If you have been looking at the Steam Top Sellers list the past couple weeks you have seen the rise of the little Indie game from Klei Entertainment called Don’t Starve. If you viewed some of the origin trailers such as the first one below you may have no idea what you are getting into. While it has ssome very neat art and it kind of tries to set the tone, you don’t see any actual gameplay so you aren’t real sure what it is. That still hasn’t stopped it from climbing into the top 10 top sellers this week, however. Another big reason we see it climbing is that it is one of the early participants in the Steam Trading Card Beta. A new sort of community group that Steam has started in which you gain virtual trading cards just from playing games. You build card sets by collecting them in game, trading, or buying them in the Marketplace. Then you can convert them for Badges and rewards that allow you to pretty up your profile,and get unique emoticons for the forums. BUT…you can read more about that here.
Don’t Starve is a survival sandbox game. Set on a plane much like Minecraft, but it isn’t a building simulator. Your goal is to survive the elements, and the enemies in a hostile world by collecting resources and crafting them into useful tools. The game is complete, but Klei has vouched to add updates every 2-3 weeks for at least 6 months after the April 23 release. In fact, just today, a new patch was released in which a completely new biome was introduced to the world: CAVES! This will be a new biome that they plan to add more to over the next couple weeks so there are still more touch ups they want to make on it.
So…what do you actually do in this game? First I must mention that there are two different modes of playing this completely SINGLE PLAYER game. They have stated that there will be absolutely no co-op, or multiplayer in the game. They want this game to be a single player survival experience. You have the Sandbox Mode and the Adventure mode. When you first start you are dropped into sandbox mode, which is a never ending world that you can keep hoarding resources and battling the world. Every world is RANDOMIZED so no two worlds are the same. You start with none of the map explored, or visible and you have to start collecting and exploring to see what is out there. Adventure mode is a set of 5 worlds in which you are faced with different challenges and must be completed or all the way through, or you are thrown back to the gate, which is found in the starting sandbox world. Forcing you to start all over. The Adventure mode also adds a little bit of a story to the game as well to figure out what this place is all about.
Of course survival drums up thoughts of horror, but this is a bit more survival in the Terraria realm than the Resident Evil one. You play on a plane like Minecraft, but instead of building stuff for fun you build it strictly to survive. You are dropped into the world with nothing. Immediately you must start to pluck up resources you can find and start to build them up to get the right ones to craft more useful tools, structures, machines, weapons, armors, and even ways to cook and catch food. You have 3 gauges you must worry about here. Hunger, Health, and Sanity. Health is self-explanatory. Hunger is too really, but it does have a big impact on your survival. Like the title says “Don’t Starve” and it means it. You can starve to death if you don’t keep that gauge up. The third and most interesting is the Sanity meter. Sanity isn’t particularly annoying,m or hard to control, but it does present extra challenges to your survival. Once it drops to a very low level the world get seven harder. More strange enemies appear, shadows swiping away you right at night for instance, and you visibly look frightened while the screen starts to blur and make you worry about your own sanity. Even so…there are some items that can only be obtained if you are at a low sanity level so you may have to force yourself there at times. Sanity can be kept in check by wearing sanity boosting items, some food, and staying away from fights.
All these things need to be controlled and worked on by collecting and crafting useful items and tools. You have a couple of machines that you must find resources to build them with. You start crafting tools to cut down trees, break up rocks, and even have shovels to dig up things like gravestones. Once you can craft the machines you are ready to start setting up your personal base in which you start to build a sort of place to hoard all your goods. You need to eat remember. So you start to find better ways to get and cook food to give you better food bonuses. You build crockpots to work with recipes instead of eating just one item at a time which gives you much larger hunger boosts. You can create a Fridge to store items so they last longer (yes the food can spoil). You can build farms, make traps for birds and rabbits and spiders. Giving you access to meats. If your sanity is getting too out of control you can take a nice sleep with a sleeping bag, or a tent that has limited uses to give your sanity meter a nice kick. Of course sleeping will take time, and make you hungry so you could actually die if you aren’t full enough.
The world has a Day, Dusk, and Night cycle. During the day you are happy and your sanity meter doesn’t take any negatives unless you try to get into battle. If you have some gear that boosts sanity it will replenish some during the day even. During dusk it will start to fall if you don’t ahve any Sanity boosting gear. Then at night it will fall even further. Sanity becomes a part of your daily routine in which you figure out quickly that you must craft some good clothing to make sure you can keep it at a respectable level. While the day time is the time to explore the arge maps, night is the time to GET TO THE LIGHT. Too dark to travel without a torch, or other light source, it is usually best to either get back to your base camp fire, or drop a fire pit in the wilderness until day time. During this time you can either sleep, or try to get some things done like cooking food, harvesting farms, traps, and dry meat racks for instance. This is all well and good in the starting summer season, but once winter creeps in you have a whole new set of worries. FREEZING to death. You need fire and clothing more than ever at this time because not only can your freeze to death, but your sanity falls at an even faster rate. Your real goal through the first 20 days or so is collecting enough resources and setting up a camp to store them in order to survive the upcoming winter, which lasts about 15 game days. All while avoiding getting killed!
Once you get tired of sandbox mode you can open Maxwell’s door and enter Adventure mode. This is more of a challenge than having everlasting worlds. Your goal here is to collect items needed to open the next door to the next world. Still having to survive like you did in the sandbox mode. Just now you start over with nothing every new world except for being able to drag only 4 items with you to the next one. This isn’t exactly a lot.
Now this may seem like a lot of things to overcome, but the worst of all is PERMADEATH. If you die, you are dead for good! Well…not necessarily. As long as you find the usually two pig altars in a level you can respawn once at each. You can also find amulets that you can wear (instead of helpful armor mind you) that will revive you once as well. Later on when you figure out how to make a Meat Effigy you can build those too at the cost of 30 health for each one you build. Since you only have 150 health to begin with this isn’t exactly a small cost. First few games you play…you will die and have to start all over. IT can become tedious if you don’t figure things out. IT took me about 10 games before I could get through the first winter even. So there was a lot of early collecting trying to get more done before the deadly winter arrived.
This game has had extensive beta testing already and many have been playing it for over a year already so it got a little bit of love from those that were there through development. They ahve taken suggestions very well and are very receptive to the community for new ideas to add to the game. There is also a VERY small modding community, but with the game being a top seller it should grow. Klei as I said has vouched to make updates for at least 6 months so the game is still growing. The caves addition was quite substantial and adds a lot more space to the game. IT puts you into a world of darkness, which is much tougher to explore than the world above. As if it wasn’t hard enough already…
I forgot to mention that you can actually feed PIGS and have them come along with you and do your bidding. They will help you chop down trees and fight for your honor. I use them as decoys for hairy situations while they act as my meat shields. No worries, there are plenty, and you can even build pig houses by your base to spawn even more. There is a nice mix of friendly and deadly enemies in the game to avoid, kill, or…EAT. Eating some of the little things like rabbits and bird though after killing them can add to your naughtiness level. A hidden level that can only go down by these actions, but will regen a bit if you wait long enough between actions. When it reaches a level too naughty…let’s just say that something may not like it too much. >:)
The art style is very nice as you can see from the videos below. You have several characters to unlock as well so you can use different strategies with different players and their skills. They are quite easy to unlock as Klei doesn’t feel that this game needs to force silly achievements on you. The music is also very good and perfectly fits the fell of the game.
Overall this game has been a nice surprise. It will give you many dozens of hours of playtime, although if you are dead set on beating adventure mode it could be done in much less time. You aren’t really going to just beat it though right away. You will have to learn a lot before you play, and doing it blind is truly the best way to go about it. The price as of now is $14.99, which is actually a tad higher than most Indie games we get, but it is not overpriced in my mind considering the promise of continued updates and additions. Once the caves are completed I would say they are on the level of a DLC that you get from most games.
As of right now I would probably give this game an 8-8.5/10. I think it still needs some more additions with the future updates to make it more interesting over the long haul for the sandbox world. More modes would be nice to be added for different challenges as well, but certainly there is plenty here to do already. Some new fun stuff like pets maybe (other than our living carrying chest) It’s worth the price in current form, but the new additions will certainly be anticipated by me for more fun. IF you are an indie fan, or jsut plain like survival sandbox type game (this game is actually rather unique as I haven’t played many games with this mix really) you will absolutely love this game. The community is also very friendly and very into the game. I would give it a must buy as long as you aren’t a casual. You know…people with ADD that only want fast paced games and can’t handle a little patience and planning. This game isn’t particularly easy.
A bit of gameplay:
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