Don’t Starve is a ruthless wilderness survival game developed by the same team that created the excellent Mark of the Ninja. You are put into the shoes of an adventurer who wakes up in the middle of nowhere with no idea where he is. You must do your best to stay alive and not starve as long as possible, by gathering resources and fighting off evil. Sounds simple right?
It is simple, but that simplistic nature is where Don’t Starve for Mac plays you like a fiddle, hiding an exceedingly difficult game in the husk of what seems like just “point and click” affair. There are no tutorials and the worlds are all generated randomly. You can start a game and be completely surrounded by every resource you need one time and the next to be completely deprived of food or wood for a fire.
Enter Don’t Starve
When you start out, you are awakened by a mystery man teasing that “You don’t look so good” and that “You should find something to eat before night comes”. The smarmy bastard is actually a hidden character you can unlock later on. Either way, he’s right. Your search will start small. Usually, you will want to find yourself some berry bushes for food and some twigs, grass, and flint so you can start a fire and feed it with some wood you can harvest once you have made an ax. Because you definitely want to make some light for yourself before nightfall.
Keeping full is just one aspect of the game, you actually have three meters to monitor as you play. Hunger will need to be maintained with a steady flow of food. Then there is your Health meter which will stay up as long as you eat and stay away from predators and angry bees. The game also tracks your Sanity, which is a game changer. If you don’t stop to smell the roses every now and then (literally), you will start to lose your sanity. When your sanity begins to deplete you will start seeing strange entities and shadows wander and blink across your screen. You will begin to hear weird noises and see double. Shadows in the night will try to snuff out your fire and if you don’t fight them off, they will get the best of you. Keeping yourself sane may be easy in the summer but as winter comes, you better prepare.
Don’t Starve has all kinds of obstacles to throw your way and the big one for me was after later in the game, on the 21st day, when the plot thickened and snow started hitting the ground. I thought I had it all figured out and I was ready to move on. I was dead in an instant and every game since has been a whole new challenge. You’ll need to store as much food as you possibly can because once winter hits if you leave your fire you freeze to death. On top of that, there are “Ent” like tree monsters, Deerclops that will try to destroy your camp and not to mention angry packs of hounds. Don’t Starve continues to keep me on my toes with its ever-changing way.
Speaking of ever-changing ways, Klei continues to update the game to the point that when you load up there is even a counter on the main title screen that tells you how many days are left until the next update. You can see improvements all the time. Caves are still in alpha and add a whole spelunking side to Don’t Starve. Trying to get some resources underground in the dark proves mighty difficult but also rewarding. Move over Minecraft.
When I started out, the number of things you could build looked small and I thought the game would be over in no time. With almost 20 hours of play time, I still have lots to discover and things to build. I generally don’t live past day 30. That’s only three hours in or so, meaning I still have a long way to go. With continued updates, Don’t Starve promises to keep you on your toes and in search of an “unstarve-able” kingdom.
Klei’s games have always had a unique art style. Don’t Starve strays a bit from their usual flash animation style characters and scenery. While it still has the clean lines of vector animation, it takes a turn for the gothic. Don’t Starve is visually stimulating in almost every way.
I have only a couple minor gripes with the scenery in this game, but it’s to be expected with the nature of this game. The vegetation and scenery in Don’t Starve will eventually become tiresome, which is obvious because it’s always the same. The grass always looks like grass and trees always look like trees. Like I said, it’s a small moot point but it has to be made. There are no mountains or lush jungles. It’s a baron land because of the game design and thus even with randomly generated scenery, Don’t Starve always looks the same.
There are no signs of change neither. Klei might be doing this intentionally, the way Limbo did just black and white as a kind of “style”, but when you put more than a few hours into it, it’s going to just blur together after awhile.
The second issue I had was the sound. I can honestly say I don’t know who would pay money for the soundtrack on Steam ($4.99). Don’t get me wrong, my ears don’t bleed when I play or anything but once again, it’s repetitious. There are only a couple tracks in the game and once you played for an hour or so, you’re going to want to turn on your own music over top of the game’s tracks or you will get bored, fast.
Don’t Starve has many audio queues to it. You’re going to want to hear when the hounds are about to attack or the shadow creature is going to snuff out your fire. These little tidbit sound effects are chilling to the bone. You hear voices in the background when you’re going insane and a music box plays as the shadow reaches his claw out at you. It adds a whole new depth to the game and is very handy. It’s heartbreaking to have great sound effects and a poor soundtrack. It unbalances the presentation a lot.
All said, I called Don’t Starve visually stimulating and I meant it. It expects you to get used to the scenery so you will walk through the forest care-free. Then a tree will transform into a monster and take you by surprise. The more comfortable you get with the scenery, the more unnerving it will be when you start to see little glitches once you start losing your sanity. All in all, Don’t Starve is beautiful in a way no game has been and definitely deserves credit for it.
Don’t Starve won’t require a supercomputer to run but does have some annoying requirements. I run Snow Leopard on my MacBook because I like to play some old school like Starcraft but the OS X Mountain Lion requirement alone forced me to play on my main iMac at all times. Oh Well. It ran nice and smooth, of course, it would. I also recommend a two button mouse because you constantly need to right click to eat and build in this game.
- OS: Lion (OSX 10.7.X)
- Processor: 2.0 GHz Intel
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: 256 MB Nvidia or ATI graphics card
- Hard Drive: 512 MB Free Space
- Additional: Not recommended for Intel GMA Graphics
- OS: Mountain Lion (OSX 10.8.3)
- Processor: 2.93 GHz Intel Core i7
- Memory: 20 GB RAM
- Graphics: Ati Radeon HD 5750
- Tons of replayability
- Basic controls
- Simple gameplay with lots of depth
- Great art style
- Many Unique Characters
- No tutorial
- Tedious scenery
- Poor soundtrack
Klei has done a fantastic job here. Don’t starve is a little rough around the edges but still a fantastic game. I see myself playing again and again. Don’t Starve continues to be updated and only promises to surprise you more as time progresses. I promised myself I would play the game as Klei intended it and never use a wiki or guide for anything unless I was really stuck.
If you play this way I am sure it will offer you many hours of enjoyment and a lot of fun learning from your mistakes and hashing out new strategies. It should also be noted that Don’t Starve can be one hundred percent moddable with a great community behind it. For 15 bucks it’s a steal and it only leaves me asking one thing.