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Review: Don’t Starve

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Don’t Starve is dark, twisted and beautiful. Its eye catching art style and innovative game mechanics are sure to attract Playstation 4 owners looking for something unique to play on their new system. However, Don’t Starve tends to drown in its own complexity and will undoubtedly intimidate those who aren’t willing to put in a lengthy time sink. If you do take the time to learn how the game works, you’ll see a game that balances its complexity with monotony. If you want wood walls, you must get logs, which in turn you use to make boards, which when combined with branches make a wood wall. This system seems complex but really boils down to just cutting down trees and picking up branches. Don’t Starve has no specific goal other than its title’s implication, which may turn gamers off even if there are some truly brilliant mechanics in the works.

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From an aesthetic vantage, Don’t Starve is absolutely incredible. It’s as if a Tim Burton movie had been re-imagined as a video game. Everything in the game is dark and desolate; it really is a fantastic game world, and each new environment is unique. There are several world edit options that allow you to take certain items and enemies out. In addition, there is an option to make the base game even more difficult. The mad scientist is just one of an array of characters that are playable. Options are everywhere but nothing is really explained. A new game starts and you are told to survive: not how to or even why you should. Other than the fact that progress is lost when you die there is no incentive to keep a character alive. Perhaps, this is by design, the hopelessness is tangible; maybe Klei Entertainment wants you to feel like there is nothing to live for in this fictional world.

Crafting in video games has become wildly popular as of late. It’s hard not to make the obvious comparison between Don’t Starve and Minecraft. Both games are very similar in the sense that you use the world as your creative playground. You can take minerals from the environment and use them to craft items, weapons, and armor. Other world items can be used to make homes, fires, and science machines. Where Don’t Starve differs is its sense of urgency within this world. Almost everything is a threat and to survive, you have to be resourceful with these items.

Days and seasons rotate on a cycle in Don’t Starve. In the Summer, days are longer, food more abundant and it’s basically much easier to survive. Every new sandbox game of Don’t Starve begins in the summer to help the player get started. As a contrast, winters are extremely harsh. Plants are basically impossible to grow and without warmth, you easily die. Night serves as a time to review inventory and plan your next step. However, if your not careful night is a time of fear. Without light, the darkness will consume you. It’s a brilliant use of the game world to install fear in the player whenever the sun starts to set.

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There’s an adventure mode within the Don’t Starve sandbox mode. The adventure pits your character against specific trials in other worlds. It’s a nice change of pace from the base game seeing as if you die in adventure mode you are teleported back to sandbox mode. It’s the only thing in the game that offers no risk as long as you find Maxwell’s portal.

Don’t Starve offers a unique and innovative take on the growing true survival subcategory. By no means is it perfect, but often I found myself marveling at the gorgeous world and chuckling at its dark satirical comedy. Don’t Starve is never really fun, and can be boring or even frustrating, but it’s hard not to appreciate Klei’s complex attempt at crafting and world design. For those looking for a lengthy time sink, this may be your best bet on PS4. Just remember: Don’t Starve.

Purchase Don’t Starve now via Playstation Store Online.

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