Don’t Starve: Console Edition Review: Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Sections: 2D, Adventure, Consoles, Developers, Exclusives, Game-Companies, Genres, Indie, Originals, PS4, Reviews

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Title: Don’t Starve
Price: $14.99
System(s): PS4 (Also on PC)
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Klei Entertainmet (Klei Entertainment)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone 10+” for Fantasy Violence

I’m not GamerTell’s resident Don’t Starve expert. Jeremy Hill is. He’s been playing since the game was in beta, and knows all the ins and outs of Maxwell’s demanding world. I only got into it because it was made part of PlayStation Plus subscriber’s Instant Game Collection after it launched. I had no interest in it before that, despite its charming appearance, and I now feel terrible about that, because Don’t Starve is an amazing game. So now, I’m making amends by telling you why you should play it.

don't starve

Don’t starve! Don’t sit in the dark! Don’t die!

Don’t Starve begins with a cinematic in which Wilson, the Gentleman Scientist, is building a great machine. He was given a hint to create it by some otherworldly voice, which of course sounds ominous. Naturally, the voice was up to no good, and said machine pulls Wilson into a desolate world filled with all kinds of hazards. His goal after arrival? Not to starve.

Players control Wilson, or one of the other unlockable denizens trapped in their hazardous new homeland, and do everything possible to keep him healthy, satiated, and sane. Loss of health and growing hunger can lead to death, while insanity can make an already scary world more lethal.

Fortunately, none of the playable characters are helpless. By constantly gathering food and materials, crafting items to build a camp and equipment, and being brave enough to explore the map, players can thrive. They can master this land. Just make sure not to go out in the dark without a source of light and to craft some clothes before winter comes. You’d hate to face a Night Monster or die from exposure.

don't starve

Starvation is the least of your concerns.

Though Don’t Starve is an appropriate title, running out of food isn’t really a player’s primary concern. Sure, initially it’s a fight to scavenge enough to survive. After enough diligence and gathering on the part of the player, it’s about something more. Once a few traps are placed around rabbit holes and ponds, hunger isn’t a problem. Getting insulated clothing to survive winter is. Or acquiring enough resources to build a camp, with secure walls that prevent enemy attacks. Or making friends with Pig men, to improve your odds of survival. And maybe, if you find Maxwell’s Door, you’ll feel up to taking on the Adventure Mode and learning the truth about Don’t Starve.

As you’ve probably guessed, this all means you get back what you put into Don’t Starve. If you don’t look online for support from other players and just jump in without any research, you may not have as good a time as someone who does their research, is more informed, and knows that winter is coming and something of a story mode lies hidden within the Sandbox Mode where everyone begins. The game is worth the effort that goes into it, so I highly recommend giving it your all. Not only because it’s stylish and challenging, but because it represents a kind of game developers don’t often make anymore – one where trial and error rules.

Don’t Starve will not hold your hand. It will not teach you how to survive in the world. There are no tutorials. Everything is up to your own ingenuity and resourcefulness. While some may find this drastic, since many games do offer some measure of handholding, it’s actually encouraging and helps add to the ambiance. You’re truly helpless, so stop wasting time and start gathering and checking to see what you can do.

I just wished Don’t Starve paused while crafting. In the PS4 version, the action only pauses when pressing R2 to search through a player’s inventory. Time still moves and an avatar is susceptible to the world’s various hazards while someone is attempting to make various items. I understand this is a relentless world, but it doesn’t seem fair to pause during one kind of action, but not during the other.

Some clearer menu and inventory icons would be appreciated as well. It’s hard to see what crafting recipes require in Don’t Starve. I realize I’m playing on a 22″ HDTV, and things may be a bit clearer for people with larger TVs, but I shouldn’t have to stop what I’m doing, get up, and walk closer to the screen to try and discern what items a recipe requires. True, larger icons would require more HUD space, but there could have been ways to make it easier to actually see what everything is.

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Prove to yourself that you won’t starve.

Don’t Starve is the kind of game that grows with you. As you begin, you’ll find yourself limited one area as you learn what does and doesn’t work. Through experience and calculated risk taking, the world gradually opens up to you and the game transforms into more than just a fight to survive another night. It’s about endurance, and creating a settlement that will last and prove that no matter how harsh the circumstances may be, you will overcome them. Don’t Starve doesn’t hold your hand or cater to your needs, it makes you become a better person through trial and error.

Site [Don’t Starve]

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  • Brian Allen

    Oh yes, love this game.