Don't Starve PreviewPublisher: Klei Entertainment
'Don't Starve' is good advice, but if there's one thing worth pointing out about Klei's upcoming survival adventure then it's that this advice is the only guidance you'll get. There's no manual or tooltips to help you carve out a place in this games' wilderness; there's just the wilderness.
At first that doesn't seem so bad. Start a new game and the sun will be up, the area will be calm and you'll easily be able to figure out the basics of foraging. After five minutes you'll probably be confident that you can handle yourself in a game that seems to plainly be Minecraft crossed with a Tim Burton gilm.
When night falls everything changes though. In the dark the world fills with beasts who only fear firelight, forcing you to sacrifice wood for a fire and spend all night sheltered by the flames instead of foraging. At this point you may try to save your game only to find there's no option for that - and it's then that you realise this isn't like Minecraft at all. Minecraft was gentle and could be conquered, whereas Don't Starve punishes you with abandon. That makes it more like Tetris (or Hatetris
) because there's no victory on the table, just delayed defeat.
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Survive until morning and the cycle starts over again, this time with more desperate urgency because only now do you know what you need to survive. You've learned that wood is more valuable than a carrot; that twigs are better used for traps than kindling.
Oddly though, Don't Starve isn't really about these survival lessons. Instead, it's about the experimentation you can cram in around them and finding the balance between exploration and survival.
Mainly this balance is bought about by Don't Starve's most fantastical element, a device called The Science Engine. The first device you learn to assemble after basic work tools, the Science Engine is capable of breaking down anything you feed it into raw science which can be used to research new equipment. The challenge is in always leaving yourself enough to stay alive and adapt to the constant changes in the world - the new beasts and areas that are opening up to you.
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As a survival game Don't Starve introduces bushcraft skills to help you find this balance - farming the land is essential unless you want to recklessly live hand-to-mouth - but Klei is careful to stay true to it's vision too. You're never told how to farm or what to watch out for, while at the same time disaster can strike instantly and from nowhere.
You might think that'd make Don't Starve an incredibly frustrating game to play - but then explain the concept of Tetris to someone and they'd probably assume the same. The reality is far different; that Don't Starve is one of the most moreish games you can imagine because every mistake results in a lesson you can apply later. It can certainly be a fatiguing
game to play but it remains fun even then and compensates by steadily releasing new characters and equipment based on previous progress.
Honestly? The only complaint that we can level against the game at the moment is that the final release date is still so far off, because we've been playing the beta since December and we're still hungry for more.
Don't Starve will be published on PC by Klei Entertainment. It's currently available for pre-order and is due out in Late March, 2013.