Does Don't Starve successfully make the transition from PC to PS4? Find out in our Don't Starve review.
Published on Jan 10, 2014
Why am I being chased by a giant tree-man? What’s the purpose of these rabbit earmuffs I’ve just made? Why has a mysterious shadow-hand just put out my fire? Why are these Beefalo attacking me (and why am I so obsessed with collecting their poo)?
The answers to these questions are ones that you’ll have to discover for yourself and that’s the beauty of the unforgiving survival-exploration game that is Don’t Starve.
Modern videogames are regularly chastised for treating the player like slathering morons who must be told to press this, shoot that and walk this way with button prompts, tedious tutorials and neon objective markers.
Don’t Starve wisely eschews that tendency and the game is all the better for it.
When you’re first dropped into Don’t Starve’s harsh, procedurally-generated environment, the first thing that you’ll notice - besides the wonderful art-style - is that the level of guidance provided to the player is even more barren than your prospect of survival.
In fact, the only instruction that the game provides you is when you boot it up and read its title: Don’t Starve.
At it’s core then, Don’t Starve is a game about the joy of discovery -whether that’s a case of roaming the landscape to uncover the map and see what wonders populate the game’s world, crafting items and collecting resources to see what new possibilities can be unlocked, or prodding and poking at the various creatures you will encounter to see what kind of response your actions will illicit.
Don't Starve Review: Learning How To Survive
Quite often, you’ll find that following up on your thought of, “what happens if I do this”, will result in death and you’ll even find that Don’t Starve will chuck the odd lethal surprise your way.
If that sounds frustrating, then take solace in the fact that the unforgiving nature of Don’t Starve’s world is more often comedic than it is annoying.
In any case, the satisfaction in Don’t Starve comes from learning, from gradually accruing the knowledge that you need to live longer and longer.
In that sense, the punishing nature of Don’t Starve is a crucial part of what makes the game so brilliant - any playthrough can quickly swerve from a sense of being in total control into absolute chaos in which you’re scraping to survive, and back again.
That pervading sense of precariousness drives you to unfurl what is a large array of possibilities as you strive to discover what survival strategies will best see you through into the next season and when you experience the delight that a new discovery creates, then Don’t Starve’s deliberate obtuseness makes perfect sense.
Don't Starve Review: What's The Objective?
It’s important to note that the rudderless nature of Don’t Starve won’t be for everyone. If you’re someone who wants a goal to aim for, something to punctuate your experience, then you’ll probably do well to leave Don’t Starve well alone.
Alongside the lightbulb moments of discovery that every playthrough of Don’t Starve will produce, the crux of Don’t Starve’s appeal lies in setting and achieving your own objectives.
That can be something as simple as deciding that you want to make a certain object, something as violent as trying to work out what equipment you need to slaughter a certain beast, or something as obscure as trying to work it if it’s possible to ride a Beefalo.
While there is an objective based adventure mode that can be discovered within the main game, this feels more like an additional challenge for Don’t Starve veterans than it does a concession to those who want a more directed experience.
Don't Starve Review
If you’re prepared to embrace Don’t Starve as the open-ended experience that it is, however, what you’ll find is an exceptional example of the kind of game that can be created when developers are prepared to trust players to work things out for themselves, as Klei has done here.
Don’t Starve understands how much more rewarding games can be when the player has to work things out for themselves and that satisfaction will likely see you wile away many an hour as you gradually claw your way into a position where you start to understand how the game’s world works.
Version tested: PS4
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9.0 / 10
Don't Starve is a brilliant, albeit unrelentingly harsh, survival game that understands how to leverage the player's precariousness to foster the joy of discovery.