Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Don't Starve" Review--Who Knew Foraging Could Be So Fun?

I had heard buzz of a game called, "Don't Starve" that sounded pretty fun. There was a beta going on anyone who bought the game could be a part of, but I was busy with finishing school and such so I waited until its full release to snag a copy via the ever-useful service.

"Don't Starve" is a game where your character is thrust into the wilderness and it then is up to you to figure out how to, well, not starve. You can look up handy guides on the internet about what to do and how to craft items but I find it is most fun if you muddle through the game blindly for at least your first few attempts at not dying. I say "attempts" because you will most assuredly die. It may be from a group of spiders whose nest you got to close too, it could be from an enraged herd of beefalo, or you simply might just forget about that whole, "not starving," goal, but you will die--you kind of have to advance in the game.
Spiders, among the most annoying enemy of any game.
Death is necessary in the game because while you can save as you go along, once your character dies, that's it. You read right, you spend all this time trying to build a life for Wilson (or whomever you play as), maybe establish a little farm, knit together a winter hat, and then you die and there is no going back to the game. This is what many gamers call a "roguelike". It means you have permanent death and every time you boot up a new game the world is completely different and random--as happens in "Don't Starve". The good news, at least, is that the more you play and the more days you live before your untimely death, the more experience you gain. This experience unlocks a small number of other characters you can play as who each have their own helpful attributes (Wilson grows a beard that helps keep him warm in the winter, Willow can magically start fires, and so forth). The point isn't so much to unlock these characters, though, it is to get better at surviving every time you play the game.

There is an "adventure" mode you can find that has missions, so-to-speak, in that you have to survive within increasingly hostile worlds. I find the real fun is in the main game however, booting up a new level, exploring, gathering, and seeing what fun things you can find.
Some farmland, a friendly pigman nearby and beefalo roaming in the distance, all is well, for  now.
The game is not without some flaws, so it is worth touching upon those. The biggest problem with the game is that it can get repetitive. When you first start a new world there is a good chunk of time spent just doing the same thing you do every game to establish a "foundation" of sorts for your character to survive. You need to find some initial materials, gather food, hunt animals, and basically do the same thing every game for at least 10-30 minutes until you can go around exploring and attempt to find other interesting and new stuff. Also, sometimes the game's logic is a bit weird. For example, if you burn down a tree you get charcoal, but if you burn down a sapling it gives you ashes...huh? Other than those quibbles however this is quite the fun adventure.

From when you first enter a new wilderness, to when food starts to run low and winter arrives making survival all that much harder, "Don't Starve" is a hoot of a game to play. It is not easy and won't hold your hand because the whole point of it is to make you die--maybe not right away, but soon enough. Over time, once you figure out how to best keep the night's darkness at bay, make friends with the pig-men, and maybe even go into adventure mode, things get simplier, but never easy enough that you can forget about the game's titular goal and make sure you "Don't Starve". If you like games about survival, or difficult challenges that you're prepared to keep attempting over-and-over just to last one extra day against the wild, "Don't Starve" is definitely a game worth playing. Check out the website here to learn more and perhaps grab a copy via GOG, Steam, or the site itself.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

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