By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor), OnRPG Journalist
With the MMORPG launch schedule crawling at a snail’s pace this year I’ve had plenty of time to dabble in other realms of gaming. And while my list of titles I’ve tested grows more endless by the week, ever since playing DayZ I’ve been addicted to getting my next survival itch scratched. Sure plenty of titles tout it as a feature, but it’s pretty rare to find one that gets it right on par with games like Minecraft. Finally last week something new popped onto my radar that fit the bill; but having been burned one too many times in the past I proceeded with caution. After a long internal debate I finally purchased Don’t Starve.
Thankfully I made the right decision in buying this game, despite it looking truly odd and unlike any other titles on the market. But the look and setting is just part of what makes this game so special. You play as an intrepid gentlemen scientist by the name Wilson. You are trapped in this mysterious wilderness world by a demon and it is up to you to exploit the environment and its inhabitants in the hopes to leave the strange world you’ve gotten yourself into. Expect to run into your fill of strange creatures, wormholes, traps and other surprises to ensure you never reach that goal.
As Wilson, it is your job to survival in this world long enough to find a way out. With a randomly generated world, every play session will feel unique and keep that sense of life and death survival by leaving you guessing in each encounter. There is no tutorial, nothing to teach you the basics of the game. It is up to you to explore what you can, and what you can’t do. The only certainty is you will die trying to figure out your limitations. The environment is heavily interactive so you’ll be spending a large portion of your time investigating how Wilson reacts to various objects.
I jumped into my first life without the benefit of reading any guides or tips. Sure I had seen some videos while deciding if I should buy the game, but the game feels so foreign that just watching someone else play doesn’t give you much of a clue of what you should be doing or what dangers you need to look out for. My first thought was to gather twigs. The game offered the tip that I should also find some food before night. Since this game is all about surviving, I knew that I had to use everything at my disposal to craft some tools and prepare for the challenge ahead. The clock was ticking so I didn’t waste time experimenting and soon crafted an axe to chop trees down and gather wood more efficiently. Since the nights are usually cold, I assumed that a campfire was probably a must in the game. And besides warming myself up, the fire could also be used to cook the food that I intended to find.
The one and only tip I received seemed like an easy task to do. I found some berry bushes when I was gathering twigs. Obviously I prioritize food over tools, but I was unsure what the next day was going to bring, so I spent the remainder of daylight scanning for new resources. While walking around the area, I also noticed bunnies running around. Unfortunately these were too fast to catch, and they can also run in their holes in the ground. I figured I probably needed a trap of some sort to catch these cute little meat sources. Finally the night had come and I utilized my tools to set up a camp along with a huge bonfire to protect myself from the cold and… who knows what else. Luckily I wasn’t that hungry yet so I kept the berries in my inventory. My sanity meter was still high, so I felt confident that I could handle whatever the dark might throw at me.
The night passed uneventfully, with the exception of dozens of weird shadow figures trying to pull me into the void. Luckily my intuition proved right and these unknown monsters couldn’t approach the fire. What I didn’t expect was for the fire to go out in the middle of the night. Before the creatures had their way with me though, a lightning bolt struck me out of nowhere, filling Wilson with enough electricity to send him flying into the air. I rekindled the flame shortly after without incident. Though my paranoia was running wild as now I worried not only about what was lurking in the darkness, but also for future retaliation from the cloud people. This little event also brought my health down, so I decided to chew on some berries to get my strength up again.
When the next morning came, and the darkness was gone I decided to venture off into the world some more; I hypothesized there had to be some kind of village nearby. It wouldn’t make sense that I was the only intelligent being living in this strange world. And that’s when I bumped into these weird pig specimens. They looked friendly, but seemed rather territorial when I attempted to approach them. They all had these weird small houses that made me believe these pigs sleep while standing on their feet. Luckily I scouted a ton of berries nearby, and it seemed that these pigs had something else for their daily dinner. They didn’t seem hostile, and I decided to stick around them for a while to see if I could find a way to communicate.
The first hour of playing went by really quickly, leading to many more. Before I realized it, the clock hit 6am and my addiction was confirmed. The survival aspect is the most important thing in this game, and it pokes at the back of your mind at all times keeping the pressure on to be efficient in everything you do. My first life wasn’t a long life; I lost track of time exploring new resources and was too slow to build a fire when the shadows fell upon me. Turned out they were more of a threat than I realized as I was dragged into the abyss. Don’t Starve offers a unique gameplay experience both in gameplay itself and matching visuals to create its one-of-a-kind mood. It takes so many proven elements of other popular titles online and merges them with its style to the point you hardly recognize they copied them. Gamers shouldn’t let the odd first impression put them off as it’s an absolute blast to play and carries a dangerously addictive nature to it.