Mento's May Madness More: #27 - Don't Starve

Posted by Mento (2808 posts) -

May the Thirtieth

The game: Klei Entertainment's Don't Starve

The source: GB user Murtaug via the Steamgifts.com group (Thank you!)

The pre-amble: Don't Starve is a procedurally generated survival game where the player character must survive as long as possible without their hunger, sanity or health gauges running fatally low. The player can collect various objects from their surroundings and use them to craft useful items, cook filling meals or spend towards developing new technology. Crucially, the player character must keep eating food and resting near fires when nighttime rolls around.

The playthrough: I was a little surprised when the fine users of this site gave Don't Starve the second highest total amount of votes in a poll I held to confirm the final three games of this year's May Madness. I kind of figured they'd all be familiar enough with the game given the amount of time Giant Bomb itself has dedicated towards explaining what the game is and how to play it. I suppose it's still a little too enigmatic for its own good. So here goes:

The early game is simple enough. All you really need to do is gather the plentiful resources (and a bit of gold, which isn't as rare as one might think) and craft a few of the science machines while ensuring your character stays fed and sane and safe at night. It is at this point where Don't Starve becomes a much more focused challenge and where the whole "procedural generation" factor comes into play. As the world is randomly generated, you'll naturally find an abundance of certain materials and a dearth of others. With a sufficient amount of exploration, you'll get a sense of what's in plentiful supply and where best to expend your constructive efforts accordingly: if you have a lot of forests, there's plenty that can be done with wood (and later boards, once you've built the machine that allows you to refine certain resources). Likewise, there are a lot of uses for stones and plantlife. Some objects seem worthless in a crafting sense (though rest assured they probably have some use somewhere) but can often be thrown onto the campfire as fuel.

Though closer to a complete game than it once was, Don't Starve is still a beta in many ways. For instance, the underground sections are incomplete, which is why you'll simply get assaulted by every spider in Christendom until you leave the way you came.

However, the way the game progresses with its Roguelike-in-all-but-name "death is an inevitability" philosophy means that you'll grow hungrier faster and common food items (seeds and carrots) become less and less satiating. Likewise, sanity will continue to drop at a constant rate and it takes a sparse number of items to boost it back up (I've found flower garlands do the job, but as a piece of equipment it leaves you without much defense). All your grand machinations come to nothing when you're half-starved and seeing shadows dart about from the corner of your eye. In my first playthrough I found myself killed by a figment of my imagination, which was partly my own dumb fault for digging up graves and getting the heebie-jeebies too often (as well as a lot of valuable items I never got to use). It's discouraging, but given the game's macabre presentation it also appears to be an indelible part of the experience.

My corpse, surrounded by all my junk and the opaque non-entity that murdered me.

Don't Starve is a game that requires a lot of experience before you can start to really succeed at it - not unlike, say, NetHack or Dwarf Fortress - though functionally the game reminded me a lot more of Dungeons of Dredmor; specifically how easy it is to imagine so many grand notions for where one's crafting efforts are headed that fate will invariably step in to snatch away from you. I also really like the game's look: we have a plethora of gory games, should the news media be believed, but very few Gorey ones. However, Don't Starve just becomes more of a drag the longer you play it, as your dreams go unfulfilled and you're hurriedly searching for an iota to eat or a few more flowers to stave off the crazies. It's stressful, it's grim and it requires a lot of patience and dedication before you can begin to feel like you understand what needs to be done. It's the kind of game I don't doubt one could easily fall in love with, but for someone like myself who prefers a little of everything it's a bit too hardcore.

The verdict: Possibly. I have Dungeons of Dredmor more or less permanently installed, so I could see myself coming back to this every so often as well.

Don't Starve, everyone!

#1 Edited by Tordah (2487 posts) -

It feels like this game has been in beta forever, and I keep seeing it Steam all the time for some reason. It looks interesting. I'll check it out once it gets fully released and balanced.

#2 Posted by Carlos1408 (1543 posts) -

I just got it a few of days ago, frustratingly two days before it went on sale for like 60%. It's been worth it though; Don't Starve is the only game I've been playing the last fortnight. I absolutely love the game, however, the perma-death is really starting to grind on me. I know it's an integral part of the game and I used to really like it; it does really add tension and true risk to the game. But yeah, once you start to get good at it (like getting pretty decent at making self-sufficient settlements/camps) and you're investing loads of time and effort into one play-through it is devastating when you die. And then once again you have to start the slow boring process of collecting the basics, rather than tending to a farm, drying racks, cooking pots, etc.

I figured out a couple of things that give you a revive, but I always end up dying pretty soon after using a meat effigy or touch stone. GOD DAMN SPIDERS! There's so many of them now, it seems impossible to be able to fight them off in a way where you don't end up getting mobbed, plus you need cobweb for so many important items in the game.

In short, I love the game but it is beginning to infuriate me. Perhaps I should give it a break... :)

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