When it comes to something incomparable, out of the ordinary and something that breaks away from what's to be expected by the mainstream, one can always look towards the indie spectrum of the gaming industry to get a healthy dose of unique, wonderfully bizarre and creative titles to suit your needs. Indie developers with their limited funding and big ambitions are always pushing some unique and experimental ideas to provide players with something that may be different to what they may be used to. These titles might not find as much success as their triple A counterparts, yet many of these games are still well made and entertaining titles in their own right.
With big ideas and the drive to succeed, Indie developers Klei Entertainment have added something that stands out from the crowd with their title Don't Starve, a game that Klei hopes will test your fortitude, your intellect and your survival skills to their limit.
Wilson, a Gentleman Scientist has been trapped by a Demon in a harrowing wilderness inhabited by monstrous beasts. Wilson must learn to scavenge, to build, to hunt and to fight if he has any chance of surviving this evil and dangerous place.
The objective of Don't Starve is self-explanatory: don't starve. You've been left in a large, desolate place and you must use whatever's at your disposal to survive. There are resources to collect such as tall grass, flint, wood and food. Some of them you'll be able to get just by clicking on them, while other resources require you to have the tools to get to them. With the resources you've gathered, you'll need to build tools such as axes, shovels and pickaxes to obtain other items like wood and rocks and use them to build more tools including traps and weapons to catch animals both big and small for food, as well as to defend yourself from things that want to turn you into food.
Be sure to stock up well, as the nights are very dangerous and you must create a campfire with enough fuel and food if you want to live through the night. You can cook the food on the campfire which when eaten, regenerates more health than they usually would. You should keep that fire lit and stay within the light, as there are creatures that attack you if you decide to wander around in the dark. There's no tutorial for this game which is perfect as no one is given a step-by-step guide on how to survive the wilderness. You must discover everything yourself through exploration and trial and error, adding to that sense on panic and helplessness that you feel when facing a great unknown. However, once you get the hang of it you begin to have fun in the wilderness. The world becomes your playground as you manipulate the environment to your advantage and stand up to much stronger enemies with your courage, your instincts and your determination to live on.
The game's visuals are an interesting mix of whimsical and enchanting with a dark, gothic twist. This presents a rather comical and quirky world to interact with, while at the same time showing a very dark and sinister place where death could occur any second. The graphics may not be triple A standard like Crysis 3, but the game's art direction still makes it stand out from it's peers rather nicely. As for sound production, there's no voice acting and instead the characters speak in musical chimes, making the world of Don't Starve much more bizarre and mystical. Most of the time there is no music which helps make the wilderness much more atmospheric and dynamic musical scores are only heard when a major event is occurring such as your character being attacked.
Don't Starve is highly addictive and will keep you coming back to the wild. Each day your character survives the hostile environment will have you cheering in jubilation and you'll want to keep going to improve your survival skills and become one with the outdoors. You can customise which resources are plentiful or scarce before starting a game for varied difficulty and there are other characters besides Wilson to unlock who have their own special abilities to help them survive this desolate land. Don't Starve is still being worked on by the developers with the community to add more depth to the game including a story mode which will explain why this demon is trapping these people and encourage the player to find out what's going on. Don't Starve sure manages to make a return trip to the wilderness well worth it.
This game is great fun to play. It's addictive, it's rewarding and it's a unique, refreshing take on the survival horror genre. Nevertheless there are things that prevents this game from appealing to a wider audience. For instance the game can become rather repetitive over time. When you figure out what to do it becomes routine each day and you may not even need to use every step you learn to keep your character in good health. What makes it difficult is things preventing you from taking those steps. Don't Starve can be punishing and unfair at times. Obviously the odds are stacked against you and you literally left to discover for yourself what to do for yourself. That's understandable in a survival game such as this, but if you're looking for a game where you're given guidance on what to do, this isn't one of them.
Don't Starve initially begins as a punishing, grinding struggle that will bring the wrath of mother nature down upon you. Yet you're encouraged to try harder, learn through experience and survive anything that the wilderness throws at you. The results of all your perseverance and dedication feel truly gratifying as you work to successfully bend this dangerous environment to your will. If you want a game that's challenging and rewards those willing to grind harder and learn quickly, then Don't Starve is a video game not to be missed.
This review is based on a digital download copy of Don't Starve for the PC provided by Klei Entertainment.