Don't Starve reviewed by Gaming like a Dad
Don’t Starve is “An Uncompromising Wilderness Survival Game Full of Science & Magic!” according to the developer, but it would be best described as an open world survival game. It is made by Klei , the makers of Eets, the Shank games, and my favorite stealth game of all time, Mark of the Ninja (read my review here!).
One of my friends saw the game and said it looked like “Minecraft as directed by Tim Burton,” and I think the description fits well. I spent a weekend playing through the game a few times, but I still feel like I barely scratched the surface. I think that calling this a full review is unfair in some ways, and that calling it “first impressions” may be closer to the mark. Either way, I would like to make it known right away that this game is very large in scope, and what you get out of it depends a lot on how much you put in.
Anyone who has played Minecraft or any other open world survival games can tell you that these games can suck hours of time away once they get their claws in, and Don’t Starve is no exception. The game itself is in top-down third person perspective, and controlled primarily by mouse. Starting up a game will randomly generate a world and your character will be placed into it without any items. In order to survive you will need to collect items, and then combine items to make new items. You will need to collect better materials, and in order to get the better materials you will need better items and…. you get the idea. These games drive the player to keep playing by keeping things just… out… of… reach…. and it always works on me. What sets Don’t Starve apart from other games in the genre is it wants you to die; in fact, you earn experience points every time you die which unlock new characters. This is important because you will absolutely die. A lot. This game is much tougher than other open world games, and more often than not I found myself trying to run away from some new way of dying.
The game also features a health, hunger, and interestingly a “sanity” meter. It adds a whole new level of stress to the game to know that besides food and clothing, I also need to worry about keeping my character sane. Just like any survival game Don’t Starve relies heavily on the player experimenting, and figuring out what works where. It also has some game play elements that really caught me off guard, but I absolutely loved. For example; if you play as the main character “Wilson,” eventually he starts to grow a beard, and if you would like you can shave it off and use it in certain recipes, or you could keep it and it helps keep you warm in the winter (no really, I thought it was a joke too). The game introduces enough to keep things fresh, but also doesn’t try to be so different that it over complicates things.
Like Klei Entertainment’s previous games, Don’t Starve has an animated look, but unlike Mark of the Ninja and Shank which looked cell shaded, Don’t Starve looks more like an animation from Tim Burton, or something that you would see in a web comic. It is very well done, and the style and aesthetic work perfectly with the game play. There is very little color, and instead of voices all the characters have an instrument that plays a note when they talk. I really cannot stress how great the game looks, and was pleased to see that there really wasn’t anything that felt out of place with the style, everything fits well and creates one cohesive universe.
Like I said in the game play chapter these games depend more on what you put into them rather than the game trying to force you down a specific path. Each play through will be different, and because of that there really isn’t any story. Although it should be noted that whenever you start a new game there is a short introduction, that raises more questions than answers, but I would guess that as I play I may find out more.
The game is most likely too hard for most younger players, however kids that play Minecraft may enjoy it. I didn’t find anything that was too upsetting visually (you will occasionally need to kill animals for food), and with no voice acting I had no problem letting my three year old watch me play. What stuck me though is that this was one of the first games she had absolutely no interest in watching me play, or trying to play herself. The lack of color, and any “cute” things really gave her nothing to be interested in. The only thing that she found moderately interesting was the sounds the character made whenever I clicked items. The game is single player, and saves upon exiting, so there is nothing to worry about if you play at night, and with no voices you can even play with the volume all the way down without worrying about missing anything.
- Very fun new take on open world survival
- Awesome style
- Innovative enough to keep things fresh without getting crazy
- Tougher than most other open world games which leads me to problem #2
- Dying a lot can get frustrating since you have to start over every time
Game Score: 5 out of 5 Hearts
Really I am more and more impressed with Klei, they deliver amazing games that look as good as they play. I really enjoy playing Don’t Starve and even I recommend it highly.
There were multiple times while playing through this game that I laughed at its humor, applauded its mechanics, and cursed the souls who made me die. This game easily sets itself above the rest and really shines as a great game.