Don’t Starve

Klei Entertainment are the makers of Shank, Mark of the Ninja; the classical N+ and their latest conception, Don’t Starve. The best way to summarise this game is Minecraft with roguelike elements… as directed by Tim Burton.

You play Johnny De… I mean Wilson, the Gentleman Scientist,  who was given great scientific knowledge by a voice in his radio. Unsurprisingly, this knowledge-gain backfired as he accidentally constructed a portal to another realm where he must now fight for his survival. This realm is a strange place consisting of monsters, walking talking pigs and lizards; wormholes which are actually worms and yaks… so many yaks.

Wilson-Depp

You are dumped into the middle of randomly-generated nowhere by the voice in the radio who turned out to be a demon and told a fire would be handy. And this is where the Minecraft aspect comes into it. You start with nothing except the ability to gather. After gathering certain materials, you can construct axes and pick-axes and then finally construct a torch, or even a camp fire. And this fire is important since when night comes, the world goes pitch black and you die from unseen enemies. You have three organs to satisfy: your stomach (hunger); your heart (life) and your brain (sanity). When you die from the dark, from hunger, wounds or insanity your game ends you have to regenerate a new world and start again.

Playthrough 1:

Using shrubs and flint I built an axe which I then used to chop down trees. I survived the first night by constructing a camp fire and eating foraged berries and seeds, cooking them in the fire. Unfortunately, I didn’t forage enough as I died the next night from starvation.

Playthrough 2:

Same as last time except I managed to stay atop of the whole hunger situation. I manage to build a trap and baiting it with carrots, got to eat some tasty rabbits that night.  With the same principal for the axe, I constructed a pix-axe and was able to build fire pits with the stone, a more permanent solution to camp fires. Chipping away at rocks in stony fields, I finally managed to find some gold, a key component in the construction of a Science Machine, giving me access to more tools. With a newly built spear, off I went and attacked giant flightless birds, eating eggs and monster meat, a feast! Unfortunately, that night I let my fire get too low. But on the fortunate side, this playthrough gave me enough overall experience to gain a new character, the pyromaniac named Willow.

Willow-Helena
I can definitely see the resemblance…

Playthrough 3:

With my new character, I set off on a newly-generated island and immediately encountered pigs living in small wooden houses who were incredible violent. I managed to gather enough grass to make some armour. Also found a wormhole… a literal wormhole where I got spat out at the arse-end of a worm. I did encounter a major issue with this game as it took me a week to find an area to mine for gold, but I guess that’s the risk of random generation. I died in the swamps and was reincarnated at a strange wooden pedestal I found earlier. But this didn’t do much as I was soon killed by frogs that rained down from the heavens.

"I'll huff, and I'll puff and... oh god they're so punchy!"
“I’ll huff, and I’ll puff and… oh god they’re so punchy!”

Playthrough 4:

By this point I had a good grasp of the game and survival wasn’t a huge issue any more  so I could finally concentrate on the exploration side of the game. This also gave me time to realise that I’m not overly fond of sandbox games with no direction. The complete lack of direction bores me since there’s no motivation to do anything. Sure, I plough fields, plant seeds, build a house and kill as many rabbits as I want, but why? I decided to stick with it despite this and I finally came across a door that looked creepily like the same door which started this mess. Sure enough, it’s a door to another island and so the actual adventure mode begins. Turns out the whole first area is a tough-love tutorial area, in the same way that you dump a child in the middle of the bush, tell them good luck and then drive away, hoping they learn great survival skills.

While I’m not a huge fan of sandbox games because of their lack of direction, Don’t Starve adds the focus of survival and so interested me a little longer than the single hour I put into Minecraft. While the amount of choices and craftable items probably aren’t as wide as Minecraft… well let’s be honest you don’t need that many items or choices. I also felt like I didn’t explore the full potential of this game as I really didn’t see the point of building a house or sowing the fields as it was a lot easier to just forage for berries, carrots and seeds. Maybe if I had survived long enough to destroy the ecosystem, this might have been problem.

After destroying all the natural resources on my island, all that is left is monuments to my glory.
After destroying all the natural resources on my island, all that is left is monuments to my glory.

Don’t Starve is available from Steam and their website for $13.49 for a limited time.

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