The Tribunal: Don’t Starve

By RQP

Don’t Starve is a survival game that can best be described as the bastard love child of Edward Gorey and Notch, the kind of lovechild that wants to eat your face. Possibly wear your skin as a fashionable hat. It’s a simple concept based on gathering resources to survive while trying to avoid going batshit crazy.

The Good

The first thing that stands out is the art style, mixing the light hearted feeling of a cartoon world with an underlying gothic creepiness. Interactions with the environment or your inventory result in quirky responses which show off the personality of each of the individual characters that can be unlocked.

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Crafting is fairly intuitive and interacting with the environment just feels natural. Burn down a tree to get charcoal and drop a carrot near a trap to catch rabbits. You don’t have to figure out what the game wants you to do, it just makes sense.2013-04-19_00008

Don’t Starve offers a genuine challenge with actual consequences to your actions. If you decide to fuck around all day instead of gathering food, you’re going to have a bad time. There is sense of urgency to gather resources. If you are caught too far away from camp when the sun goes down, there is a sense of panic to get your ass someplace safe or the things that go bump in the night will decide that you look pretty scrumptious. Unlike other survival themed games, there is no opportunity for complacency; if you relax… you die. Now while Don’t Starve does have permadeath, it doesn’t feel so bad when you lose. You start the next game better prepared, with a few new tricks to help you survive longer.

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There is a nice variety of different characters which can all be unlocked fairly easily. After you are done throwing a tantrum for being stupidly killed by bees, you will see that you have earned XP which will unlock the rest of the cast.  Each has its own unique skills, strengths and weaknesses which will change the way you play and adds to the game’s replay value. With so many options to tweak gameplay and world generation, you are guaranteed to find a difficulty level that suits you.

The Bad

You can say the learning curve is steep but in reality it’s nonexistent. Item descriptions are not always helpful and some items, you don’t even know what they are used for. All the wonderful quirky descriptions aren’t doing you any favors when you first start the game.

Fighting off the baddies is generally pretty crappy. The point and click combat doesn’t feel well implemented. There is nothing more rage inducing than getting killed by a spider because your character decided to pick a sapling instead of fighting back.

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Considering you need to find and gather resources in order to survive the random world generation can completely fuck you over. Wandering for days to find shit, literally shit, just to fertilize some plants is utterly infuriating.

The Rage

Minding your business, killing some rabbits to avoid starvation and Krampus the Christmas monster decides you’ve been naughty and comes along and steals your shit. Damn Austrians…

FUCKING TENTACLES. ‘nuff said.

You venture out of camp, hunting and gathering like a boss only to meet your end by a pack of angry bees… or frogs… or an oversized horny buffalo that thinks you have a purdy mouth.

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Closing Arguments

Overall Don’t Starve is a fun, addictive and uniquely styled game. We can say it’s a good casual time waster except a ten minute session quickly turns into six hours without realizing it. There is an alternate adventure mode to play through, it is a bit of a drag that it can only be accessed by finding a door in the sandbox survival mode though. Don’t Starve seems to be one of the few games lately that doesn’t have a multiplayer mode needlessly shoe horned in which is actually a shame. The game could absolutely benefit from gather some friends together and watching them die hilariously horrific deaths.

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The Verdict

Get this game. Get this game now. Get it and play the shit out of it.

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