameplay make this a worthy title for your gaming dollar. The challenge and perma-death might not be everyone's cup of tea, but this feature allows you to try out the other characters you have unlocked, new worlds, and even some new strategies! I highly recommend you give it a shot.

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