Halloween Countdown Day IX – Don’t Starve


Day Nine – Don’t Starve (Together)

Don’t Starve has been with us for a bit of time (2013), long enough that its novelty is worn around the edges, but still attracts players with its unique and stylistic approach to survival. The premise is nothing short of a camping adventure in the haunted woods, and everything as twisted as The Grimm Fairy Tales or The Divine Comedy.


This week is dedicated to the creepy, the macabre, and the horrific, and when you really get down to it, Don’t Starve isn’t much different from some of our previous collections.

The basic premise around Don’t Starve is leading a character to weather a procedurally generated landscape and survive against some unseen, almost Kafkaesque machinations. You try to not lose your sanity, try keep a full stomach, and most of all, avoid getting impaled by spider appendages. It’s a ceaseless fight for survival that can only end in nightmares, and on that basis, Don’t Starve holds a firm foundation.

It’s my belief that Don’t Starve is incredibly endearing and at the same time disconcerting almost solely due to the nature of its art design. The hand-drawn child’s book aesthetic gives a cartoonish feel to more serious implications. The art style accompanies the gameplay as well, considering the entire scene is isometric. There is a first-person mod, which isn’t too bad, but reveals the weaknesses of having a 2-D mindset in a 3-D space. The combat can be a little janky considering the nature of movement and proximity, but the generous hitboxes make up for it allowing for intermittent swordplay. It’s not often that you’re going mano y mano with the fiends of the forest, but there’s a good reason for that.


The veil of passivity in practice

Don’t Starve isn’t necessarily about fighting adversaries head on, much in the same spirit of previous horror and survival games. Instead you must outwit or outrun your enemies to collect supplies and establish what amounts to a pile of rocks in a dreadfully foreign land. The relationship between you and a family of spiders may be one of spears or you may burn down the entire forest around their nest. It’s a decent gamble to take different approaches and often times experimenting will reward you handsomely even if it leads to your death.


This game is basically just a big barbecue

The game is called Don’t Starve, but the anarchists are probably wondering “What happens when you do starve?”. That’s where everything gets tricky. You see, when you take damage, when you have an empty stomach, or your character’s weaknesses are exposed, you begin to lose sanity. Which brings us to my favorite – and the epitomal – mechanic of the game. Slowly and surely, otherworldly beasts, only visible to a wounded mind, begin crawling out the woodwork and dicing your face to oblivion. It’s slow and steady at first, but quickly builds up if you don’t pick flowers (a mentally relaxing hobby apparently).

Using fire at nighttime is absolutely necessary due to the terrible creatures that descend in the darkest hours. Being insane at nighttime is a sure death warrant as your character is driven away from camp and into the clutches of a menacing fright. This is the crux of Don’t Starve, but not a negative one, mind you. I find a particular draw for Don’t Starve‘s slowly building stakes and increasing threats especially at the multiplayer level. Yes, you can play Don’t Starve Together, the multiplayer client which allows you to not starve with your friends.


It’s quite entertaining to see someone’s sense of reason dissolve before your eyes and thus bolt off into the night, only to return as a sheet-shrouded ghost who haunts your items. It’s equally entertaining trying to split tasks and prepare for wolf invasions, bribing pigmen to attack your friends, or even setting everything they’ve ever loved on fire by “accident”. And the amazing realization that even in multiplayer the game is simply frightening holds me captive more than I could possibly be grateful for.

Both the spirit of adventure and the punishments of blazing a trail are wrapped up quite nicely in what I can say is one of my favorite survival games this decade, but don’t take my word for it, take to the forumsDon’t Starve is a great indie game on Steam for players of all intensity and has a decently-sized community to boot. It goes on sale often and I highly recommend you grab a copy to get you through this cold and harsh winter!


About Samuel Collet

Sam is a writer for the internet, an awful graphic designer, and will work for coffee. If you wish to hire this destroyer of languages, send him an e-mail at samuelsharpe001@yahoo.com

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