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A Don't Starve Review

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Silentdarkness1    1161

Silent_Darkness Reviews: Don't Starve



I'll admit it, i'm such a sucker for sandbox. I'm not sure what it is exactly that calls me to it. Perhaps it's the lack of linear objectives, the total absence of "Go here and do this in a time limit while everyone else takes pot-shots at your walking corpse" mentalities.

But, every now and again, you want more out of a sandbox. You want survival to be the challenge. Well, if that's your in, then Klei(No, you pronounce it Clay, not  Entertainment has quite the game to pitch to you. Don't Starve. It sells itself hard as THE creatively-well-planned survival game worth looking into. Having put in over 300 hours on the game, I can vouch for it, to some extent. It may lack the total creative prowess for players that the seemingly immortal Minecraft has, but it still is worth the, honestly, bargain price. How so? Well, sit down by a fire pit, throw some logs on the fire to keep dear Charlie away, and i'll tell ya all about it.


You'll spend many a night curled up by a slowly dwindling fire, hoping Charlie doesn't have you for a snack.

If you came to this game looking for a storyline, you're not getting much, but i'll address the reason why later on. The starting character you can play as is Wilson Higgsbury II, a scientist who has been tricked and trapped in the unforgiving wilderness world by a dapper fellow called Maxwell. Who is actually a demon. Go figure.

You are thrown into a hostile wilderness where it seems like even the "docile" creatures are out to get you in some way or another. Beyond that, and a simple hint, you are on your own!

"Say, pal, you don't look too good. You had better find something to eat before night comes!"

And with that, you are thrown into the thick of things, with no real rhyme or reason. Left to fend for yourself in a hateful world.

How is the gameplay, you might ask? It's got layers of complexity all over the place. Initially, you're left with 3 stats to manage, health, sanity and hunger. And honestly, one problem I have with this is that if you lose all your health, of course, you die. And if your hunger meter empties out completely, you lose health slowly. But if your sanity hits 0, the screen goes blurry and wierd, and hallucinational monsters come out to attack you, which is nothing to a player who knows what the heck he's doing. Sanity comes off feeling like a much-less-than-vital statistic.

But, yes, like I said, there's a hunger mechanic. But, unlike another much-blockier sandbox game that I won't mention, not tending to hunger WILL kill you eventually, as opposed to leaving you near-death. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of types of sustenance to keep you. Ranging from wild berries, to haunches of beef, to fancier dishes cooked up yourself in a pot, there are so many ways to not starve.

And here's where the game has a bit of a problem. Food is usually abundant enough that you're never in any real danger of starving, unless you're so awful at this game that you run away from every lone spider in your path, can't farm, and generally are having rotten luck. Funny, since the game's name is "Don't Starve".

No, more likely, you'll get brutally murdered by one of the denizens, over something or other. This game is much like Minecraft in that there's never a clear goal, ahead of not starving and not getting killed. You have to find your own entertainment beyond a certain point. What would that be? The game doesn't have the full creative possibility that Minecraft, Terraria, or similar games have. And that, I have to leave up to the reader.

So far, it may sound like the game is rubbing off badly on me, but I think it's great from a mechanics standpoint. All 3 stats mesh in reasonably, from night-time sanity loss due to your own fear, to stat tradeoff from eating certain foods(I.E, eating cooked monster meat to satisfy hunger, but losing health and sanity as a tradeoff) to adding a purpose to do certain things you might not think of doing normally, such as picking flowers to regain sanity or purposely going mad to get some nightmare fuel from the hallucination monsters.

And yet.....

Talking about the game with my friends did make me realize one thing: The sandbox has absolutely no real endgame content that has the difficulty scale upwards on the survival end. Once you reach a certain point, the game ceases to be a challenge, and you're wasting time. Not to mention, some things in the game could use a bit more balancing, even though the game is technically complete and functional. Oh, sure, you could go down into the caves, but the way the caves are built up, with little food, lots of dangers, ect ect, is the game's way of telling you to not stay down there too long. Not to mention, there isn't a single thing down there you NEED to get anywhere in the game. Sure, the Bunnymen and Thulecite Ruins are cool and all, but it's hardly substantial to the gameplay in the least. It's all optional, only needing to be done if you want to.




     The caves may seem like an interesting prospect, but curiosity is the only serious reason to go down there at all.

This is not to suggest that the game is easy at the start. The game has permadeath, and the only ways to revive are to have activated a single-use Touchstone, have a Meat Effigy built, or to be wearing a Life-Giving Amulet when you die. But, once you have the required faculties going, meat and tree farms, a way to deal with the weekly hound attacks, everything, it's not a problem in the least unless you deliberately do something very stupid. At that point, the only real recourse short of killing yourself epicly and leaving the game for a long time, is to attempt Adventure Mode. Adventure Mode sends you on the route to find the demonic Maxwell, in search of a way out. And while I won't completely spoil everything therein, it does not end the game at all. Matter of fact, the game still has no end, so one could possibly call it incomplete. The game does promise that there is more to come, however.

My main love with this game, and yet, my main gripe, at the same time, is most certainly with the storyline. The Adventure Mode update seriously upgraded the game's storyline beyond "You are a gentleman scientist, now survive that dapper demon's eternal hatred". I do not want to spoil, again, but I like what was done, even if some find it cliche. But, another problem I have is that there's almost zero exposition in the sandbox. The Ruins deep underground quietly throw some revelations in your face, but the lionshare of the story exposition is in the Don't Starve Praecantor, and the forums, generally. If Don't Starve's story handout is to be an example of how Klei handles things, then they may have a bit of work to do before they make a fully coherent story.

But, again, maybe it's too early. The game is unfinished, believe it or not. Also, I think it's worth noting, at the time of this review, that there is a DLC called Reign of Giants, that's in beta. I considered putting the review on hold, but it's obvious to me now that it doesn't add anything truly substantial. Again. It's just more content to pad out the sandbox, which really doesn't seem to address most of the problems. Such as the balance of the initial content.

In my personal opinion, if you were looking for something interesting in the game, story-wise, a mod could serve you better than this DLC. But, by all means, if more filler is up your alley, then wait for the DLC to be in a "finished" state, then get it. Not now, though. It's ultra buggy, and even more so if you're not using Windows.

Also, it sounds like I may not have been very descriptive as to what you're going to run into when you start a game. And that's because it's randomly generated. That's right. RNG forever. Who knows? Maybe your first playthrough will be screwed beyond all recovery due to a lack of rocks, or grass.


                  As it turns out, being a careless firestarter is it's own curse AND reward...

So, at the end of the day, it has to be asked: Do I recommend Don't Starve? Well, personal opinion says yes, but in the name of trying to act professional: Look at your games library. If Minecraft or Terraria, or, heck, even Rust is in there, and you're feeling creative, then totally give it a try. Otherwise, you might be better served giving this game a pass. If you do get it, I would recommend Humble Bundle, or whenever Steam has a sale, Don't Starve gets discounted rather easily nowadays. Have fun, stay well-fed, and make sure to keep things quiet in the darkness.

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Rosten    926

Honestly, as much as i love the two games, mentioning Terraria and Minecraft, (moreso the latter then the former) is a bit um.... irellevant, considering the only thing that makes them similar is the sandbox attitude, as minecraft nor terraria is focused upon survival, moreso focused on the "Hey, here's some things, now go spend a few hours and make them amazing things" instead of "Well, we're going to give you the bare necessities to survive, you probably wont, but good luck anyway!"

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Silentdarkness1    1161

I know that, and when I mentioned those two games, I was looking at it strictly from the sandbox point of view. When you're finally set up well enough that surviving isn't really a problem.

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