Video Game Reviews: Don’t Starve


Brandon Perton via Flickr cc

Chris Geikler, Staff Writer

The sandbox-survival genre has seen a sort of boom in the world of gaming.

Ever since Minecraft was released, it seems like every indie game developer and their grandmothers have tried to recreate the intense anxiety of surviving out in the wilderness, and gathering resources to stay alive.

Unfortunately, most of these games don’t go much further than blatant rip-offs of Minecraft. One example is 7 Days to Die, a sandbox-zombie-survival game that borrows from Minecraft like John Dillinger borrowed from the American Government. From tree punching, to block placing, to ore mining, 7 Days to Die reeks of Minecraft “inspiration” with the only real difference being the addition of firearms (because we’ve NEVER seen that before!).

However, I’m not writing this review to pick on indie titles; I’m writing to recount my experiences with a sandbox-survival game that looks like it actually put some thought into creating a wholehearted sandbox-survival game, namely Don’t Starve by Klei Entertainment.

Allow me to recall my experience playing through my first night in Don’t Starve. I started the game being dropped off in the middle of the wilderness without anything but the clothes on my back (stop, it’s totally different from Minecraft!). A tall man, whom I’m almost sure is the devil, was standing over me remarking about my poor appearance and how it might be a good idea if I find something to eat, before disappearing into thin air.

Following his advice, I proceeded to collect every random item I found on the ground, quickly learning that my inventory space was much more limited than that of another game I could mention.  By the time I had discovered this, it was getting late, so I decided to start collecting lumber to make a house. I started punching the nearest tree out of shear instinct, but to my surprise this wasn’t getting me anywhere! Yes, in Don’t Starve, you actually have to find materials to forge an axe BEFORE you can go on any lumber-jacking adventures.

“What an interesting idea,” I thought as I noticed that I was seriously close to spending a night in complete unsheltered darkness. I was starting to panic, but in my unstable state of mind, I decided to ask a nearby bee’s nest for help, at which point I was immediately stung to death… Things weren’t going very well.

Second and third attempts only fared slightly better, but to be honest that’s what I truly love about this game the most. Each time I play, I learn a little more about the world and survive a little longer. It hits the mark on what can be considered challenging yet fair.

The whole game is a lot more unforgiving with the resources and survival tactics which makes it stand out from the common survival experience. On top of that, there is permanent death with only one or two exceptions. That’s right, if you die, then that’s it. No save. No continues. You start back at the beginning without anything. This way, the player has a serious sense of self-preservation, and death carries a sense of tension and dread.

It also doesn’t spoon-feed the player any information about the world, which I like. It allows you to actually explore and learn about the world on his/her own accord. There’s no checkpoint marker that tells you where to go. There’s no in-game tips or hints, and I can respect that.

If you’re a fan of Minecraft, then you’d probably enjoy Don’t Starve too, but don’t go into it expecting an easy ride. It’s a good game but also a tough one.

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