Don't Starve: Console Edition [Review] - state_of_shock Blog -
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Don't Starve: Console Edition [Review]


  An exercise in futility is not always futile. "Don't Starve" teaches us this lesson before our first in-game night cycle is even over - because you will either be dead, or cowering in fear around your campfire, hoping you have enough fuel to survive the night. "In fear of what," you may ask? That is the genius of this wonderful little indie-game that so heavily emphasizes the steady progression of trial and are not entirely sure.

  "Don't Starve" puts us in control of the respectable, working class mad scientist, Wilson, who is unfortunately duped into releasing the malevolent demonic force known as "Maxwell" into the world. In true, flashy demonic style, Maxwell transports Wilson into a vast wilderness with no apparent exit, and no apparent objective other than to (of course) not starve. This is the beginning of our game, and about all of the exposition you will get. "Don't Starve," however, is not a game that requires much exposition. It requires exploration, and though that exploration often leads to your (sometimes hilarious) demise, it is the lack of it that will end up killing you much more quickly. 

  Right from the get-go, the game gives us an instantly enthralling world to venture into that is just as amusing as it is deadly. You must go around the map and gather resources to survive the night, collecting things such as tufts of grass, twigs, rocks and flint in order to craft items such as a handy axe to chop down trees with, or a trap that allows you to catch bunny rabbits to cook over the fire. Luckily, browsing through your inventory and crafting new items is a breeze thanks to the smart idea of dividing your inventory in half, and moving the right analog stick side to side to scroll through the items you already have, and moving it up and down to view all of the possible items you can make. It is easy to do and very intuitive.

  One thing I have seen noted about the game on more than one occasion however, is its sometimes frustrating difficulty. It is true, Don't Starve is not for everyone. But there is so much more depth to this game than there seems when you are taking it at face value. At first glance, it appears to be little more than "Tim Burton's Minecraft," but the fact of the matter is that Don't Starve is a truly original experience, and despite the permadeaths, numerous enemies, and steep learning curve of figuring out all of the "do's and do not's," there is enough bewilderment and (along with it) excitement in the world to peak your curiosity, and keep you coming back to see what crazy monsters you might find in the dark forests and sandy deserts of this macabre-cartoon style game. There is almost a certain conspiracy-like key to finding and building new tools that makes every day you survive a new adventure, and as you begin exploring caves, picking up this black-goo called "Nightmare Fuel" and crafting "Diving Rods," you realize that Don't Starve can easily take up long periods of your life, if you let it.

  It is not all too simple, though. As the title implies, you will have to keep close watch on your hunger throughout the course of your journey, as well as your health, sanity, and the clock. You must find a steady food-source to keep your stomach full (mine usually consisted of placing a new trap at every rabbit-hole I found and baiting it with berries), but you also must find recreational activities to do (such as picking flowers) to make sure that you do not go insane, which will result in vividly creepy hallucinations coming to life and attacking you. It is also wise to equip yourself with armor and weaponry to fight for resources throughout the world, as you will encounter many strange creatures along the way - from one-eyed "Tallbirds" to massive tree giants to some VERY territorial pigs, you will have quite a few funny experiences to tell your friends about after playing this game. (About ten days into surviving, I started chopping down trees that I had planted around my camp for firewood before one of them sprouted limbs and stomped me to death, completely appalled towards my crimes against his species).

  It is still a point, however, that the "permadeath system" (meaning once you die, you die, and lose all of your progress) can be a very unforgiving one. It becomes discouraging to make it to Day 50, survive the winter, make a huge encampment for yourself, just to get killed by an angry Tallbird and have to start from scratch...all over again. Upon death, you are rewarded with experience points depending on how many days you survived and, when enough are earned, you will unlock new characters to play as. There are nine playable characters, each one baring their own unique (and slightly altered) traits, and while it is fun to explore how each one works as opposed to another, it still becomes a drag having to start at Day One every time you die. There are "touchstones" you can activate around the map that serve as a one-time respawn point, but even then you spawn with all of your items lost and it is typically not long until you are killed again.

  At the end of the day, "Don't Starve" is a great indie-game that becomes quite addicting once you figure out the basics, as the basics quickly evolve into more complex discoveries and contraptions that are fun to use and create. There is a quirky feel to the comic-like visuals of the game and its appreciably dark sense of humor, not to mention a surprisingly rich world to explore and sink into. If it does not consume at least a few weekends of your life, it is likely that you are "not playing it right." A few discouraging deaths can prove detrimental to your long-term investment, but I will be damned if it is not a hell of a fun game to experience.

Final Score: 8.5/10
(Worth buying at full price...or in this case, fifteen dollars). 

  - state_of_shock

PS: Although I downloaded the PS4 version of the game as part of Sony's Instant Game Collection last month, it is also available for purchase on PC, where it was originally intended to be. To my knowledge, the gameplay differences are essentially nonexistent, so if you do not own a PS4 but are looking to download the game, you may want to check out Steam, where mods for the game are likely available as well. Happy gaming!

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