Are you afraid of the dark? You just might be on to something. Is that a rumbling in your stomach or a monster looking to fill theirs? Either way, it’s important that you Don’t Starve.
Genre: Adventure, Simulation
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Release Date: 6 Dec, 2018
A while back, or was it just the other day, something incredibly weird happened to me. I woke up in a strange land and was greeted by a strange man who suddenly vanished into thin air. I looked around but all I could see was an odd assortment of plants growing in various stages around me. I tried picking some of the berries, flowers, grass and twigs I noticed simply because I could, but with no real idea of why I was doing so. After muddling around and wandering for a bit gathering up a few items and thinking I made my escape, wouldn’t you know it, the weirdness happened again. This time I crash landed ungracefully and was met by a rather large chameleon who promptly blended into the background and left me all alone yet again.
As I wandered around once more, I realized this was indeed a very strange place. There were pig creatures which appeared sentient and friendly even if they were a bit asocial. Beyond the pigs, there was a bizarre statue of a bug-like creature and beyond that was a scary looking hole in the ground. The hole was ringed with what appeared to be very sharp teeth! Since I didn’t want to suffer the same fate as Boba Fett in the Sarlacc Pit, I opted to avoid that quite obvious menace and continued my aimless trek onward. Since I was beginning to feel the tweaking’s of a steadily growing hunger, my roving’s now consisted mainly of looking to find myself something to eat.
It was beginning to get dark but I could still see well enough to explore a bit more. I was especially anxious to look around since the few berries I had found before had not really sated my hunger at all. During my search, I came across an odd box thing which I assumed was probably important so I picked it up and kept on moving. The light was fading fast by this point. Some fireflies caught my attention as they flitted around and I decided to satisfy my interest by going over to inspect them. Unfortunately, they quickly dispersed as I approached. Suddenly, without even their little gleam of light to hold back the night, darkness fell and enveloped me in a shroud of blackness. The next thing I knew, I was under a vicious attack and then, just like that, without the slightest hint of a warning, I was stone cold dead! Nope! I wasn’t having a bad dream, I was playing Don’t Starve! But not just Don’t Starve, I was playing the latest expansion Don’t Starve: Hamlet.
In Don’t Starve Single Player and Don’t Starve Together you start out with nothing really to your name unless you have one of the unlockable character’s special personal items. You actually have no guidance at all. You are placed in a world that hates you and wants you to just die already. If you look at the screen for a moment, you will see a few stats to track: Hunger, Sanity and Health. There are a few other stats that will make themselves better known when they apply. Hunger is fairly obvious, just like in real life, you get hungry over time. If you wait too long you will starve to death. This is pretty much the only tip the game gives you starting out, Don’t Starve. Health is another fairly easy one to understand. You get hurt, your health drops, if it hits zero, death will occur. Sanity is the most interesting stat of them all. As your Sanity goes down, your mind starts playing tricks on you. Figments of your imagination will begin to attack you, and despite not being real, they still hurt when they attack you. Surprisingly, always keeping your sanity high won’t necessarily be in your best interest either. In Adventure Mode you will encounter obelisks that raise and lower depending on your sanity. I was actually stuck at that point for a while with my real life sanity starting to drain because I had no idea how to get to the other side and I needed to get over there. This was because I had explored everywhere I could so far and my Divining Rod was pointing me in that direction. Eventually, I built a raging fire hoping I could somehow burn my way through it. It was then I left my keyboard for a moment to grab a soda. I got a little sidetracked while adventuring in real life so when I came back to the game I found my character with very low sanity and badly wounded. Guess my fire went out just before the end of the night so the darkness got me a bit. I patched myself up the best I could and much to my surprise the obelisks were gone. I walked through the gate and noticed how low my sanity was so I raised it a bit with the items I had available. The obelisk gate came back up… unfortunately, there was another gate in front of me so I had to reduce my sanity again to keep going, but… I only managed to pull through it long enough to freeze to death. This was because I had no way to make a fire due to making that massive one in my attempt to burn down the obelisks only a few minutes earlier.
If you want to survive in Don’t Starve, you will have to play smart by collecting the various things you see around you. Once you are able to, you need to access the crafting menu and begin making tools. A trusty axe will almost never steer you wrong…almost never… more on that later. Cutting down a few trees gives you logs and sometimes tree seeds. The bigger the tree, the more resources you will get. Hopefully by the time night falls you will have at the very least a couple of torches or preferably a basic fire. Any of the food sources you collected can be cooked. Cooking can do a few noteworthy things. Cooking meat will help it last longer in your inventory but cooked plants will spoil faster. Cooking mushrooms can change the effects they have on you. For example, the green mushroom caps will sap your sanity if you eat it raw but will help raise your sanity if you cook it first. You can even construct a crockpot that lets you combine items to make even better food once you have the resources. I mentioned about food spoilage so I think I should give a quick hint about what that means. Stale or spoiled food obviously isn’t as good for you as fresh food. Green bordered food is fresh. It will give full effects to you which will likely involve increasing your hunger stat and possibly even your health and sanity. Yellow bordered food is considered stale and therefore fills your hunger stat less and provides less health and no sanity. Red bordered food is spoiled. It will still give you some hunger restoration, but it will also sap your sanity. The fourth state of food is rotten. You can’t eat rotten food without penalties and there are no benefits from it. Rotten food does make good fertilizer for your farms and fuel for your fire though!
I mentioned earlier about somewhat hidden or not necessarily obvious stats. Wetness is one of those stats. When it rains, unless you have suitable protection, you will get wet. Things in your inventory will get wet as well. Wet food spoils faster and you may drop items while using them (that never happened to me but was mentioned in the wiki, and everyone knows a wikipage never lies). Another thing wetness does is make you cold. Temperature is another one of those not-so-obvious stats. If your character gets too hot or too cold they start taking health damage. In the summer you can quickly overheat and in the winter you can quickly freeze to death. There are ways to avoid both of these conditions though. There is a rock you can make which can hold warmth or cold for a while so having it in your inventory can help you survive. Various clothing and items can be fashioned as well to help deal with adverse temperatures. Equipment damage is another stat to watch for. Your equipment takes damage every time you use it and unless repaired, it will eventually break. Luckily, at least for the basic items, you can quickly make new ones. For more complicated items, you will want to have some repair kits handy to fix them up.
The last stat I would like to mention isn’t so much a stat but skill. There is something known as science in the game. You know how to make basic things from the get-go like an axe or pickaxe but more complicated things require a machine to assist in their development. For the most part, once the machine helps you make the first prototype, you will be able construct a new one on the fly without the machine nearby. There are various levels of science as well, each requiring a better machine to help you construct the prototypes. Luckily the machine tells you what you need to make the various things so you don’t have to randomly guess what will happen when you combine various items.
In this game death is permanent. You just survived 1008 days in Survival mode and died due to a living tree that spawned because he was mad that you cut down too many of his brethren to fuel your fires. Perhaps you should have replanted the forest? Too bad for you, back to day one! That is unless you found one of the pig shrines, had a Life-Giving Amulet equipped, or had a Meat Effigy available somewhere. There isn’t any undo option here. You screwed up, you died, you restart and do better next time. Your deaths are not completely in vain though; each time you die you get experience based on the number of days you survived. As you gain experience, you unlock new characters. These new characters are all unique so it isn’t just a random new skin you get like in a lot of games I could mention. Each one of them has their own benefits and drawbacks. Most characters can be unlocked through your failure (or victory). There are a few special ones you get other ways but I won’t really go into detail on them. Willow is an interesting character, she likes fire. If she gets nervous, she sets fires…that even includes in your nice wooden base…darn it Willow… that is the third crockpot I built today! If you are having difficulty surviving on your own you could always give Wendy a try. Her dead sister can really take a beating and gives as good as she gets! There are too many interesting characters to talk about them all. One of them even has the awesome power of…. balloon animals? Seriously? What good are… ouch careful with that Wes, that kind of sort of hurt a little when it exploded…
The basic mode in Don’t Starve is Survival Mode. It’s the mode you start into when you first launch the game and pick your character. The main objective here is to explore the various biomes (themed zones) and survive to tell the tale. If you wander around long enough or find/make a Divining Rod you will find four “Things” lying around and a platform to stick them on. Doing this lets you “Win the game” so you get all the experience for the days you survived. That’s it. Pat yourself on the back. You beat the game rather than dying! You are the best! Not really…you see while this might be a little more favourable than just the sting of defeat, you actually miss the main story part of the game by winning that way and probably skipped over other major parts of the game too! While you were wandering about searching for those various “Things”, you may have encountered a strange looking doorway. Going through it, or rather being dragged helplessly through it, unlocks Adventure Mode for that world. Adventure Mode consists of basically five chapters and an Epilogue. The goal of each chapter is the same as Survival Mode. Survive, find the things, recreate the exit, leave the world and gain your experience honourably. Unlike in Survival Mode, dying doesn’t reset you back to day one, it just kicks you out of the Adventure and you have to restart it if you want to try again. Rejoice, your Survival Mode Character is still fine! Also in Adventure Mode, leaving by the “Teleportato” you reconstructed takes you to the next chapter where basically you do the same thing all over again. Even once you complete Adventure Mode you can replay it and have a different experience. This is because in a single play-through, even assuming you don’t die, you can’t actually play every possible chapter. The game randomly selects and generates four of them from the pool of available world themes. The themes can place you into a perpetual winter level where keeping warm is your biggest concern. It might spawn you on to an island chain linked only by Wormholes. Wormholes are those toothy holes in the ground I mentioned earlier that I ran away from when I first started playing. Wormholes turned out to actually be very useful for getting around even if they are a bit gross, smelly and slimy.
So you beat Adventure Mode, seen the ending, and watched the credits roll by. Can you now pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for beating every aspect of the game? Nope! You see, back in Survival mode, you likely overlooked some weird looking rocks. Mining those rocks lets you enter the Caves. The underground caves are a hive of scum and villainy so you must be cautious. Why would you even want to enter that place? So you can advance science of course! Materials you need for higher end equipment can only found deep within the caves. It’s basically a whole new world to explore! Full of brand new creatures, new plants, new earthquakes and worm attacks! Once you have spelunked the caves and made everything you can, you are done right? Finally, it’s back-patting time? Well of course not! The light is dismally poor but you probably noticed those kinds of weird looking rocks down there again but this time they take on more of an orange hue. Mining them reveals the Ruins. This once again is a whole new world to explore! New creatures, plants, biomes, and even more stuff to craft! Oh my! So finally, it is time to congratulate yourself for surviving through all this? That you are truly the champion? Did you buy Reign of Giants? If so… you guessed it, there is still even more to do!
Reign of Giants, the first of the Downloadable Content for Don’t Starve adds, as the name implies, Giants to the world. These Giants can be found in the world when you are in the correct biome and correct season. These are boss battles! They are very challenging and will likely kill you if you attempt them while you are too underprepared or even if you are prepared and not paying enough attention! Killing them gives you great loot you can use to craft useful gear. With Reign of Giants, you can now play through all four seasons rather than just the two included in Don’t Starve. Each of these seasons brings with them their own challenges and Giants! It’s definitely a worthwhile investment if you pick up Don’t Starve.
Shipwrecked is another DLC for Don’t Starve. Instead of waking up on a large island/continent with a strange man standing over you, you wake up with a parrot making fun of you stranded on a small island. Like Don’t Starve, your objective here is to survive and find the four “Things” to rebuild the Teleportato and escape. Unlike Don’t Starve, you don’t just walk around aimlessly and dive headfirst into a gaping maw in the ground to get to some distant area, you have to build a boat! Building the boat is fairly simple, you harvest the various materials you need, slap it together and set sail… assuming your current boat even has a sail, otherwise get to rowing! There are many islands to visit and each one has the potential to have something interesting on it, like Volcanos!
We are about four pages in and we are finally getting to the newest stuff, Hamlet. I played Hamlet for about a month now and it was in Early Access at the time. As of the time this was posted it had just been released from Early Access. Hamlet is a bit of a play on words as the expansion contains small settlements full of rather dapper and aristocratic Pigmen. It adds two new unlockable characters, has new biomes, ruins, and shiny new features such as being able to live in a house rather than just roughing it outdoors. See the nice thing about Swinesbury and Hamlet, in general, is the fact that the game no longer focuses just on survival. You actually can build yourself quite a pig city if you are so inclined and I have to say that was a rather nifty element being able to become the would-be mayor of Swinesbury. It’s kind of nice to finally have a place in Don’t Starve where everyone doesn’t hate you and actually is willing to work with you for the betterment of Porkind. The currency system introduced in Hamlet really changed the dynamics of how the game is played. You will be able to buy and sell at the shops, collect taxes from the Pigmen and generally ham it up with all your porcine friends. Just don’t steal from them, they don’t tend to like that. So now, rather than spending all your waking hours trying to find your next meal, your next bit of material for a tool or any of that other pure survival stuff, you can just barter for it. This leaves you to be able to focus more on the adventure and exploration without worrying about running out of inventory space or finding that last piece of flint you need. Exploring the ruins that are full of rather nasty traps can be quite rewarding, if nothing else, they are fun to explore. The new creatures are an interesting lot that tends to still want to kill you, but they are at least different looking than before. Hamlet actually revitalized the game for me, I have to admit, after my friend and I played Don’t Starve Together for a while, and having beat the original game and expansion a few times I had taken a break from Don’t Starve. Klei Entertainment must have sensed this disturbance in the force because the next thing I knew, Hamlet was being released with a bunch of things I never really thought were missing from the original game. I have say that if you are a fan of Don’t Starve you will likely want to explore Hamlet. Fun fact is that due to the nature of Hamlet, it sort of assumes you own the previous expansions. Not owning them though won’t hinder you that badly because many of the key features are also part of Hamlet (probably out of necessity) so you will still get to have some fun with those.
There is even an extra little bonus hidden away in the Mods section. A short little game called “The Screecher.” It’s pretty much a total conversion mod that could very well be its own game… in fact there are games about a particularly slender fellow that are quite similar. In the game, you start out in the middle of the night with nothing more than a campfire to provide you light. You can rummage around the camp to find a flashlight so you can head out of the area. Batteries are your primary concern as you will die if you are in the dark too long. As you progress you find notes that give you an idea of what to do and what is going on. I won’t spoil too much of it but is a nice little Easter Egg stuffed away in the mods section. Speaking of Mods there are a ton of community made mods available in the Steam Workshop that will really help to expand and enhance your Don’t Starve experience.
Now that the Single Player experience is out of the way, let’s dive into the second part of the review, the multiplayer! Don’t Starve Together is basically Don’t Starve made a little less lonely. Instead of being Robinson Crusoe alone on your own Island away from civilization, you can be Robinson Crusoe with Friday (for those that don’t know Friday was his human companion after he had been stranded a while, not the day of the week)! Being with someone can really add to the fun but it can also be much more difficult. Let’s say your companion decides the fire is a bit too small in your nice wood-based base… or should I say, your now piles of ashes base. Something like that definitely adds to the fun. Also, gaming with friends makes it easier to take down the giants. Unfortunately, this leads to everyone wanting the loot that’s won from the victory and there just isn’t enough to go around. Mind you, the person I am playing Don’t Starve Together with believes that we should restart every single time we play no matter how good we are doing. That is just because he likes to make things difficult, but that is part of the charm of multiplayer too!
There is a lot to do in Don’t Starve, and every time you die and restart you get better at it. It almost creates an additional game you can play for yourself. See how many days it takes you to get back to where you were! Try to tech up as fast as you can! Get reckless! Get killed! Try again! Every time a brand-new world that hates you and wants you to die will await you, prove to the world you are better! Prove to the world that you can survive everything it throws at you! Play as all the characters! Chew through trees as the Werebeaver! Be a robot! Grow a nice beard!
So, should you get Don’t Starve, and particularly should you get Hamlet… which was originally what I meant this review to be about but I ended up getting side tracked and just talked about everything? That actually shows I am pretty much into these games and enjoy them quite a bit. Yes, if you are into the see how long your can survive games that have been cropping up rather regularly on Steam as of late, you owe it to yourself to play Don’t Starve. If you want a game that is all friendly and peaceful, Don’t Starve might give you nightmares. As for Hamlet, if you are already a fan of Don’t Starve, or if you want to play a survival game that lets you create some kind of society, then I think Hamlet would be right up your alley. Sure, it isn’t the most complex civilization ever, but they are evolving and who knows where it might go if there is ever another expansion to Don’t Starve. Maybe we will get to go to space! Wait… that’s Oxygen Not Included!