By: Casey Curran
Don’t Starve is the kind of game that you will either get or you won’t. The appeal behind the game is not obvious, and the arcadey nature of the game may make it hard to grasp. Don’t Starve is unforgiving and requires a lot of patience to truly enjoy it, but if you are willing for these, then the game will definitely appeal to you.
Many people will be put off by Don’t Starve’s controls. Not because they are bad but rather are limiting. The weapon or tool you possess alters both the difficulty and possibility to hunt certain animals, affecting how you play the game. The tools and weapons are very rarely found in the environment next to a dead victim, but for the most part you will need to gather resources in order to gather these.
While interacting with the world is relatively problem free, navigating menus is a little overcomplicated. Navigating items is done with the right stick while using them is done with the d-pad. Crafting meanwhile requires holding L2 while navigating with the left stick. The problem arises as the game lets you use items in the crafting menu, so I would sometimes accidentally drop or eat something thinking I was supposed to use the d-pad. The menu worked fine most of the time, but it was not as intuitive as it could have been.
Don’t Starve has a graphical style very reminiscent of Tim Burton movies. There is a dark, gothic tone, yet character designs still have a slight goofiness to them. These two seemingly contradictory styles end up working very well together. The music and sound effects complement it very well resulting in a fun, unique style to the game.
This is where people will be divided the most on the game. For some this will be fairly boring and feel like work without enough of a reward. For others it will be incredibly rewarding and engaging with an addictive quality of surviving longer than the last time. Every arena is randomly generated, so there’s no memorization involved; instead it’s a game where you really have to get better and maybe a little luckier to survive longer.
The basic premise is that you’re stuck in an area and have to use the supplies around you to survive. The most important of these is to gather food, which you constantly need to eat to keep from starving. As you find supplies, you can use these to create tools and weapons. These tools can be used to hunt a certain item or get past an enemy or obstacle that will get you an item crucial to crafting a more advanced item. The game encourages both exploration and experimentation through this, as sticking to the same areas will eventually cause you to deplete what you have without any way to gather supplies from new areas.
There is also a day/night cycle, and if you allow yourself to be stuck in the dark without any fire, an unseen creature will kill you very quickly. This makes having materials to start a fire or (later on) create fire through other means essential in order to continue to the next day.
While these all work very well, the game just did not really grab me. I never felt any real desire to seek the items far away, partly because the far off items are unknown until you can build them, so the carrot was not enticing enough to make me chase it. Even once I could build these, there was not enough drive to make me continue. This was more of a personal thing, however, as I can still recognize the game is well designed and will entice many.
Don’t Starve never really clicked with me, but that was by no fault of its own. There’s nothing wrong with the core mechanics or how the game accomplishes it. The game will just appeal to certain people while alienating others, making it hard to recommend to someone. Not because of any of its faults, it’s just the kind of game where it is hard to really tell if it is for you until you play it yourself. If what I described sounds even a little interesting, I would say give it a shot.