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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Don't Starve Review: The Shadow over Farmville...smouth

Don't Starve is a game that really doesn’t want you to know what kind of a game it actually is, in fact, “Don't Starve” is the only direction you're ever given. 

As a lovcraftian mad scientist named Wilson, you make a devil's deal with a stranger in a suit for knowledge of the natural world. But upon the completion of your masterwork; you find yourself whisked away to an otherworldly wilderness where pigs live in houses, mushrooms drive you insane, rabbits scream, and frogs want you dead. What the hell are you supposed to do about any of this? Figure it out.

This man did not know cold”

First I noticed that my character was upset by night fall, so I looked over at my building options on the other side of the screen. I saw a option for fire. Naturally I wanted a big stone fire pit, but I had no stones, and I had no logs. So I was left to my sapling twig devices and rode out the night lighting torch after torch, fearing the big white eyes blinking just out of reach of the light. 

The next day would be different I scoured the land for some flint, my option bar dinged and I could now cobble together an axe! A few more flints and I made a pickaxe. Now all I had to do was chop some trees and break some boulders and now I had my fire pit... but I couldn't light it in time and the darkness took me. Game Over.

The fire provider had failed”

You're going to die in Don't Starve. You are going to die many, many, times. The only thing you can take with you is knowledge. Knowledge like “I really shouldn't go anywhere near giant spiders” or “I should try cooking raw rabbit meat before shoving it into my face.” Each time you die (and start over) you've hopefully died trying something different and thereby testing more limits of the game world. 

But dying isn't without it's own reward, the number of days you manage to survive are tallied into experience points on death. Which are then used to unlock new, more effective, or versatile characters. Maybe Wolfgang the body builder and his bigger stomach is more your speed or Wendy the little girl whose dead sister's ghost protects her at night (it's that kind of game). DS is very observant of how best to alleviate the tedium of starting over, from random wilderness generation to the new characters, no single play through is exactly alike. It works...for the most part anyway.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, STOP! ...where did you get that hat?

It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things"

Don't Starve remains an experience I wanted to like more than I actually did. Which isn't to say I feel disappointed, or worse, ripped off. No, instead I can only call it a very good game instead of a great one. The resource management becomes a tremendous pain in the ass. For all the grass it takes to make a bed roll why does it magically disappear in the morning? You will probably end up spending half your time in the game picking berries or pulling up grass, and as disturbingly compelling as it is in the moment, you will find yourself getting up from your seat wondering “What the hell did I just spend the last hour and a half doing?
This inspired lunacy can be yours for $14.99!

It's Instinct Told a Truer Tale”

Here boy! Have thirty founds of manure.
But if I’m being honest, I just can't stay mad at this game. Its atmosphere and art style oozes wit and personality. It feels like something we'd like to imagine Tim Burton creating, instead of the drivel he actually makes, and that is an art direction worth praising. For every game day I spend picking grass, I’ll find something new and interesting the next. Maybe I’ll stumble across my beloved bouncing pet backpack Chester! Or a pig-friend resurrection stone, or a dead adventurer clutching a ruby, or... I don't know what! All I know is that I can't wait for DS to surprise me again.


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