Don't Starve Review

Learn why you shouldn’t mess with nature in this punishing survival game.

July 8, 2016 by Morgan Shaver

Don’t Starve is an indie survival game by Klei Entertainment with no shortage of things that can kill you. Punishing in nature, Don’t Starve forgoes a tutorial phase on how to keep yourself alive while you navigate through this hostile world. Instead, you’re literally dropped into the game and forced to learn the mechanics and secrets through bouts of trial and error that can prove increasingly frustrating. This is especially true if you spent 50 in-game days constructing a massive base and filling it with supplies, only to die from a penguin attack. Although to be fair, it probably wasn’t the best idea to swat the penguins with a spear.

Nevertheless, it is this very aspect of difficulty that serves as the core foundation of why Don’t Starve is so addictive. The randomly generated worlds ensure that you’ll never play through the same game twice, in addition to a multitude of playable characters that each have their own… quirks. From a pyromaniac to a zombie beaver, these characters all come with their own signature pros and cons. The more you play the game, the more you grow accustomed to these characters and can pick and choose the ones that best suit your individual play style.

The basic premise is simple enough: maneuver around this strange world as you uncover more parts of the map and gather supplies to help keep you alive. Supplies run the gamut, ranging from food (so you don’t starve), materials to build a campfire (there’s a monster that will kill you in the dark), to keeping yourself sane (don’t eat weird mushrooms and jump through too many wormholes). The game encourages you to play smart, conserving your resources and planning ahead in order to survive as many days as possible. The game’s pleasant Tim Burton-inspired art aesthetic and music make this game somewhat relaxing when you’re not being chased by hellhounds, and the aspect of gathering items can be pretty fun at first.

The day and night cycle makes getting things done in a timely fashion critical, as you are unable to navigate around at night unless the moon is full. Spending too much time out in the dark, even with a torch equipped, will sap away at your sanity. Partaking in activities like eating flowers or even constructing a flower hat will help restore your sanity. If your sanity level goes down far enough, you’ll begin seeing hallucinations that eventually spawn creatures capable of attacking and killing you. While comparisons can be made to games like Minecraft and Terraria, the sheer scope of the game, depth, and punishing complexity make Don’t Starve stand above the rest.

Keep in mind, this game really isn’t for everyone. The roguelike aspect of Don’t Starve is so cruel in nature, and there are few ways to prolong your life beyond the grave, that almost every game ends in dying and subsequently wiping clean all of your hours of progress. And though your experience does go towards unlocking new characters, it doesn’t dissipate the rage that builds after losing everything after one simple mistake. However, if you’re someone who is up for a challenge, Don’t Starve delivers a unique experience full of beautiful imagery, brutal depth, and addictive gameplay.

Buy Don't Starve, and its recently released expansion Shipwreck, on Steam!

Pros
  • Perfect blend of crafting, exploration, and survival focus
  • Distinctive art style
  • Randomly generated open-world settings
  • Addictive gameplay
Cons
  • Death wipes out all of your game's progress