Don’t Starve Review

  • Platform: PC
  • Developer: Klei Entertainment
  • Publisher: Klei Entertainment
  • Release Date: Public Beta, March 2013
  • Price: $11.99 now, $14.99 final
  • Official: Don’t Starve
“You be careful now, there be monsters nearby!”

Sandbox survival games, they’re kind of a big deal. Minecraft hasn’t simply changed how games can be made, marketed, and playtested, it has also helped shape an entirely new genre. While the original blocky title is still a huge success, other games such as Terraria and now Don’t Starve, are showing there is still plenty of room left in this new and exciting style. While Terraria went and combined the Minecraft style with titles such as Castlevania, Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve is one part Minecraft, one part storybook, and one part Diablo. Its a combination that proves to be fun and endearing.

Klei Entertainment are proving to be an extremely versatile and exciting indie developer. They began in the puzzle genre with Eets, they than explored the realm of the super violent beat em up with Shank and Shank 2, after that they dipped their toes into the waters of the stale stealth genre and completely rejuvenated it with their hit, Mark of the Ninja. This is a studio where you can see their talent growing with each game released, and a developer that isn’t content to stay in the safe lane. Like Mark of the Ninja before it, Klei have again taken a strong turn and are now delivering gamers a slower paced and less violent adventure, but one that again, deserves to be played.

Don’t Starve doesn’t officially release until March of this year, but taking a page from Markus “Notch” Persson, Klei are allowing players to pre purchase the game at a cheaper price, and than playtesting and giving feedback until the titles official launch in a few months. Although the games still a ways off from completion, it is already a very polished and fun experience. Players start their adventure by generating a new world and than selecting a character. At the outset you will only have one option, Wilson, but as you play the game you can unlock five additional characters that each have their own unique abilities.

Once you are plopped into your very own randomly generated world, you will find yourself alone and confused, but luckily Minecraft has at least taught us that you should probably start exploring, gathering, and crafting, for night is sure to come! Yes, as I said Don’t Starve can be quite similar to that original survival hit, but one way that it far excels is in the presentation department; Don’t Starve is a great looking game! Klei have infused this title with a hand drawn gothic style that is all its own. Wilson looks like a sketch Tim Burton may have drawn while bored at lunch, a sketch somehow brought to life, complete with fluid animations and a witty personality. This hand drawn coat of paint is complemented with unique creature designs and ingenious water. The cherry on top is the 2D nature of it all, similar to Deathspank, the world of Don’t Starve looks as if it could be a pop up storybook, one that lets you rotate the camera.

After your done admiring the visuals, its about time you start surviving in this new and frightening world. You begin by running to a nearby patch of tall grass, and than quickly tear it all up and shove it in your pockets! Then the next patch, and how about some flowers? These berries look tasty! Oh, and need some rocks for sure. Maybe some seeds a nearby bird left behind, and maybe just a little bit of these twigs…and some more twigs. Whats this? Oh you can build a shoddy axe now with some of those ingredients. Well its definitely time to get chopping on some of these trees, they’re blocking the beautiful sun anyways. This mad dash to gobble up all of the Earths resources goes on until sundown, where the landscape takes on an orange hue that is quite ominous. Its about time you find a nice patch of barren soil in which to build a fire on and huddle up for the night.

Once night comes around the world of Don’t Starve gets extremely dark, you cannot see more than a few feet in front of you, and you aren’t going anywhere unless you bring a torch along as well. As you sit by the fire you see hazy shapes of creepy crawlies skittering about just outside your field of vision and you can hear the distant howls of wild dogs roaming the land. You inch slightly closer to the fire and start munching on the berries and seeds you grabbed earlier, slightly quenching your hunger. Luckily you ate the food before it went sour and became non edible. Before long the sun rises again, you have survived your first night of Don’t Starve.

Although this may all sound familiar, the addictive qualities of surviving successfully in a strange new land cannot be ignored. You tell yourself you’ll just collect a few more necessities for ten minutes before logging off, but before you know it, its well past an hour and your scouting new regions of land looking for the perfect spot to start a camp. It’s not all familiar territory here though, Don’t Starve oozes style and features all its own. As you explore you’ll not only find wood, gold, and fruits, but also random oddities such as a forgotten necklace or an old kazoo. While your character may have a comical remark for these items, they are ultimately useless to you, and thus they must be fed to the science machine!

The science machine is Don’t Starves crafting system. Everything you pick up can be chucked into this hastily built device, which essentially breaks down any item thrown into it, and allows you to better understand the makings of these items. Using this knowledge you build up research points that can than be spent on unlocking new recipes for you to build and manage. It is through this system that you may unlock the potential to build a chest, tent or a plot for farming. Or maybe you just want a fancy top hat and suit. While you use the mighty power of your brain and research points to learn how to make such things, it is still up to you to find the necessary components out in the world to actually build them.

This system of discovery, resource grabbing, and than resource destroying, all while managing your health and food levels, helps give Don’t Starve a nice flow to its gameplay. Its not all gold nuggets and flowers however, there are plenty of hostile forces in this world that want you dead. Unlike Minecraft, the forces at work within Don’t Starve do not fear the light. This world is always threatening and you can find yourself laying dead on the grass quicker than you took to inhale that breath you forgot to exhale. Your character is in constant danger, be that from evil spiders, dogs, crazy birds, strange tentacles, or wild Beefalo you got too close to. The local wildlife must be dealt with if you are to survive, you must take up arms and defend yourself!

The fearsome creatures in Don’t Starve all have their own patterns and behaviors that you may learn to better master them, and luckily you can arm yourself with spears, darts, or even mines to smite the foul things. Along your travels you may even happen upon some passive species that may prove useful to one such as yourself. Although spiders are never passive or useful…burn those nests to the ground in a fiery blaze that would make demons themselves quiver in fear!

The best thing about Don’t Starve is the same as its sister games Minecraft and Terraria; the sense of discovery and amazement. No matter how many times you fail and start again, you will always learn something new or discover a funny new joke within the game. The systems at work are always fun to fiddle with and the constant updates keep the game feeling fresh. Klei Entertainment have been very consistent in delivering large title updates every two weeks, and they will continue this trend up to and even after the games launch in March. Each update further adjusts the games main systems as well as adds new recipes to discover and create and new enemies to deal with. The future for Don’t Starve holds further difficulties, weather patterns, defensive structures and new methods for the world to transform. Klei have delivered another solid title to add to their collection, and another genre tackled and mastered. If you enjoy exploration, progression and beautiful art and sound, than Don’t Starve may be for you. –Chuck

The Rundown

  • + Exploration and progression are handled well
  • + Art is terrific
  • + Creatures are unique and fun
  • + Updates keep things fresh
  • – Those familiar with Minecraft and Terraria may find less to love
  • – Current state of recipes is perhaps on the small side

Final Score

8.0 / 10


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