Klei Entertainment really struck gold when they developed Don’t Starve. The game was originally released on Steam in 2013, but players and fans of the game have been playing it since the beta was released back in 2012. It then sprung onto the PS4 and made its way onto the PS Vita shortly after, where a new DLC version was added. Now, the full package is included in the Wii U port, but does it still shine three years on?
Now, let me clear the air, Don’t Starve is NOT a game for everyone. I only know of two people that have actually played and enjoyed this game. However, it has quite a big community and it sold over a million copies in its first year. There’s not much that I can say about the story. Most of it actually happens in the intro. The game starts with Wilson, a scientist and inventor, who gets tricked into making a device that sends people to a devilishly dangerous world. The trickster in question is man named Maxwell. The aim of the game is to out-wit Maxwell by beating all the worlds he creates.
A Little Bit of This and That
At its core, Don’t Starve is mixture of adventure, simulator, survival and roguelike games. You’re expected to survive in a world that contains various different environments; create, invent and use different items and weapons; collect important “things”; and, ultimately, explore in order to progress further into the game. Visually, it looks very gothic and grim, which suits the overall tone of the game. Plus I really like that semi-Tim Burton feel. The music even jumps from realistic sounds to upbeat music depending on your actions or where you are. The game is beaten by collecting and assembling the five “things” (Ring thing, box thing, crank thing, potato head thing and wooden thing) in each world.
Things aren’t that simple though as this is a game about survival, which means the odds are not in your favour. As soon as you start the game for the first time, you’ll probably do something that gets you killed. Chop enough trees and a tree guardian will hunt you until you’re dead. Stand in the swamp too long and the swamp’s tentacles will attack you. If you don’t eat, you’ll starve. If you don’t sleep, you’ll lose your mind and the shadows will attack you. If you don’t build a fire at night, the bogey man will kill you. Are you in winter? You’ll freeze to death. Summer? Death by heatstroke. Spring? Driven insane with all the rain. Autumn? Killed by lightning. Seriously, the list does not end.
However, it’s a great feeling to actually survive in this game, and for as long as you can. A big part of the game is resource management. You can get into serious trouble if you don’t manage your goods properly. Leaving a forest biome to explore a rocky valley is very risky as there are no sources of food available, so if you don’t pack in, you might starve. Leave a safe area without a good quality weapon and you risk being killed. It’s all about taking what you need and storing everything else safely away. This is one of the greatest assets in the game. However, it’s also its biggest downfalls. When you die, you have to restart everything, which means you need to find the same things, to build the same equipment, to gather the next set of resources for more inventions, and so on and so forth. That makes the game very repetitive and a turn off for many people.
Recruiting New Survivors
The longer you survive before croaking, the more experience you gain which is used to unlock new characters. You start off with Wilson and slowly unlock (in my experience) more useful characters. Willow, who is the first unlockable character, is probably the most useful early character. She is equipped with a lighter which gives off enough light for you to survive the night without having to fuss over a campfire. Later on, you’ll unlock Woodie, who comes equipped with an axe (that never degrades) and who can turn into a Werebeaver. In that mode, you can pretty much annihilate everything and heal by eating logs from a tree.
What’s interesting about these characters is that each one has a specific personality trait that, in a way, turns out to be a “superpower” in Maxwell’s world. Willow is a pyromaniac and lights fires when nervous, but gains sanity around flames, plus she’s immune to fire damage. Woodie is cursed and imagines his axe can speak to him. Wendy has manic depressive disorder and doesn’t lose sanity at night, plus the ghost of her dead twin sister comes out to play if anyone tries to hurt her. WX-78, a robot, is a misanthropist and is immune to food spoilage. There are other characters to use and each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
If you’ve already played Don’t Starve and the Reign of Giants DLC, then you won’t get anything new in the Wii U version. The one big addition, which is probably my favourite, is the use of the gamepad. Now, instead of switching between screens to view the map, you can use the gamepad as a map. It’s very convenient and helps you plan and keep track of everything more easily. Since I’ve started playing the Wii U version, I don’t think I’ll go back to the PS4/ Vita versions. I love the gamepad too much. You also have the option to play on the gamepad completely.
Other than that, not much else has changed. I’ve noticed a small decrease in the save time, which was a big problem for me on the PS4. On the other end, the loading takes forever, especially with custom worlds. If you want, you can edit the world to be easier or tougher than the default. Only this time, the loading of the game is very long.
Like I said before, Don’t Starve Giants Edition is not a game for everyone. It tough, hard to master and pulls no punches. If you’re a fan of the game, and you happen to own a Wii U, then this version might suit you well.