Better dying through teamwork.

A brief look at Don’t Starve Together (beta)

Better dying through teamwork.

A few days ago Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve Together came out for free for vanilla Don’t Starve owners, and almost immediately my roommate called and asked if I wanted to try it out. I’m a big fan of dying a lot, so I accepted. Naturally, neither of us bothered playing a lot before we tried it together, and we turned on Reign of Giants DLC right away. 

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And yes, we collected the berries, and wove the flower hats, and ran from the bees, and battled the night demons, and slaughtered and were slaughtered by the Beefalo. And there was very little rejoicing.

It is a most perfect survival game.

Portal StartWelcome to the darkness, Pippi Longstocking.

Note: I played this with only one other guy. I’ve seen some dedicated servers go up to 64 players. Don’t ask me how that went, because I didn’t try it.

I’m going to assume most of you who clicked this already knows what Don’t Starve is, but I’ll give a quick sum-up for those who don’t:

It’s a survival game made by the same guys who made Shank. You collect resources, you craft items, you eat things you find on the ground, you battle strange monsters and eat those too. You can die quickly, but most of the times your demise is slow and sad and desperate, either from starvation, exposure, or madness. Almost everybody thought this was fun. That includes me.

And now, with this new stand-alone multiplayer version, you can suffer and die with friends.

Klei must have spent a lot of time getting all the balancing right behind the scenes, but on first glance they didn’t seem to do much besides allow for more people to play in the same world. You still go around collecting things and eating things like before.

Suddenly this solitary struggle for survival became one that requires task planning, schedules, coordinated efforts.

But the nature of having two or more people surviving in the same space produces new strategies and problems. Two guys with axes can chop down a lot more trees than one. Often times when something complicated needed to be built and required multiple materials, my roommate and I would divide the job between us. Suddenly this solitary struggle for survival became one that requires task planning, schedules, coordinated efforts. When hunting or fighting things, we would plan out our attacks. It was a fine feeling.

But we also had to share resources that were once meant for just one.

With two people scouring the wilds for supplies, useful materials can get scarce a lot faster. Even travelling to other places is a blessing and a challenge with multiple players. Two can carry a lot more than one, but staying together can be a challenge on a long road: outside of a certain radius, your partner(s) will no longer appear on your minimap, and it can be very hard to find them again.

We go to Valhalla, shiny and chrome.

Really, making Don’t Starve multiplayer seems like a no-brainer. It’s already so balanced and workable that hardly anything needs to change. It’s the same quirky, masochistic, survival masterpiece that the original was, but with more people.

The game could always have a greater variety of resources, tools, hats, and everything else. There’s no end to the amount of content players want with games like this, so it will never be perfect. But I get to be mauled to death by penguins with a friend now, and that’s all I need.

A brief look at Don’t Starve Together (beta)
Better dying through teamwork.

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Image of Matt Amenda
Matt Amenda
Still loves cartoons. And video games. And comics. And occasionally writes lengthy diatribes about them on the internet. Hope to get paid for it someday.