You’re laying on the ground, unsure of where you are or how you got there. A strange man stands over you, holding a scroll in his hand. His gray suit clings to his almost emaciated limbs as evil radiates from his presence. With a jaw that could cut glass, firm unflinching eyebrows, and the slightest hint of an evil smirk, he says “Hey pal, you don’t look so good. You’d better find something to eat before night comes!” He vanishes into thin air, your eyes open, and you find yourself stranded in the middle of who knows where.
What do I do now?
That man’s last words, along with the game’s title, are the only instructions you’ll have when you begin. The feeling of helplessness and confusion is exactly what the folks at Klei Entertainment wanted when they created Don’t Starve. You’re stranded in the wilderness, and your only option is to explore the area. If you want to survive then you’ll get creative and use some common sense to solve problems like needing food or light as the night approaches.
As you run around the unknown world that you’ve spawned in, you’ll notice various parts of your environment that can be examined and even harvested. If you pay enough attention, you’ll find context clues that will help you survive what lies ahead. A basic crafting menu appears on the left side of the screen, and will help you decide which materials you need to gather up first. For example, in order to cut down a tree you will need to craft an ax out of sticks and some flint.
Who am I?
You begin the game as Wilson, a gentleman scientist who can grow a beard. You read that right, he grows a magnificent beard. As the game progresses, Wilson will sport some nice facial hair, and clever players may even be able to use that to their advantage! Don’t Starve has a habit of including some strange game mechanics but, if you use your noggin, you can overcome some of the toughest obstacles with ease. It is way more likely, however, that you’ll die quite a few times before you understand what exactly it is you should be doing. When you die, its game over, and you’ll have to start again.
You’ll begin a new game as Wilson again, until you’ve earned a new face to play as. There are quite a few other characters that you can unlock and play in Don’t Starve, but you won’t find out how to unlock them here. I’m going to do my best to avoid any spoilers, because discovering all of the fun quirks of this game surely is one of its biggest charms. I will, however, show you two of the unlock-able characters: Willow and Wolfgang. One thing to keep in mind when choosing your character is your own personal play style, since each character sports their own flaws and strengths.
What am I going to find?
I’m going to be entirely honest with you. I’ve devoted well over 100 hours to this game, and I still have no idea what I’m going to find when I start up a new world. The world you wake up in is randomized with every new try, so you’ll never end up playing the same game twice. On top of that, since Don’t Starve is just so damn secretive about what everything does, you’ll run into a variety of items or beasties that you’ve never seen before.
There are a variety of interesting entities to interact with during your explorations. One potentially exciting piece are the Wormholes, which transport you to another point on the map. The pictures above show you how a Wormhole could take you from a plains type biome to a creepy forest with spiky trees and bushes. You’ll never know where they will take you, but a Wormhole may become your best bet to discovering something new. You may even run across Pigmen either guarding their homes or somewhere they consider important. If you’re not careful, they may become hostile and decide to attack you!
Nighttime can’t be that bad… can it?
It can, and it is. When it gets dark, that means you’re entirely unable to see without light. Extra spooky creepy crawlies like to come out at night too. Even if you do get yourself a campfire going, and you’re huddled in the glow of its warmth, you’ll still see shadows of the nighttime denizens creeping into your seemingly safe space. You can’t venture safely out past the light given off by your fire, and it isn’t something sane people would WANT to do given the shadows and glowing eyes you can see just on the edge of your vision.
You’ll have to discover for yourself how to best deal with the variety of troubles Don’t Starve sends your way. That may mean keeping your fire extra stoked and staying busy through the night. You can always choose to craft some one-time use items like a bedroll that would let you sleep straight through the night, at the cost of drastically reducing your hunger gauge. My personal favorite tactic is to have a torch handy in your inventory, pick a direction, and RUN!!!
So is it all worth it?
I’ve spoken about some terribly difficult scenarios and issues that you’re going to face while playing Don’t Starve. However, it is important to note just how satisfying it feels to create new items in the crafting menu, or to finally slay a pesky beastie that has gotten the best of you more times than you can count (I’m looking at you spiders!). If you like survival games like Minecraft or Terraria, then Don’t Starve is definitely for you. While the game-play is challenging, the sense of wonder and excitement you’ll find as you figure out the little quirks Don’t Starve has to offer is worth it. Besides, you could always just find a great spot to hole up, build yourself a solid base with renewable food, and erect some walls to keep all the baddies out… hopefully.