Review | Don’t Starve
Don’t Starve is a thrilling action survival game where you try and last as many days as possible perhaps even trying to escape the mad realm you are in.
For the purpose of this review, my main focus is on the single player version of this game with the DLC Reign of Giants enabled. There is a multiplayer version called Don’t Starve Together and a bunch of other DLC’s for this game. Many of them can be amazing and playing with others can bring new challenges. While the Together version has many similar elements of Don’t Starve it can quite different since it’s based around group play and some of the game mechanics and challenges are quite different. As such to keep things simple this is just the single player version.
One of the more interesting twists in this survival game is being able to unlock and play other characters that have their own personality and challenge. Some of them can become quite powerful while others have some rather tricky drawbacks that you can encounter while playing them.
Wilson is the first character you get to start off with. He is quite well rounded in his stats with 150 life. While also not having any major drawbacks and just being a good solid choice for the game to start you off with. He grows a beard that helps a little during the colder seasons that you can later shave during the hotter ones and use it in crafting.
There are a number of ways the game has the player unlock other characters. This can be from just surviving so many days before getting killed. Where you then gain some experience based on how long you lasted and it adds up over your games. There is also the far more interesting ways of earning other characters such as finding the item for them in the game and performing the necessary requirements with it. I personally love it when a game has some variety other then you lasted a number of X days here are your next unlock.
Once you start to earn some unlocks you can really see how the whole benefits and drawback starts to play out. You have someone like Willow who cannot be damaged by fire but under certain conditions starts having a random chance to start fires that could cause devastation to anything you are near. You also have the odder ones like WX78 who has the ability to be upgraded in the game but can take damage from water since he is a robot. Finally, you have the downright strange like Webber who is spiderlike and that has an impact on certain things in the game.
I really love how this can add quite many more hours of playability by just playing a different character. You do have to start a fresh world from stretch to play a different character so that whole barley surviving at the start feeling is rather persistent when wanting to try out something new.
With survival being the focus the game does have the more traditional things like hunger and life that you have to maintain. You also have things more exotic like sanity and they really had some fun with that entire system. Finally, you have things to deal with things like seasons and monsters.
This is one of those games played more on the hardcore scale of survival. Once you run out of life and die that can be game over. If not at the very least it is a major setback. Sometimes in this game, it only takes the slightest setback to send you spiraling out of control and being greeted with the score screen.
I do like they give you a number of options in game to try and create a revive point. Everything from finding a limited and randomly scatter sites to crafting an effigy that gets consume on death. This does lesson how hardcore this game can be. It sometimes, however, is just not enough. Even more so if you were not prepared or that event that killed you is right where you spawned back in.
Hunger And Food
The game also has quite an interesting food system to deal with hunger. While you can just pick up seeds or berries off the ground and eat them. That is not really going to give you much substance or life. Along with giving you that feeling like all you do is to go out looking for food.
I do like the fact if you don’t try and build up your own food systems in the game you can and will deplete an area of its resources. While some of them do grow back over time you end up going quite the distance just to find enough make it through another day. I’ve had quite a few moments of “I’m out of food” that have left me to taking massive gambles of jumping into wormholes hoping on the other side I’d find something to eat.
Once your player becomes more developed and you have built up a base you start to expand out your food production and preservation. Early game over collecting food can lead to massive piles of it spoiling in just a couple of in day games. While later in the game you could have an ice box, drying racks for meat, and crockpots to create meals with. Along with having your own garden for growing.
The game also has an interesting logic when dealing with different sources of food. Some things like a bush you can pick up with a relocate near your base. While other things like a rabbit hole you only find them in certain biomes. You also have external threats like fire and heat that can just destroy your crops.
I personally think the food system is quite underrated for all it has to offer. It’s far more in-depth than most survival games I’ve played. You have some amazing scalability and with proper planning, it can be set up to last as long as you do or be wipe out when disaster strikes.
This one has an interesting risk to reward that comes along with trying maintaining your character's sanity in game. While early game you might want to keep it max out there will be times when you want your character to start going crazy.
While they give you a couple of ways to keep sanity high I think it’s a little too easy for maintaining. Since you can just go find a flower to pick or eat certain foods and have it recovered in no time flat. It’s not as much effort to put into as say maintain hunger easily game is.
Once the saintly gauge starts dropping your character starts to hallucination in the form of shadows. At first, they can’t hurt you but as it drops the more dangerous they become. There are also parts or other conditions such as no light source at night when you start to deal with these as well. Some of these hallucinations can be attacked and even farmed for later game items. If you progress far enough into the game you might just want to go a bit crazy.
This kind of system is just not one I’ve seen in a game before. I think it adds an interesting element and make it more than just another thing to maintain in a survival genre of a game. There is that whole realism vs it’s just a game and it should be fun. I think they nailed the fun part on this one.
While they do have more traditional seasons like autumn, winter, spring, and summer. This is one of those game mechanics that can catch you off guard if you were not prepared ahead of time. They also go back and forth from livable to the extreme to almost foreshadowing the challenges you could be facing up next.
Some of these seasons also feel like a checkpoint where if the player was ready they have a chance and if not its game over. It also keeps you from being too aggressive early game in only focusing on one thing. As you really do need to get ready for winter it’s a killer.
Autumn, you tend to face colder and colder tempters while food is also quite in abundance. It can rain but that not really an issue. It’s one of the more natural seasons that you start off and don’t need to be overly prepared to deal with.
Then you are struck by winter and it will change your landscape into a winter wonderland with a snow covered ground. I really wish more survival games did this instead of just cheating around it by having different biomes have different seasons. If you were not ready you will freeze if you head out too far from your base’s fire and you will run out of food. Winter tends to be that killing point for many even more so if it’s combined with anything else happening.
Spring you enter into another easy season. You can get a lot of rain but it really allows you to recover from the winter and to build up again.
Then summer strikes with its heat and the many challenges it can bring as well. If you made it this far into the game chances are you are more than equipped to handle this. Even if the player did not go out of their way to be chances you have chests full of crafting items to help survive.
That first winter in fresh playthrough can be quite the snowy hill to get over. Even when you were expecting it things tend to get you sidetracked. You might get a little greedy stockpile supply you don’t need. Maybe it took longer than expected to find a place to make a permanent base. Sometimes you find that early opportunity to take advantage of and it turns out you should hold off and not been so sidetracked once winter kills you from a string of unfortunate events.
What survival game would not be complete without monsters that you can both run into while exploring and those that show up in a wave to kill you at the worst possible moment. This can be a great place where player knowable starts to pay off when you need to find something to farm. Along with the “oh darn it” moment when you hear the hounds and know you are about to have a bad day.
The time of the day also play its role and it can be quite often seen in this aspect of the game. Many creatures such as pigs go into their homes during the night or the buffalo like to sleep. While this can create opportunity it can also have drawbacks if you suddenly need any help you were hoping to get by player friendly creatures.
One of the more shocking things you can deal with is the random events. You could be chopping a tree and suddenly it tries to eat you! No trees don’t normally try to kill you? Well, I think after this any game that has just plain boring trees that don’t seek revenge for your evil deeds of murdering them is just boring.
You also have another hard check in this game in the form of hound waves. Every so often they show up and I’ve had them at different times in the many games I’ve played. They start off easy and then start to really mount up. Unlike many other monsters in this game where they can be easy to just run away and lose them. These suckers will just keep coming and coming unless you jump into a wormhole to escape them.
Then you have the really fun places to adventure down into such as the caves. A lot of really amazing things can be down in massive quantity. So to will be the dangers you face. My luck down there tends to not be so great. Still, it can be a fun place to check out in hopes of getting some end game materials.
It’s nice not everything wants to kill you in this game. Some survival games just take to far where you try and avoided everything that moves. It’s even interesting that some of the more non-aggressive creatures will help protect you. While they also have certain times where they become aggressive themselves.
Base And Crafting
At some point in the early game, you decided to stop being a nomad. Instead of exploring every night by torchlight and jumping into any random hole you find you want to set up some roots. You want access to crafting and you want to start building to have a better chance at survival.
Base location is one of the more important choices the player is going have in this game. It takes time to travel around the map in this game and you won’t have instant access to every resource you find yourself needing. Instead of wanting to go out on a trek to go pick up a few units of some resource you rather just have them nearby.
As stated before some things can be relocated and others cannot be in this game. So you tend to search around for some time trying finding the area that best fits your needs. This base of operations could be where you build up for the rest of your game. There is nothing worse than having to travel for a day to get a frequently needed item or struggle with depleting an area of its resources.
There is also quite an extensive amount of crafting to be done in this game. For the majority of it, you need to be within the range of your Alchemy Engine or other devices. While a nomad player could try and craft the devices needed to get deeper and deeper into the crafting system since there are not that many of them that quite a burden. Outside of just crafting some basic items like a pickaxe and a hat you just need a centralized area to craft.
Bases also allow the player to build up passive and active protective systems. Whether is it combating fire or setting down traps for hounds to get killed by. There are a number of threats that a decent base can handle without too much stress on the player themselves. You would not want a base to be like those trees!
While the game does give you a few slots to store items in with expandability. A backpack and Chester only takes you so far. You really will want to have a chest and ice boxes to hold the bulk of your overflow. So you’re not going out every day just for one item. Not to mention when you die even if you have something to bring you back again you drop everything on death.
This game just has so many layers to I that make it considerably better than the majority of survival games out there. While there is some realism they don’t over push it. The game for a while will keep challenging you to grow without the first few hours feeling like you can now just sustained until some point you get bored with the game.
What is your favorite character? So far I think mine has to be WX 78 but I know that an easy one to say. I’ve been tempted to try out The Bereaved to see how that whole twin sister mechanic goes.
Another Game Post
Looking for another survival game with a little more structure? Perhaps leading a colony that has crashed landed on another planet where you build, manage, and try to escape is of interest.