GAME NAME: Don’t Starve
DEVELOPER(S): Klei Entertainment
PUBLISHER(S): Klei Entertainment
GENRE(S): Indie, Simulation, Survival
RELEASE DATE(S): March 2013
Klei Entertainment have had a great year. Late this summer they brought the exceptional Mark of the Ninja to Xbox 360 before it finally landed on PC to universal acclaim on both platforms. Instead of resting on their laurels, taking a well earned break over the holiday period, Klei have instead plunged headlong into a new title, a wilderness survival indie title for PC, called Don’t Starve. Due to release in March 2013, the game is currently in BETA, and Hit-Reset.co.uk was keen to jump right in.
The title is apt, it’s the main aim of the game. You take control of Wilson, an “intrepid Gentleman scientist trapped by a demon and transported to a mysterious wilderness world”. Luckily Wilson is surrounded by natural resources he can use to aid his survival. Berries and carrots litter the landscape, while crafting materials such as grass, sticks, and flint can be gathered to aid in the construction of simple tools. Axes, shovels and picks can then be used to gather larger resources like logs from trees or stones from mining to allow for greater construction projects to aid Wilson in his constant battle for survival. Fire is an important resource for Wilson also, not only does it allow him to cook his food, increasing it’s nutritional value, but it also provides a source of light when night falls.
The day/night cycle in Don’t Starve is a key mechanic, and one you’ll have to master very early on. There are unseen monsters that linger in the darkness and Wilson will survive for mere seconds if darkness falls. However, through the construction of campfires or even simple burning torches, he can hold the darkness at bay, at least for as long as the fuel lasts. That’s the kicker for Wilson, he must almost constantly gather resources, to ensure his continued survival. However, there are many obstacles in his way. Spiders, hounds, tallbirds, and pigmen who turn into aggressive werepigs come the full moon will all try to kill Wilson when presented with the opportunity. It’s a constant battle against mother nature to stay alive, but it’s just so damn enjoyable.
Wilson is not helpless however. Not content with simply gathering resources and staying alive, Wilson can put his background as a scientist to great use. Build yourself a science machine and you can analyze just about anything in the world, which will reward you with research points. These points can then be used to purchase new recipes for construction projects that Wilson can undertake. Weapons, armor, and even upgrades to existing recipes are all within Wilson’s grasp, if he can just earn enough points. This persistent progress mechanic helps the game to retain a sense of continuation and it’s required, because you will die. You will die quite often in fact. In just under two weeks of playing, I’ve rolled through more than twenty incarnations of Wilson. I’ve starved to death, I’ve died in the dark, I’ve been stomped to death by a giant tree monster who didn’t take kindly to me chopping down his more stationary friends and I’ve been beaten to death by pigmen who didn’t appreciate me trying to “harvest” them for bacon. Every death is massively frustrating, and the loss of all your resources can be soul destroying, but you learn something from those early deaths, each and every one.
Each new game can be a new experience if you want, you can choose whether to generate a new random map or play again on the previous iteration if you felt it had potential to aid your play due to the location of resources, but personally I prefer to roll a new map every time, part of the joy is in the exploration and discovery of new areas. Each map is usually constructed from various sized circles of land, interconnected by bridges. Grassland, forest, rock and swamp make up the general terrains, although I’ve seen multiple maps that have circles overlapping, eliminating the need for bridges and allowing for even more unique experiences.
Besides the persistent progress mechanic of learning new crafting recipes, each unsuccesful playthrough will see the player earn XP based on their progress. This can then be used to unlock a host of new characters, each with a unique ability. Willow automatically starts a fire at her feet whenever it gets dark, removing the risk of her being caught short in the dark. Wendy is visited by the ghost of her dead sister Abigail at night, who will fight enemies to protect her. These characters (and other who can be unlocked eventually) allow for different approaches to play, but personally I found Wilson to be the best. He’s the only character who can grow a beard, which when shaved supplies you with hair. Hair is then used to build a meat effigy, which will restore a player to life upon their death.
Graphically, the best way I can describe Don’t Starve is if Tim Burton decided he wanted in on this whole video game business. Gothic, dark undertones are everywhere in the art style, and it’s whimsically delightful. It’s nothing too demanding, the game will run as an app in Chrome as well as in Steam, but it fits with the atmosphere that quickly builds upon playing.
Don’t Starve is currently in BETA, and anyone interested in checking it out can do so at a discounted price. Buy it via Steam for just £9.59 and they’ll throw in a second copy for you to gift to a friend. However, buy it from the Don’t Starve blog via their Humble Store app and you’ll grab it for $11.99, which works out at a measly £7.45 or so. Even better, they’ll effectively give you four copies for that price! Two codes for the Chrome version, with the ability to generate a Steam key from within the Chrome app. That’s a magnificent value proposition for a game that is lots of fun yet still in very active development. I’ve seen a major update to how the game plays in my two weeks with the game and the developers are keen to interact with fans via their forums, with another significant update due to be rolled out in early 2013.
Thanks to our very good friends at Klei Entertainment, we have a copy of Don’t Starve to give away to one of our readers. All you have to do is follow us on Twitter here. We’ll then have a draw tomorrow to pick a winner and we’ll contact them with a code. What are you waiting for?