Monday, June 8, 2015

[REVIEW] Don't Starve: Giant Edition

Don't Starve: Giant Edition
Played on: Wii U
Genre: Action-adventure, sandbox, survival
Developer: Klei Entertainment

Originally released for PC two years ago (and, subsequently, for the Playstation 4 and Vita), Don't Starve is a gem of a game that stands as one of the most unique titles in the Wii U e-Shop. From the get-go, it drops the player into a Tim Burton-esque fantasy wilderness filled with resources, animals, monsters, and what seems like an endless string of open-ended gameplay possibilities. Your goal is to find a way survive, one day at a time, and perhaps some day build your very own one-man empire to rule these lands. Before that, though you'll die. A lot.

Don't Starve could be described as a hybrid of action-adventure, survival, and real-time strategy. It features a randomly-generated open world, which means that no two games are ever the same. In this way, it reminds me of some of my favorite strategy titles of all time, such as the Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic series.

Unlike those games, however, Don't Starve is minutiously crafted to give the player an ever-present feeling of unease and unsafeness.
You have to manage three aspects of the character's well-being in order to succeed: hunger, health, and sanity, and that's easier said than done. Days turn to night, by which time you'll have to build a light source (unless you want to be murdered in the dark by an unseen entity). Resources run out and the food you gather spoils over time, meaning you have to frequently search for more. Seasons come and go, each of them bringing new environmental hazards to protect yourself against. There's never a dull moment here, and this helps make the game even more enthralling.

Bad choice for a campfire spot, it seems.
The best part about the experience is seeing your character make slow progress over time. Eventually you'll have enough resources to start building a base, where you can settle for a slighlty less desperate lifestyle. You can build farms for food, plant groves for logs, herd animals for meat and manure. Of course, you're never truly safe: wild hounds will attack you periodically, and each season has its own boss: giant, free-roaming monsters that could eventually find you and, if you can't lead them elsewhere, wreck everything you've worked so hard to build.

That, incidentally, is one of the aspects of Don't Starve that could turn off some people: it's ruthless to a fault. The game features permadeath, meaning that, once you die, you're truly dead: your save file is automatically deleted and you have to start over from scratch. As you progress, you'll find ways to overcome that, from craftable items like the meat effigy to randomly-placed structures like the touch stone. Still, the fear of dying is very real all the time, forcing you to micromanage everything and take every decision super carefully. This sort of challenge is obviously not for everyone.

I think the deerclops wants to be friends!

If it's for you, however, you're truly in for a treat. The game has an incredibly deep crafting system, allowing hunderds of different ways to make items, structures, weapons, and dishes. There are a lot of less obvious mechanics as well, such as feeding meat to the pig-folk that roam the land and turning them into temporary allies. It's all so deep, by the way, that the several Don't Starve wikis available online will prove an invaluable resource if you want to succeed, especially since the in-game information is surprisingly scarce. I get that this is intended to boost the "survival" feel, but it's disappointing that they don't even allow us to take notes while we play. I mean, the gamepad's touchscreen is right there; let us put it to good use. Luckily, a good chunk of the main information will become second nature in no time, allowing you to need less and less outside help with each playthrough.
Yep, looking like a completely sane person.
All in all, Don't Starve is one of the most addictive experiences I've had in quite a while. As I write this review, I'm 30 hours in, which is incredible for a fifteen-buck e-Shop title. Even more impressive is the fact that I'll surely keep coming back over and over for more playthroughs for as long as my Wii U is connected to my TV. This is the sort of game that can inspire lengthy dedication, and at this point I think I might just be already hooked.

No comments:

Post a Comment