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Review: Don’t Starve

by on January 21, 2013
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Sandbox games are some of my favorite types of games because they give you the freedom to explore, take chances, find new things, and have unique experiences. I think the days of linear gameplay are slowly coming to an end or at least being revolutionized in such a way that gamers never feel the gameplay itself has become linear. Don’t Starve thrives in this environment where the creators plop you into the game and wish you the best of luck.

Don’t Starve is one of a jumble of games that have been testing that out lately, just throwing gamers in and letting them figure things out on their own. Journey does something similar, and through sheer will and intellect, the player through trial and error, will stumble to the right answer.

That feeling of success, when you don’t know what to do, but you’re playing the game intuitively, thinking about what you should do, and wondering if the game will play along, is amazingly thrilling. It’s important to note though that you do get subtle hints at crucial moments, such as when you experience your first night and the game says “….(play the game to find out :) )”

Don’t Starve technically hasn’t been fully released yet and is still in Beta, but it seems to be following the success of fellow indie game Minecraft. One of the hallmarks of the early Minecraft was constant updates on a tight schedule that propelled the game forward and rewarded the players with new goodies encouraging them to buy the game early and support the developers. Like Minecraft as well the final release date isn’t as important as watching the game grow before your eyes.


You get a lot when you buy Don’t Starve. For 12 dollars you get two copies of the game, each with Steam keys that are unlockable immediately. This is for a game that I have played for almost 8 hours, including 40 minutes with the Demo, and barely scratched the full End Game. The amount of sheer value here is phenomenal given that most $60 dollar game releases charge 10 times more than your 6 dollar license and barely scratch 8 hours on average on the story campaigns. That’s 10 times the value of regular games I’ve already received without mentioning the regular addons that will keep adding content to the game.

After you get past the amazing amount of content that the game exudes you have an amazing presentation placed in front of you, with beautiful art direction that makes me reminisce on games like SuperBrothers: Sword and Sworcery.

It’s one thing to enjoy a game’s mechanics, enjoy the story, and enjoy the adventure, but it’s a whole other thing to enjoy the presentation, art form and graphics. You simply can’t knock the art direction of Don’t Starve, as even small  objects are focused on with minute detail to give the world a grim, rugged, and happy look that makes the game both beautiful and unique.


The sound is wonderful and has trigger that go off depending on your actions. If you’re right about to hit someone or get attacked, the fighting music initiates and gives you a real sense of excitement. The sound effects of the spiders and creatures really make the game jump out at you and immerse you in the environment.

At times the game does get a bit silent, and it’s why I slightly knocked the sound score a bit, but I’m hoping as newer updates are released, more sound effects, creatures, and music will be rolled out. Again like Minecraft, the music knows that it takes a backseat to the gameplay, sound effects, and immersion, and so it only kicks in when it’s needed, so as not to distract you.


The gameplay isn’t entirely unique but it does bring a lot of elements of gameplay together that haven’t necessarily seen themselves in the same place at once. Sure you can create items like Terraria, but those items will degrade just like Minecraft, and unlike both games, there are recipes for the most important items and mystery’s to be solved for the rest. The game also rewards and punishes you for discovering new things, as you go on your adventures, forcing you to be on your toes as you try to survive.

The gameplay is definitely punishing and you’ll have to get used to dying and starting over, but there are perks to playing that stay with you from one gameplay session to the next. That’s what keeps you coming back, because you do get better, your unlockables do stay with you, and your points do travel. I’m being vague on purpose btw, so as not to spoil anything.

The Gameplay can be extremely deep as well, just like Terraria where from the outset you don’t expect it to have all that much content, until you start scratching at the surface and the idea dawns on you.

For the naysayers that may call the game too shallow, simply ask them the difference between renewable items and finite ones. That discussion alone and the implications will hugely affect your Mid and Late game in Don’t Starve. Your early choices will affect that gameplay and there will be no way to go back except die and start over. This game demands multiple replays to feel its true intensity and richness.

A big issue I have with the game though is a lack of multiplayer support and I think the potential for robust multiplayer support and the potential for 3rd party mods and servers is huge.

The maps should also be bigger and a seed generator would also be nice. For those reasons the Gameplay score gets docked slightly, but still reigns higher than most games get.The best part of all of this though is the game is still in beta and like Minecraft is constantly releasing updates and new content supporting its player base.

Technical Excellence

There are very few bugs in a game this early in development surprisingly and the developers really have done their homework for the game. I’ve personally only had one bug occur and there was an easy fix to get rid of it which was to simply restart the game. That bug after 8 hours occurred twice and nothing since has crashed, lagged, or interrupted the immersion of the game

But because it’s still in Beta, there are many features the game is screaming to add, like multiplayer, and because you will have to wait for that content, possibly for a significant amount of time, this score does get docked but will get better as the game releases more content in the future addressing these issues, any other bugs that may be out there, or any other player concerns about the general gameplay.


For any serious PC gamers, such as myself, this is a must own. The value, the lack of really fun survival games, and another open world Goliath all call out to the gamer. It’s a beautiful game to enjoy just for the Art, to enjoy for the thrill of survival, and to enjoy for the exploration. Most of all this game will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment and will reward you for every day you tick onto your total.

It keeps the gameplay fresh by adding challenges as you go, and you add challenges yourself as you explore and try new things. The sheer amount of time you sink into the game before it even gets a whiff of staleness is also impressive, with the promise that more content is being added, and a strict release schedule is counted down on the main menu of the game.

The game is a must buy, thoroughly enjoyable, and will be beloved by anyone that played and loved games like Minecraft or Terraria. It’s a solid A and at the very least you should give the Demo a try here: