Don’t Starve: Console Edition review 
  TweetTweet

Geoffrey Tim
January 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm

We’ve told you before what we think of Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve, a rather interesting indie game that’s found success on the PC. It’s now available on the rather indie-friendly PlayStation 4, and it’s free for PlayStation Plus subscribers. It’s worth paying for.

Games these days, a few notable examples aside, seem to be getting easier and easier, holding players’ hands and telling them exactly what to do. Don’t Starve is not one of those games.

368739

Don’t Starve puts you in the unfortunate shoes of Wilson, a ‘gentleman scientist’ with a penchant for facial hair who has accepted an otherworldly deal. A terrible mistake, Wilson finds he has been mysteriously transported to a strange, ink-scratched Victorian world  by some sort of evil, yet gentlemanly demon. He lets you know you’re in bit of a tricky spot, and then vanishes, leaving you alone with your wits and the shirt on your back, trying to figure out how to stay alive and, as the name suggests, not starve.

That’s very nearly it for the story. Dialogue is incredibly minimal with little to no further exposition save a few exchanges in the game’s unbelievably challenging adventure mode. No, instead, like most roguelike-likes (or Procedural Death Labyrinths if you prefer) the stories come from your own experiences. Survival doesn’t come easy, nor is it very much fun at first.

dontstarve2

For a long while, it’ll seem as though Don’t Starve’s randomly generated world, and the game itself aren’t very interesting. You’ll be harvesting all manner of ingredients; twigs from saplings, rocks and flint from the ground and bits of grass. You’ll be subsisting off of berries, carrots and hell, even flower petals if you get hungry enough. The crafting system though, is a rabbit hole. Collect enough raw materials, and you can start making other things; an axe for chopping down trees, picks for breaking boulders into rock, traps for catching better sustenance, simple protective clothing and rudimentary weapons. Importantly, you’re also able to create fire, without which you’ll very quickly perish. In the darkness, there lurks an unseen hungry evil, and without light to fend it off, you’re an easy meal. It’s not the only thing trying to kill you either; just about every other creature wants you dead, though you can also buddy up to some of the more sentient local fauna to keep you from prematurely expiring.

368736

Taking its queues from other crafting-heavy games like Minecraft and Terraria, there seems to be no end to the things you’ll eventually be able to make. combine the right bits together and you can create science and alchemy machines, which allow you to keep prototyping and creating more, until you’re eventually able – should you survive long enough – to build a permanent settlement, including a forts and farms, better recipes for life-giving food and better tools  making staying alive just that much easier. You’ll want a more permanent encampment too; survive long enough and you’ll go through seasonal changes and come wintertime and you’ll have to stay close to fire or risk lethal hypothermia.

Don’t-Starve

The standard sandbox is the primary mode, but there’s an adventure mode to be found hidden in the game that gives you a few objectives to carry out over a set number of days. It’s frighteningly difficult, like a version of the already gruelling game for masochists. Every day you do survive you earn XP, but it doesn’t make Wilson any better; you’ll instead unlock more characters with which to play, like the jittery fire starter Willow – who carries a lighter around with her, or Wendy, who’s not quite as afraid of the dark as everyone else… and for very good reason.

And throughout it all, you’ll have to keep your health up, your belly full and your sanity in check. Let your mind start slipping and you’ll be attacked by ethereal creatures too. It all becomes quite addictive once you get the hang of it, but being a roguelike-like is also one of its biggest pitfalls. Like many other games of its ilk, when you die you lose everything that you’ve collected, save for your actual experience – so you, the player, level up instead of an in-game avatar. That’s fine for a game like Spelunky or Desktop Dungeons, where runs last minutes. With Don’t Starve the initial days are a tiresome slog of gathering the essentials and after countless repeated deaths it really becomes a bit dull and draining. While it does have its hooks in you though, it’s a fantastic experience, as you constantly challenge yourself to survive just a few days longer.

11873879276_ff2e7d685b_o

I can’t honestly say there’s very much difference between this and the PC version of the game, save perhaps for the control scheme of course, and the lack of mod support. Unfortunately the interface is terribly small, so playing on a TV metres from your face will no doubt result in squinting; and I found it to be a nicer experience played on the Vita, using remote play.  

It’s certainly not for everyone but those with a sort of fastidious hoarder mentality will find a lot to love in Don’t Starve. Once you know how it all works and it’s less about exploration and discovery, Don’t Starve really does start to feel like a bit of a chore, but if you’re willing to embrace it, until then it’s some pretty hard-core, unforgiving fun.

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • General JJ Raven (John)

    Had quite a bit of fun playing this game on pc. Worth buying.

  • Hammersteyn

    Farthest I made it was day 7 and then I starved.

    • Her Highness the Hipster

      gotta make a crockpot – then you can cook your rabbits for meatballs. all. the. time :)

      • General JJ Raven (John)

        I loved setting up my little farm. Great stuff.

      • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

        How do you make a crockpot?

      • William Francis

        Farms are amazing too. except when winter comes. Second attempt at the game and I’m on day 23 so far. Hard game is hard

  • Admiral Chief in Vegas

    heh “Procedural Death Labyrinths”

  • Sageville

    Love the game I just wish it had the ability to save and reuse that save game.

    Nothing worse than doing 10 days of survival to be killed in an arb manner and then redo everything again.

    • General JJ Raven (John)

      I had that same issue with FTL. Which is also a flippin great game.

    • SauRoN

      There are ways to guarantee that you’ll be resurrected, but yes it’s not a perfect solution.

      I would have liked it if reset you at the start of the day on which you died so you can play your mistakes over and over again instead of what you did right on the previous X number of days.

      • Sageville

        I did have a cunning plan to wangle my PS+ online storage to keep a save game stored…. but then I haven’t figured out if you can do that on the PS4

  • Ricardo Harvey

    eish im still not getting the hang of this, played quite a few hours already but cant make better stuff

  • RinceThis2014

    Not sure I like the non-saving part. Sounds like a rather cheap way of making it hellish hard. Dark Souls IS hellish hard, but that feeling of knowing you got something right and were able to save it makes it worth it…

    • General JJ Raven (John)

      Pansy

      • RinceThis2014

        I’ll give you a black lip so you can have a tipple matching experience if you’re not careful!

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          I didn’t know you were also into make-up. Black lipstick seems a bit emo though.

          • RinceThis2014

            The Tri-Force look he would don would be applied using just that, Force, not lipstick…

  • SauRoN

    I found the exact opposite again…to small on the Vita to be fully enjoyed and sadly it means I need to get out of bed and go play on the TV.

    And it’s such a perfect game for the Vita’s lack of shoulder buttons which limit me to only a handful of games.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      If only the vita had another st of shoulder buttons..if only.

  • Rock789

    I picked this up thanks to it being free on PS+. My first game? Died as soon as night fell… Realised that the tutorial wasn’t coming, and that fire was my friend… So got stuck in and thoroughly investigated my inventory… Led to a very fun, if not stressful, game. :)

    Definitely has it’s moments – quite enjoyable. :)

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    I’ve managed 12 days so far (current save file), and now I’m getting all anxious and paranoid about killer bee swarms, killer hounds and having enough wood in my inventory. The last time I made it to 10 days. I even had a small farm and enough traps to trap a lifetime’s worth of rabbits, and then while looking for manure, I got killed by one of those big buffallo things. :/

    Suffice to say, Game of the year material! :D

  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    This game is exactly as it was intended to be. Survival is not easy. 9/10

    Addictive as astros!

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      Not to mention a glorious beard can save your life…

    • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

      Yeah that 7.7 just ain’t right… I would give this at least 8.5 and agree with that 9…

  • Pheo1386

    Love this game, just survived my first winter and was genuinely pleased!

  • Jacob Barton

    First game 5 mins in death by bee. Game is hard and confusing. But in a good way. Made it to day 7 with willow but got no camp just roaming randomly. Found a evil bone and now this thing follows me and I can store stuff in it.

  • Pingback: Multiplayer coming to Don’t Starve | Lazygamer .:: The Worlds Best Video Game News ::.