Minecraft is currently enjoying its status as a phenomenon, popularizing the survival genre to the point of having Hot Topic sell its merchandise (surely, the golden standard of a game’s popularity). Well, Klei Entertainment (Shank, Mark of the Ninja) has taken notice and has crafted a solid entry in the survival genre in Don’t Starve. PC and Mac users have been enjoying this title for some time since it was initially released on April 23, 2013, but it’s now time for PS4 owners to get in on the fun, with many being able to do so for no cost thanks to the game’s status as a free PlayStation Plus offering.
Don’t Starve is, at a glance, a re-skinned Minecraft. You initially start out as Wilson, who is sucked into a dangerous world by the evil Maxwell, where survival for many, many days is the goal. Story doesn’t really motivate you here. Instead, it’s the possibly addicting gameplay. Now, I say “possibly” because I could see this game turning off a lot of people from the get-go. That’s because there is no tutorial and there exists no immediate goal aside from surviving for as long as possible.
As someone who hasn’t played too much Minecraft, I went in expecting to be working towards a specific destination. Instead, I was left in a massive, randomly generated world that forces players to juggle exploration, inventory management, and…not starving. If I wasn’t assigned to review this game, I probably wouldn’t have played it very much (and yes, I am a patient gamer), and that would have been a shame because I would have missed out on Don’t Starve‘s slowly progressive charm.
When the game sinks its teeth into you, it really hooks in. You’ll go in expecting to play a “sesh” or two and end up playing for six hours straight. Is it the biggest glob of fun out there right now? No, and it never will be. But Don’t Starve has this certain charm and a hint of cocaine-like addiction that makes it hard to put the controller down. It has lovely, Tim Burton-like presentation, and gameplay that boils down to hoarding as many supplies as you can before night comes around in an attempt to really fuck over all of your day’s work.
You’ll need logs, grass, stones, gold and so much more in order to craft various necessities. An axe is required to chop down trees for more logs, a pickaxe for mining rocks for gold and flint, and science centers exist to help players access more crafting possibilities. Then there’s the constant need for food lest your stomach goes to starvation and hurts your health and even affects your sanity (which, when too low, will make you start seeing things). This juggling can get really frustrating as you come across spans where you just can’t find jack-shit when you really need supplies.
As tedious — stressful, even — as management can get, it’s the exploration that really keeps tugging you along. Bizarre creatures, odd structures and quirky objects laying about really make you want to never stop moving, even in the danger of the pitch black night. Speaking of night, you’re going to want to make sure you’re around many flowers (picking them increases your sanity) and have a healthy fire roaring or else you’re pretty much doomed. Playing Don’t Starve is a constant tug-o-war between enjoying yourself and cursing all the stress the title summons out of you. However, the fact that you level up and unlock different characters that have their own perks after one marathon run helps to appeases the stress.
If you don’t like games where there are no clear-cut objectives, you’re going to want to steer absolutely clear of Don’t Starve. But, if you enjoy surviving simulated day and night cycles full of weird creatures, then what are you waiting for? Pick this one up right away.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game.