By Mento 2 Comments
May the Thirtieth
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.
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.
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.