Lovecraftian survival horror? Sign me right up, please. I had been debating purchasing Don’t Starve in the Steam store for a while now, and I finally broke down and bought it. This crafting-based hardcore survival beast will not be slain very easily. As it says on the tin, there are no instructions, save for the name of the game and the little quip the fine-dressed man offers you when you start the game. Fear the darkness, and Don’t Starve.
The first thing to know is that the world wants to kill you. It’s gloomy, depressing, cruel, and if you don’t starve or get eaten by hounds, you’ll go insane and be mercilessly slaughtered by your own twisted imagination. Yes indeed, you not only have to worry about starving, you have to worry about your brain box cracking open and a horde of twisted demons spewing out. Challenge your awareness!
There are two modes to play in, Sandbox and Adventure. Adventure Mode isn’t recommended for novice players, as it tends to murder you before you can tell which way is up, by trap or snow or hungry spiders. Best to start off with a brief guide for Sandbox Mode. Nothing too detailed, because I wouldn’t want to ruin your experience, eh?
Right when you’re dumped off into the world, you’re going to want to gather everything you can. Ignore the bunnies and birds, as they’re far too fast to catch with your bare hands. Berry bushes and carrots will be your initial food source. Large trees are your best option for campfire fuel, and boulders will give you the rocks, flint, and gold nuggets needed to advance your crafting pool. You may not want to set up a permanent camp until you discover a Pig village or a Beefalo herd, however. The poop they give you is invaluable for setting up your own food sources. Also, don’t pick fights until you have log armor and a spear. Just because you’re not allowed to starve doesn’t mean you’re allowed to die by other means.
Right, so that’s all the walkthrough you’ll get from me. Now, the characters. Surviving a single day means 20 experience, which accumulates as you prolong your pitiful life and put off your inevitable death. When you die, however, you receive your collected experience, which may unlock new characters! Yay! Each character has a different perk that makes them unique. Wilson grows a beard, Willow lights fires when it’s pitch black and is immune to all fire damage, Wendy has a chance of being visited by her dead twin Abigail, etc. You’ll find your favorite eventually. Just remember that not having a W at the start of your name means you’re probably going to die. Faster than usual, anyway.
Oh dear, almost forgot to explain why you should fear the darkness. The Grue is waiting for your light to fade. 100 damage and 20 sanity points tanked per swipe from the foul beastie. Yikes.
Adventure Mode is accessed by locating Maxwell’s Door in Sandbox Mode. Passing through freezes your Sandbox progress and restores that exact point if/when you fail. Adventure Mode itself is basically an increasingly difficult survival gauntlet. You’ll face things like eternal freezing Winter, permanent darkness, and many, MANY angry creatures that would like very much to eat you please. If you win, you can play as Maxwell. He’s actually really quite good, which is all the incentive you’ll need to unlock him. He doesn’t have a W at the start of his name, though, so he may suffer from several bouts of particularly foul fortune.
Don’t Starve can be quite discouraging if you’re looking for a surplus of resources or a means to generate infinite, readily accessible food. Food rots, too, so no hoarding for you. You’ll face madness, famine, slaughter; the anxiety of lingering on the border of insanity and death before coming upon a single carrot or berry bush that just delays your ever-encroaching demise. Layman’s terms, it’s tough as nails. Don’t lose hope, though. Practice makes perfect.
Alec Meer of RockPaperShotgun has done a smashing and vivid review of this little number. He touches on the scratchy-inky art style, the overall sense of hopelessness, and touches heavily on the inapplicability of gamer instinct. I myself didn’t notice this, but you may very well have a tough time balancing survival and the need to advance. How will you use your resources? Will you build better weapons to battle the increasing threat of later days, or will you build farms, traps, and gather as much as you can? Balance the aspects of your mortality and you may not have to face it. Too soon. You should read this: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/26/dont-starve-review/#more-151017