Sometimes the games with the simplest concepts are the most addictive. That is certainly the case with Klei Entertainment’s newest release, Don’t Starve, which is currently still in Beta. An independent game developer, Klei is already well known to fans of the indie gaming scene, as there previous titles, Eets and Shank have received favorable reviews from gamers in the past. One of the most enjoyable things about Klei is their ability to take a simple idea and turn it into a vehicle for hours of fun with their clever game mechanics and wildly whimsical visuals.
Don’t Starve doesn’t disappoint on these fronts. From the moment you start the game up the delightfully creepy soundtrack greets you, an ominous, lilting tune that sounds like something you’d expect to hear at a freaky circus. Once you enter the game you play as Wilson, a gentleman and a scholar with the ability to grow a truly magnificent beard! After having the misfortune to run across a mysterious demon is transported to a vast, unexplored wilderness full of strange and hostile beasts and terrains. To survive, Wilson has to explore his surroundings, build tools and eventually unlock the secrets of science and magic to help him find his way back home.
Unlike most games, don’t expect an instruction manual with Don’t Starve. You learn by doing and it’s this intuitive and liberating approach which makes the game so enjoyable. In the initial stages of the game your primary concern is your hunger meter. As hours pass in the day, your hunger meter depletes. Once it is empty it causes your life to drain rapidly, so whatever you do don’t starve!
Interacting with the world around you is simple, walking and interacting with objects such as grass, saplings, carrots and flowers just require a simple click of the left mouse button. Once you’ve started to gather materials you’re able to use your sidebar to build all manner of useful contraptions. Axes & picks help you mine stone and cut down evergreens (as well as defend yourself against the host of strange inhabitants you share your wilderness home with – but more on that later!). And building traps helps you catch rabbits and birds, an excellent source of food to help keep you fighting fit! Eventually, Wilson can build a science machine. A contraption that breaks down materials to their base elements and grants you research points which you can spend learning to make more useful items, including straw hats, log suits, spears and even magical amulets.
A key component of Don’t Starve is the clock in the top right corner. The timer moves from day into night and once things get dark don’t get caught without a torch or a fire nearby. In the darkness is when all manner of fearsome and freaky beasts take it upon themselves to attack you! As if that isn’t bad enough, once it gets dark, without a light source, you won’t even be able to see what is trying to chow down on your gentlemanly self. Only the flames will keep them at bay, so always have some flint and wood ready to strike up a torch at a moment’s notice, or stoke the flames of your fire pit.
The character design for Wilson is fantastic and has a great gothic feel, his hair curls up either side like a pair of horns and as his beard grows he only looks more distinguished. But it isn’t just Wilson who is a pleasure on the eyes, the entire world has been painstakingly rendered to transport you to a cartoonish Halloween land and the Monsters which lurk around every corner are perfectly horrendous! Beware of roaming Tree Guards, large evil looking evergreens who’ll batter you with their branches! Ghosts and Grues who will grab at you in the dark and the terrifying Spider Queen, who has a whole army of spider minions to do her bidding! You never know just what you’re going to encounter as you explore the landscape and try to do your best to stay alive.
As it is still in Beta, Don’t Starve is constantly being updated with new and exciting features all the time. The developers have an ear to the ground on the forums, listening to the feedback from their players and utilizing it well to keep the game fresh and interesting. There’s certainly a lot of re-playability to be had even now in its early stages. The longer you survive as Wilson, the more things you unlock, including additional characters like Willow, the fire starter, Wolfgang, the strongman and the latest character to be released Wickerbottom, the Librarian. Every character has their own special features, strengths and weaknesses as well as their own intriguing back stories for you to uncover.
So what are you waiting for intrepid explorer? Dive on in to the devilishly dark world of Don’t Starve and survive… if you can!