Don’t Starve – As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time. All feedback on this concept is welcome.

Much like Contrast before it, Don’t Starve is a bold choice for a showcase indie game on Playstation Plus.  The idea here is to gather resources and craft items and structures in order to survive in a twisted environment. You start out with nothing. It’s all on you to make use of your environment and stay alive.

The game spans over a course of days and includes full seasonal cycles. You’ll need to create axes in order to chop down trees, then place logs in order to build campfires. Most importantly, you’ll need to keep eating so you don’t starve.

A survival action, adventure then. But one you’ll want to see through?

Craft your world, then live in it.

Prior to starting, you can shape and define the world to your liking. You can make sure food is available to pluck out of the ground, like carrots. You can also control the tree population and the amount of random items you can stumble across. You can also populate creatures, affect seasonal changes and even affect the growth of Wilson’s beard. The detail levels are all a bit creepy.

Once you’ve tinkered with that (or stuck with the default settings) you can dive right in.

Essentially, you pick up things like flowers, saplings, flint and grass reeds, and use these base materials to start making core equipment, like shovels, pick-axes and axes.

Creatures will be floating around the whole time, like butterflies and crows. There are even rabbits which can be caught with traps and birds that can be skewered with spears. For the time being, however, you’ll start out having to enjoy he delicacies of a soil-encrusted carrot.

For part of this feature, I chose to document my initial progress through the game on a day-to-day basis, chronicling my adventures with diary entries.

Ray’s First Don’t Starve journey

Day One

I’d managed to gather enough materials to build up an axe so I could take on the trees. At least i’d have a fire tonight. Except, nearly crashing into a Killer Bee nest was definitely not a highlight, nor was encountering a strange circle surrounded by pigs heads on spikes. It was as if i’d stumbled on some sort of ritual. Weirdly, I felt compelled to touch the stone in the center. Scientifically, i’m naturally curious, but i’ve never done anything like that before. Probably not my best idea. Fortunately, there didn’t seem to be any immediate effects, but at least i’d be warm.  Food was scarce, save for a few seeds and a carrot, but giving them a bit of a flame grill on the campfire made the whole eating experience slightly more bearable. Night fell, as did the lids over my eyes.

Day Two

The morning came and I felt surprisingly fresh. Good enough to go back to grinding and finding items, at least. Today I found some rope. A few twigs. Now I can make a trap. And fortunately enough i’ve seen a ton of rabbits floating around. Will nab one and net myself a delicious stew. A few running attempts later and I have my evening meal sorted. But just as night starts to fall, I stumble across a hole in the ground. I get close and it opens wide, seeming to lead into nothingness. A hole in the ground. Almost like a Worm Hole. It looks weirdly inviting, and i’m almost tempted to leap in, but the need to eat outweighs everything and as soon as nightfalls, rabbit stew is all I can think about and taste…

Day Three

Full of warmth and contentment for the first time since I got here, my creative juices start to flow. I decide to make myself a sexy garland and grass suit. Because…why not? Who cares about fashion sense out here. It’s not as if i’m trying to impress anybody. Especially not those horrific spiders. Gah! I hate the bloody things. They’re always watching me. Waiting for me to make one wrong move. I swear, they’re following me wherever I go. Maybe if I take a dive down that Wormhole…No…Not necessary. There’s enough room here. I’ll just head further into the woods. Though preferably away from the killer bees…

Day Four

I’m being chased! The fire went out just before sunrise and I’m out of wood. I’m being attacked, but i’m not sure who or what it is. I need to get out of here and fast. The sun is starting to come up in the distance, but it’s still too dark. It’s not enough. I can’t see. They’re gaining on me. I’m about to die. I knew this day would come, but perhaps not so soon. I…wait…no…is that the Wormhole? I’ve come back around! I’ve got no choice. I have to dive in.

GERONIMO!

uhhh…I’m…not dead? Pinching myself. I’m still alive! I made it… Phew…

But, wait… where am I? What is this place. I…Oh…great…i’m in the middle of a freakin’ Spider Nest. This is great, I have to…No … Wait…Get off me….AAARRRGHHHH….

….

Day Five

I’m…not dead? And i’m back at the Pig Head circle. But how? And where are the spiders? How can I be alive? Why have I been given a second chance?

I don’t rightly know or understand much of what just happened, but I felt myself die. The pain seared through me and I was gone. Now i’m here, fit as a fiddle.

Shaking the cobwebs, I look around, trying to find supplies. I need something to distract myself. And after collecting  a few carrots and blades of grass, I stumble across some animal tracks. They’re oversized and unlike anything i’ve ever seen before. Apprehension temporarily takes hold, but the growling in my stomach overrules my head and heart. I have to follow them…

And what do I find? An over-sized turkey. Yes! A turkey! I grab my axe and fell the creature in a few blows. My stomach growls in satisfaction.

I don’t wait for night to fall. I set up camp and feast. It’s been almost a week since i’ve had a real meal. I slurp satisfied as the last of the turkey fat drips down my chin. I will sleep well tonight.

Day Six

I wake up in the middle of the night with the loud sounds of scuttling. In a half-dazed state, it’s not a familiar sound. It could be anything. But the fire burns brightly. There’s a raging inferno flickering in front of me. I’m perfectly safe here.

Except..what’s that movement? Just shadows of trees rustling surely. I’m perfectly sa…SPIDERS! GET THEM OFF ME. NO. WAIT. AARRGHHHH….

Well, that was fast…

As you can see, I didn’t last that long. Don’t Starve is all about learning and understanding the psychology of the game. Yes, the environments change and you’ll never play the same game twice. You’ll encounter new creatures and discover caverns for Spelunking, but the aim is the same. Survive. And it gets easier when you understand the need for a solid base well fortified and protected. You’ll learn to stop gathering the first things you see and to only collect the things you need.

Areas marked for improvement

Actually, we have none. Don’t Starve is a pretty solid package and we’ve yet to encounter any noticeable problems. If we’ve missed any, shout off in the comments and we’ll add them in here.

Final Analysis

Don’t Starve is a very unique, engaging product that offers a unique gameplaying experience. Once you get your strategy, you can go for days, and the game continues to deliver and offer new potential discoveries all the time. It controls wonderfully on Playstation 4 and can keep you going for hours. A wonderful advert for Playstation Plus and the Playstation independent scene.

Time Played: Ten+ Hours

If you have any specific questions about the game, noticed any problems or don’t feel we’ve answered something specifically enough, sound off in the comments below and we’ll get right on replying.

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,