Thursday, 12 March 2015

Review No. 107 Don't Starve - PC (12+)

Strong Points:
Keeps up the feeling of survival rather than luxury for longer than other games
Lots of items
Lots of characters
Characters have their own powers and abilities
Good, eerie music
Good, eerie graphics
Crafting is good
Permanent hard-core mode keeps you on your toes
Seasons/day/dusk/night system gives you a goal and a deadline
Interesting lore
Adventure Mode adds more to do as well a variety to the gameplay (a rougelike aspect) and a point to the game

Weak Points:
Controls can be fiddly especially with the strange camera angle
Can be extremely difficult at times
Hard to pick up past rudimentary survival
Permanent hard-core mode means mistakes can be costly
Bad map spawns can mean a few restarts - especially for beginners (although worlds can be edited slightly)
Quite hard keep track of insanity, hunger and health
Made for multiplayer

Rating: 86%

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: April 23, 2013

Left Mouse Button - Primary/Move
Right Mouse Button - Secondary/Move
F - Attack
Space - Action
WASD - Move

Don't starve they said. It'll be easy I said. I was wrong. So very wrong.

Not that this made the game less fun - on the contrary it made it better. The reason? It's a survival game where you actually have to survive and not live in luxury (I'm looking at you Minecraft). But this does lead to its own problems which mainly a harsher difficulty curve and some 'Did I really just die... again!?' moments. This isn't helped by the strange, diagonal, camera angle and mouse based controls either.

The main premise of Don't Starve is to not starve (clues in the title people!) but what the title doesn't tell you is that you'll also need to worry about going insane or being killed by spiders, pigs or even trees. Not starving, while being the most simple in premise is also the hardest to keep up due to the tiny, almost real life human sized, hunger bar and the scarceness of food as well as the tiny amount this food actually affects your hunger bar. I mean, seriously, I'd say that three quarters of my time in Don't Starve was spent trying to find, trap and cook food and, thereby, getting hungry in the process (both in game and real life).

The rest of my time was spent trying to gather enough materials to make a campfire (so that I could cook and to provide enough light to enable me to see at night (yay, rhyme!) and to not go insane (being in pitch blackness, among other things, beats down your insanity bar)), collecting flowers (so as to make a garland to increase my sanity), looking for gold (so as to build a Science Machine - which enables more crafting recipes), looking for Beefalo (who's manure lets you grow your own food) and looking for spiders (who's meat can heal you and who's web can be used to make a Bee Keeper's Mask which lets you harvest honey - a great food source).

Both low hunger and low sanity (which results in you being attacked by hallucinations) as well as attacks from mobs affect your health which, when 0, ends in a gameover (unless you've touched a touchstone, got a meat effigy or are wearing a life giving amulet) and deletes your map. This (as well as the low hunger, sanity that I've already mentions) makes the game harder than many and can result in some unfair gameovers and, therefore, hours of your time wasted. Some will like the challenge and some will not - it's your choice.

Adding to the challenge is a day/dusk/night and seasons cycle. The day/dusk/night cycle is pretty standard - collect things in the day, get back to base at dusk, make things/wait around at night. Just make sure that you are by a light source when dark falls or you'll be attacked by Charlie (read the lore to find out who it is) and will lose sanity and health. The days and nights also vary in length depending on the season. There are only two seasons - summer and winter but it does change the gameplay quite a bit. This is because, in winter, days are shorter and nights are longer, the player has a chance of freezing (which damages health) if they don't stay warm and many plants/crops don't grow and many mobs don't appear. Due to this, I'd advise players to stock up during summer in time for winter.

I've mentioned many mobs already but I'll also tell you about the pigs. Pigs are neutral mobs that, if attacked, will return the favour. However, they can be very helpful for dealing with unwanted, aggressive mobs as well as a good way to get gold by way of their king. You will need gold (which can also be mined) in order to make a Science Machine, which, as I've said, lets you make more items. Items vary from light sources to traps to tools to backpacks to garlands and also vary in availability and usability. It will take a few playthroughs to know what to get and in what order.

Then there are the characters. This is where death comes in handy. The reason for this is that you are actually rewarded by permanently (without resurrection) dying with experience and characters. The characters vary from Wolfgang (a strongman with a Mighty Form and a Mighty Hunger) to Wilson (your original character with a fetching beard) and Maxwell (the antagonist who is a rather interesting 'read') among others. These are unlocked in various ways with the main one being through death experience like I said.

Finally, you have Adventure Mode. Adventure Mode can be accessed from the normal mode (or Sandbox Mode) through the use of 'a certain door'. You can't bring any items with you from Sandbox Mode to Adventure Mode. Also, if you die, you will respawn where you left off in Sandbox Mode and can try again straight away. Adventure Mode consists of five chapters in which you have to gather the four parts of The Teleporto in order to teleport to the next chapter. When you go to the next chapter, you can bring four items with you. This leads to a, rather interesting, rougelike game mode which differentiates Don't Starve from the crowd.

Overall, Don't Starve is a fun and challenging game that actually manages to keep up the survival part of its genre. The graphics, sound effects and lore also keep up the almost horror like aspect of survival. I just wish it was multiplayer...

Goodbye for now, Harry

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