Don’t Starve is built around a simply goal: don’t starve. It’s about survival, with minimal resources and unknown dangers threatening to kill you at every turn. As such, it’s a challenging game, made even more so by a philosophy of no hand holding, forcing you to experiment in order to discover what’s on offer. It’s initially frustrating but figuring out how to survive a little longer each time is a compelling trick that keeps you playing despite the harshness.
You take control of gentlemen scientist, Wilson, who has been manipulated into creating a device and unleashing antagonist Maxwell, who pulls you into a dark and mysterious world. In this world you must try to survive for as long as you can, by gathering food, building shelter, combatting madness, and hiding or slaying the beasts that roam the land. Meanwhile, if you can find Maxwell’s Door, you can uncover more of the narrative and defeat Maxwell.
The narrative is more of a scene setup than an immersive tale, but does more than enough to introduce you to this strange and eerie world. A cardboard cut-out, sepia toned, Tim Burton aesthetic adds to its eerie vibe and makes for a unique visual identity.
Surviving in this world is a chore. Food is scarce, resources for building things are randomly generated and often also scarce, and the permadeath is a constant companion that plagues the back of your mind. Meanwhile, figuring out what to do, how to build things and what to prioritise is a trial and error challenge that’ll take multiply deaths and restarts to figure out. But you’ll certainly feel compelled to conquer it. The world is fascinatingly weird and each death is a lesson you can trade for a little more time surviving next go around.
A day and night cycle adds additional threats and challenges. During the day you’re free to explore and gather food and resources, when twilight hits it’s wise you find a safe place and prepare to hunker down for the night. At night you’re surrounded in darkness and nasty creatures come out which mean to eat you. You’ll need to create fires and torches to keep creatures at bay, and if you’re caught in the pitch black a mysterious entity called, Charlie, very quickly saps your health.
Furthermore, your hunger is a constant concern, forcing you to take more risks to gather food further afield, or figure out alternative methods to feed yourself by exploring what’s possible in the build menu. But if you get caught in the dark and witness or have to perform horrible things, such as grave robbing, your sanity begins to fall. Fail to raise it again by performing pleasant actions, such as picking flowers or wearing dapper clothes, and you’ll begin to see things, things that can become corporeal and, if your sanity falls to low, eat you. It’s a dangerous world and survival is hard. Push on, however, and eventually you’ll unlock additional characters who you can try to survive with instead, some of whom bring new challenges to the mix, such as one who won’t eat vegetables.
Indeed, Don’t Starve: Giant Edition’s pleasantly simple premise rewards you with a fascinating and creepy world and a competitive compulsion to survive for more days than the last time in its procedurally generated world. And while the challenge is stiff and the lack of tutorials initially frustrating, you’ll soon find yourself struggling to resist the urge to try one last time, which inevitably leads to far more attempts and many more hours of fun.
Thanks to Klei Entertainment for their support
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