Grizzly Gaming


Friday, January 17, 2014

Don't Starve review - Stylishly bringing survival to the PlayStation 4




Last weekend, I finally found a PlayStation 4 and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. The interface is clean and easy to use and thanks to a large internal hard drive and mandatory installs, games and applications open and load very quickly. You can access the PS4 home screen without having to exit whatever game or app you’re currently in, which makes messaging and organizing your library a breeze. The “Share” button on the DualShock 4 controller allows you to take screen shots or stream whatever you’re playing too. It’s not really my style but in this constantly connected digital world, there are plenty of people who will take full advantage of the ability to share their every virtual achievement.

But more than just the features of the console itself, I’m already reaping the rewards of joining the PlayStation Network. For a once a year fee of $50, Sony heaps free content on you that has really helped flesh out my PS4 game library since there aren’t many full-blown PS4 titles available yet – and most that are available are ports of current gen titles. There are several titles available for free to PSN members, like Resogun, Warframe, and Blacklight Retribution. But so far, even with Battlefield 4 in my library, I’ve been spending most of my time with the downloadable title “Don’t Starve.”

Don’t Starve is a third person action-adventure game set in a randomly generated open-world environment developed by Klei Entertainment.  With a unique cartoon style and deep sandbox survival gameplay, Don’t Starve draws influence from other popular open-world survival games like Minecraft and Terraria and I even noticed some similarities to the Sega Genesis classic ToeJam & Earl as well.

The game begins with Wilson, the “Gentleman Scientist,” being tricked into building a device by a mysterious man named Maxwell. When he turns the device on, Wilson becomes trapped in a strange world with odd creatures and no inherent means of escape or survival. From here on out, players control Wilson and must collect materials from the world to craft tools, structures and other items that will aid in his survival.

Though you start off slowly, gathering sticks, grass and rocks to create crude tools, you can eventually create more intricate tools and structures. The environment is quite hostile and you’ll also be able to create armor and weapons, though you’ll always want to weigh the risk of fighting and dying against whatever reward could be gained. There is also a day/night cycle which must be strictly adhered to or the unseen beasts that roam in the darkness of night will kill you long before starvation does.

The overall aesthetic of Don’t Starve really makes the game stand out from other survival games. Employing a unique art style, Don’t Starve will immediately capture your attention. The interesting visuals coupled with strange but endearing sound design creates an atmosphere that’s enthralling, if a bit unsettling.
There are many options when it comes to setting up your base camp

What I’ve really enjoyed about Don’t Starve the most is a complete lack of tutorials and hand-holding. You’re thrown into this crazy world and essentially your only objective is the name of the game – don’t starve. But finding food and not starving is only the beginning of your troubles as you must also contend with hostile beasts as well as keeping your sanity. Trial and error are your best means of figuring out the world of Don’t Starve so don’t be afraid to try and fail – because you will fail. Many, many times. And death is permanent in Don’t Starve as well. If Wilson is killed, that game is over and you have to start a new game.

While hunger is the most pressing need that must be considered in Don’t Starve, you must also keep a close eye on meters that keep track of your health and sanity. Refilling health is as simple as eating food and creating healing items, but replenishing sanity is quite a bit more difficult. I’ve found it much easier to try and keep my sanity as high as I can, rather than trying to increase it if it falls too low. Because if Wilson’s sanity drops too low, some downright creepy stuff will start to happen. I’ve seen rabbits turn into monsters and shadow hands, accompanied by haunting lullaby music, reach from the darkness of night to try and squelch my camp fire – and that happened when my sanity meter was only about half empty. 

When starting a new game of Don’t Starve, you have several options that affect how your game plays out. The standard arcade mode also has options which let you set the prevalence of certain resources and biomes (such as plains, forests and swamps) as well as preset conditions to make the game more difficult, if you’re the masochistic type. During the standard mode, you can also find a doorway to a world where Maxwell gives Wilson objectives to complete, though I haven’t found one of these doors myself yet.
Finishing games earns experience points that unlock new playable characters

Overall I’ve found Don’t Starve to be incredibly fun, addictive and rewarding. Survival alone is a tall order and the game is constantly throwing new obstacles in your path, forcing you to adapt or die. Don’t Starve will be frustrating to players who feel like death is equal to failure but as long as you learn from your death and survive longer the next time you play, every death has a meaning. Additionally, experience points are earned at the conclusion of each game that go toward unlocking new playable characters, each of whom have unique attributes.

While I love the unyielding nature of Don’t Starve, some may find its lack of instruction or help to be too much of a burden. Likewise, those who enjoy games with strong narratives will be at a loss. I’ve found that the most interesting stories of Don’t Starve are the ones created during your desperate attempts at survival rather than presented to you while playing. But if you’re the type of gamer who enjoys discovering all the nuances of an open-world, sandbox game on your own and hate to be told how you have to play, Don’t Starve will captivate.

Don’t Starve is available for free on PS4 to PlayStation Network members this month and is also available on PC.

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The review proper is over so if you don’t want to read spoilers, turn back now.

I had wanted to use this below section to talk about the game I was playing while writing this and give a bit more insight into how a game of Don’t Starve plays out, since saying more than I have above could be considered spoiling the fun, but as luck would have it, I ended up dying in that game while writing this review.

I had lasted until about Day 28 in that game – my longest game so far. The three I played before that game were all ended by vicious creatures like spiders and wolves rather than starvation, but you’ll find that death can come for you in many ways in Don’t Starve.

Winter had begun around Day 22 or 23. With the knowledge from my previous games, I had built quite a useful base camp. With multiple chests, a Winterometer, Science/Alchemy machines, four farms, and an ice box, I was as prepared for winter as I could be. This was the first time I had reached winter and was really happy with how well I was handling it.

But around Day 28, I got tired of sticking close to my base camp and decided to explore a new area. The snow of winter and the constant threat of freezing to death make travel and exploration above ground difficult so I opted to try my hand at spelunking. I had never been in a cave before and was going to search one for the fun of it. My first mistake. If you’re doing something “for the fun of it” in Don’t Starve, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Below ground I found nothing but darkness, rocks and monsters. After searching for some time, and finding nothing but the aforementioned rocks and monsters, I was chased back to the surface by a massive cave worm that I didn’t even get a good look at. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that you can’t tell what time of day it is while below ground and when I surfaced, it was the dead of night.

In a panic, I quickly built a fire a few feet from the entrance to the cave I had just fled. I breathed a sigh of relief, only to realize that basilisks were pouring out of the mouth of the cave with the intention of doing me harm. I hadn’t been ready for a fight and my heart sunk when I saw how degraded my armor and only spear were. I managed to kill a few of the beasts but with my armor quickly fading and being trapped in the small ring of light provided by the fire, it wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed.

That death was defeating to say the least. Everything seemed to be going so well and because of a stupid risk I took out of boredom, all that I had worked so hard for was gone in an instant. But rather than get down on myself, I jumped right back in the saddle and started a new game.

This one’s going pretty well too. The area I’m in is much more spread out, meaning I need to travel further to find beefalo and the manure they provide, but almost everything else is right at my fingertips. It’s only Day 12 or 13 in my new game and I’ve already got four farms going as well as a chest full of live rabbits (for winter, I don’t have the materials to make another ice box) and starting on another. There’s also a large pig man population on this map and I’ve even spotted a Pig King, which I’ve never seen before. Also, the pigs have a berry farm just north of my camp which happens to be situated near a spider colony. The sole guard is often fighting the spiders so whenever he’s occupied, I help myself to the berries. And the last time I went by, I saw the spiders kill him which means those sweet, sweet berries are all mine.

And that’s why I love Don’t Starve. It’s ridiculous but once you spend enough time playing, you find that everything has a certain logic to it. But more importantly, it encourages you to learn from your mistakes and improve upon them in the future, which is perhaps one of the most important lessons you can learn in life.

(Images from, in order, Donstarvegame.com, dont-starve-game.wikia.com, Funnyjunk.com)

1 Comments:

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August 26, 2014 at 11:16 PM  

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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