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Don’t Starve Together PC Review

I got turned on to Klei Entertainment’s original version of Don’t Starve by a good gamer friend of mine about a year after it came out (around 20124) and was hooked almost before I started playing the game. The cranky, creepy attention to detail that’s present from the very beginning  and the Beetlejuice animated series/Tim Burton aesthetic drew me in from the get go, but what kept me coming back for more and more abuse was the way Don’t Starve simply throws players into the deep end and expects them to quite literally fend for themselves. There are no grand tutorials, no easy beginner’s levels, and no distinct goals presented at the start of the game. The one simple challenge is right there in the title: hey bud, don’t starve.

The open gameplay encourages a trial-and-error approach that led to quite a few early deaths due to timorous beasties, exhaustive mental collapse, and (unsurprisingly) hunger. But hey, it’s a survival game, dying again and again is part of the appeal. Instead of being put off I became obsessed with cracking the hidden rules of this little cartoon universe I had been so unceremoniously dropped in. After a few hours I was surviving for weeks at a time in the wilderness, building crude settlements and keeping the nightmares at bay with all the cool stuff I learned to craft. There’s a massive fun factor in discovering new ways to survive in the creepy little land of Don’t Starve.

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All this preamble serves to tell you, dear reader, that I was already pumped for Don’t Starve Together before I had even downloaded the game. Don’t Starve Together is more of a refinement and expansion of all the great features that made the original such a joyful challenge than a true sequel, but honestly the new elements at play here are incredibly impressive. Inherit in the title is the fact that players now have the option of playing cooperatively or competitively with either friends or strangers, a whole new multiplayer way of thinking about Don’t Starve that comes with its own host of perks and challenges.

There are three basic modes of gameplay: Survival, Endless, and Wilderness. Survival is the basic mode, encouraging players to cooperate for survival and avoid death at all costs (in fact, the ghost of your dead character can and will serve as a detriment to your teammates because being haunted isn’t good for anybody’s sanity). Endless mode is a bit more laid back, allowing players to respawn once their characters have died and keeping the same map from play to play, which allows for a greater potential of exploration as well as settlement and resource accumulation. Wilderness can best be described as a survival death-match where death is permanent and the map is generated anew for each replay.

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You still have the option of playing all alone, even when sharing a game with others, but the real draw here is of course playing with friends and/or strangers. I’d recommend playing with friends over playing with randomly selected strangers, as the nature of the game and scarcity of resources lends itself better to solid teamwork. Teamwork is actually the name of the game here, and better coordination can only reap longer lifespans for everyone involved.

Instead of having to unlock playable characters one at a time, they’re all present from the get go, so up to 6 players can select different characters whose abilities can compliment each other nicely. For instance: Wilson (the well rounded scientist) paired with Wolfgang (the circus strongman who’s great at fighting but not so great at keeping his sanity) and Woodie (the woodsman who’s the king of resource gatherers) makes for a nice little combination of character attributes while never becoming overly easy (due to each character’s negative qualities that must be taken into account). It’s also just nice to have such a selection of fun looking sprites. And it keeps everyone from getting confused as to what sprite belongs to whom.

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The balance of resource placement and rarity has been retooled since the original, as have a few of the items and item recipes, all in the name of creating a more balanced gameplay experience for both solo and team play. All the changes I noticed were for the better, helping to keep random frustration to a minimum while not taking away from the possibility of random death striking at any second. There’s also an expanded range of creatures and landscapes to stumble upon, which is a welcome edition to any game.

I’d recommend Don’t Starve Together to anyone who enjoys a unique and challenging gaming experience, particularly if they have a few friends who are interested in the same thing. Don’t Starve Together takes the terrific game that it’s predecessor is known to be and builds up a whole new structure around the original that really opens up a lot of different ways of, well, not starving. Get a few friends together, find a nice spot to set up camp, and see how long you lot can last against the terrors of this strange, fantastical land you find yourselves in.

9 out of 10