As the world is heading back into lockdown, I decided to go back to an old game of mine. Don’t Starve, by Klei Entertainment, kept me up at night for many years. From surviving to thriving, this game will let you escape reality.
Don’t Starve was launched in 2013 by Klei Entertainment, an independent game studio located in Vancouver, Canada. They have also released Mark of the Ninja, Eets, Oxygen Not Included and are currently working on Griftlands, a deck-building game. Since 2013, downloadable content (also called DLC) has been added to the vanilla version of Don’t Starve. The game was first imagined during a game jam, an event where studios have to create a game from scratch in a limited time. The team really enjoyed working on it and developed it over the years to create what we know now.
So, what is Don’t Starve ? The title is definitely a clue: it is all about not starving. However, starvation is not your only enemy in the game. So is the night, the weather and a lot of cute yet deadly creatures. Your character is thrown into a hostile environment, and then it is up to you. No tutorial, no explanation. Just like in real life, you have to figure it out as you go. You run, you gather, you fight and you settle. Then, when you think it gets easier and that you are getting the hang of it, something comes, and it does not plan to be your friend.
The player starts with the character Wilson, a mad scientist, then unlocks other characters as the game goes on. One could wonder how Wilson ended up in this world. The better question would be “because of whom ?”. It would be Maxwell’s fault. Maxwell is a playable character, to be unlocked after much effort. He is also the one who welcomes your character when they first awaken in the Don’t Starve world. Maxwell was a magician when he failed a tour with a codex. He, and his assistant Charlie, got caught by shadows hands, brought into the wilderness, then left to die in the game world. Time has passed for them by the time the player arrives in the world, as Maxwell is now thriving, and Charlie has become a monster that hides in the darkness.
Every character has a story, special abilities, and comes with a few accessories. For example, Wilson grows a beard that keeps him warm during winter, Willow has a lighter and starts fires when insane and Wendy has the ghost of her dead sister protecting her. Every game is different, as the world changes every time the player starts a new game.
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Reign Of Giants
This first DLC was released in 2014. It stays in the same world as the original version, with a few notable changes. If it wasn’t hard enough to survive winter, the player will now have to learn to live with frog rains in spring and heat waves in summer. New characters are also introduced to the game: Wigfrid the Warrior and Webber the Spider.
New biomes appear with new friends, new enemies and new challenges. The player can meet creatures such as a volt goat or a moleworm. The biggest change is linked to the name of the DLC : giants now live in the world. New ways of dying include the Deerclops coming to your camp or the Bearger coming for the honey. Each season has a new fatality.
Nonetheless, not everything you will meet wants to kill you. True, most of the creatures will try, especially if you attack them. But you can make friends. The world you arrive in has its own inhabitants: the pigs. If you feed them, they will fight for you, and their king will soon become valuable if you bring him a few gifts.
Then came Shipwrecked. Released in 2016, this DLC takes the player on a brand new experience. A new world, and your character is now left to die, or survive, on an island. The mechanics are the same: collect things, food, explore and create a safe place to survive. Almost everything else is new. To explore, the player must navigate in hope to find another island with other materials, and so on. The ocean being a biome of its own, it gives many new possibilities.
New characters, made for Shipwrecked’s new world, make the adventure easier. Walani’s surfer ability will get you places faster, and Wilbur will make you a friend of the Apes. If the white sand and blue water made you think it would be a vacation, think again. The Swordfish and Stink Rays will help you get back to earth. Or at least back to the closest island.
The latest DLC, released in 2018, is again offering a brand-new experience. The biggest change? At first, it feels like everything is new. Gathering is not as easy anymore, and relying on pig camps will get you into trouble. Pigs are now civilised, living in cities and dressing in your Victorian fantasy. The world is entirely different. New biomes, new seasons, ruins and wishing wells will be your new environment.
Nothing comes easy in Hamlet. The best, and hardest parts of Reign of Giants and Shipwrecked meet a Victorian world full of ruins and new creatures that are after you. The goal is the same: stay alive, make a camp, and make this place your own. You will need to learn which creatures to trust, and from which ones to run from until you are ready. If all of that was not enough, it will be up to you to save the world. Sure, you don’t have to. But it will make your life much more complicated.
Don’t Starve Together
Shortly after developing Don’t Starve, Klei Entertainment released Don’t Starve Together in 2014. Don’t Starve Together is an online platform to play Don’t Starve, with other people. You can connect to other people’s games, whether they are friends or strangers. Up to six players, the adventure becomes easier and funnier with more hands to help build the camp.
As plenty of us are spending most of our time at home, often alone, I found it nice to connect to people through a game of surviving, and making surviving easier when we are all working together. Even though this game is nothing like real life, it underlines how team effort often pays out, and that we are stronger together.
If you are interested in trying Don’t Starve, it is available to play on every platform, from iPad to Playstation. For further help, you can find a few guides online as well as videos on Youtube of people showing off their Don’t Starve skills.
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