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It gets a lot stranger

“Don’t Starve”. Remember this, as it is the only advice and guidance that you’ll be getting. From Klei Entertainment, Don’t Starve is an upcoming 2D survival adventure game filled with odd characters, mysterious creatures and laced with a bow of dark humour. You start out as Wilson, the gentleman scientist who has been trapped and transported to the middle of nowhere by an evil demon.

The game takes place in the wilderness, and as the title suggests, you must collect various tools and resources in order to feed, and protect yourself from the in game enemies. To some, this may sound like a simple yet pleasant scavenger hunt, where carefully rationing your equipment will in return, reward you with an obvious, yet satisfying outcome. Well think again. There are no manuals, no tutorials and certainly no “hint” buttons and despite being a scientist, Wilson has no initial scientific knowledge that would be appreciated by some to perhaps make the game easier. It’s all down to you.

As the day begins, the area will be calm and you’ll quickly grasp a basic idea of foraging. After a few minutes, confidence sets in and the idea of this game frustrating you will be far from the forefront of your thoughts. Initially the game seems a bit like Minecraft crossed with the mind of Tim Burton, though I’ve never seen a screaming rabbit, walking tree or Beefalo (Buffalo) in Minecraft.

Make good use of the light, because when night falls, everything changes. You’ll be surrounded by beasts and oddities that fear only the light, so you’ll be sacrificing the wood that you’ve been gathering all day, and spending the evening by a huge fire. Many games would reward you for this kind of action, becoming self-dependant and using your instincts. Perhaps offering you the chance to save your game and bed down for the night, right? Wrong. There’s no victory here, you’re on the road to nowhere, and the bridge is out.

If you do survive until the morning, then the cycle begins again. This time though, you’ve had the experience, you’ve learnt about the does and don’ts and now you ready to take on another day with confidence and presumably, success. But Don’t Starve wouldn’t be much of a survival game if it was just a race to gather resources before nightfall. Which is why once your surroundings become familiar, you will have the option to research. With this comes new unlockable inventions, better tools and a generally better understanding of how to survive. You will also gain experience points that go towards unlocking new characters, which brings me on to this…

…Death.  The time has come when I must talk about dying. It may be slightly upsetting to see your loveable little scientist mauled to death in the forest. But it doesn’t have to be all bad. With each death comes a lesson. Take a minute to think about what went wrong. If you decide to wonder off looking for items on the other side of the map, pack food. If you’ve set up a camp to close to enemies, equip a weapon and be ready for a fight. Furthermore, the knowledge that you’ve gained with one character carries over to the next. I say this because there is no reset button, or even reverting back to a previous save, you just get dropped back into the wilderness as someone different, along with the knowledge and tools that your previous character unlocked.

This is a great idea, as it minuses the frustration that goes with strengthening your character in the first place, but it seems to remove some of the challenge that the game initially started with. Moreover, just like Minecraft, the game world is built dynamically. This means that it’s possible to revisit the same map, which would be the best option if you know were the important resources are located. Alternatively, if you’re looking for even more of a challenge, you can create your own map in which to play. This would prompt you to explore and also incorporate more varied gameplay. After playing for a few days I can honestly say Don’t Starve is very unique in both concept and execution. I’ve managed to set up a little farm in order to avoid unnecessary reckless exploration. Though doing so without instruction or guidance presents its own set of challenges, especially since everything you do is guesswork.  Plus the fact that disaster can hit you at any time, in any place.

In terms of graphics, the game is very uniquely presented in a style consisting of grim, yet playful visuals.  Firelight gives dark, spooky surroundings a healthy glow, and the gormless look of a cartoon- like beefalo is quite amusing. The game also does an excellent job of really creating a hopeless and dreary atmosphere, something that is always appreciated when accompanying a game from within this genre. The visuals are also accompanied by various, delightful, and sharp sound effects. Birds whistle, fire crackles and of course, the rabbits scream.

Don’t Starve is shaping up to be a truly unique Indie title, with plenty of lasting appeal and  an incentive for the player to return. If you enjoy survival games or fancy yourself as a gaming Bear Grylls, I highly recommend it.  The game is currently an open Beta, but can be pre-ordered for £9.49 or $11.99 on Steam. It’s due for release tomorrow, April 23rd. 

My little Farm