Don’t Starve has made the leap from Steam to the powerhouse that is the Playstation 4. As part of January’s free Instant Game Collection, you have the chance to completely ignore my review and play Don’t Starve right now, provided you are a Playstation Plus subscriber. If not here’s why you should or shouldn’t download Don’t Starve.
The plot of Don’t Starve is simple. You play as Wilson, a failed scientist, whom is at his wits end with the amount of failed experiments under his belt. Then when all hope is lost, a mysterious voice emanates from your radio, promising you glory from forbidden knowledge. The voice instructs you to build a machine but low and behold… it’s a trick. The voice belongs to a demon and once you throw the switch, Wilson is sucked into a vortex. From this point hell is unleashed and Wilson is transported to a strange and frightening land, where everything seems to be out to kill him.
But players, don’t despair, it is at this point you take over control of Wilson and the first thing on the agenda it seems is food. Forget working out why this happened or how to get back home. This is pure survival at its harshest.
The game itself gives you no indication of what you have to do or how you go about accomplishing your goals. There is no real narrative and besides the odd repeated comment from Wilson himself as he interacts with various objects dotted around the map, there are few clues to be had for the entire game.
For someone like me who grew up on games from the era of the ZX Spectrum, the idea of one life and attempting to progress that little bit further than last time is refreshing and glorious all at the same time. Yes I said one life. ONLY ONE LIFE – this may be a strange concept these days but this is essential to the gaming experience. Once you die that is it – game over. Or you start the game again minus all collectibles and your progression/achievements wiped.
Each time you play you’ll discover something new. A new piece to the elaborate puzzle. Every morning at the Twinstick office we’d all discuss what we had discovered and often found that whilst one member had worked out how to accomplish this, that and the other another member of the team had worked out how to activate something else. It was almost like everyone was playing a completely different game or story. As you can imagine these shared stories soon became strategies. Discovering how to make a trap to catch bunnies or where to acquire a particular ingredient becomes paramount.
This is precisely what the game is about. Discovery. Whilst the aim is to survive and fend off the evil creatures hiding in the dark you are forced to explore. By and large due to the fact that the resources you pull on such as wood, food and grass etc can become exhausted for a time. You must move on or allow things to grow back. Which is difficult to do when night draws near.
Yes when night is upon you, you will die unless you have (bare minimum) a campfire to keep the nasties away.All manner of creatures are out there and you must craft from the supplies available to you weapons and fortifications. But which will you choose to do first? Food or defences, when both require resources? This is the dilemma players face and it’s about venturing into the unknown for the greatest payouts.
During game play you’ll notice underneath the clock that you have three icons, all of which must be given sustenance. Firstly is your health, no prize for guessing what that’s for. Secondly is a stomach, as the game is called Don’t Starve you don’t get a prize for that either. Thirdly is a brain. Huh? Well in this game you can’t just eat and run away from the evil monsters. You are forced to build and craft scientific machines. These end up being essential for prolonged gameplay but if you fail to do so Wilson will begin to develop a nasty migraine, which turns into something much more sinister. Have fun with that, but know this – knowledge is power.
In the end Don’t Starve is sublime. The quirky art style and sense of humour bring nothing but an enjoyable gaming masterclass. Simplistic and addictive gameplay that truly challenges any gamer. Of course there are those that will hate Don’t Starve for all the reasons that I love it. This is not an easy game and perhaps will put off certain gamers who prefer more immediacy rather than a game that could be interpreted as punishing. However, the need to progress that one step further than last time is the driving force behind the game and if you love Don’t Starve as much as I do then you may just be prepared to miss a few meals yourself.