Review: Don’t Starve Console Edition (PS4)

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Title: Don’t Starve Console Edition
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4) (332 MB)
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Don’t Starve is also available on Steam.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Check out our First Look video here

Gameplay:
Don’t Starve drops the player into a procedurally-generated environment, harsh and cold, and your only goal is to survive as long as possible. If you think that would be easy though, you’d be very wrong. Klei have gone old-school with their design, offering only a controller map for any type of instruction. You’re dropped into the environment with no clue as to what you need to do or how to do any of it. As you wander the devastated landscape, you’ll begin to discover scattered objects like berry trees, patches of grass, chunks of flint, and various animals like butterflies and rabbits.

Crafting is a huge part of the game, and you’ll quickly realize that you need to build an axe so that you can cut firewood, or the darkness will consume you in short order. As you can see in the video, you have to explore and discover what you need to do, and that’s really what grabbed me about this game. Trial-and-error can be so much fun, especially when your life is on the line every second. The environment is cold and hard, with limited opportunities at finding supplies and food, and as the title suggests, you’ll need to do a lot to not starve. As you progress and gather items, you can use the crafting menu on the left of the screen, accessed by using L2. The layout is clean and easy to use, and item boxes will show you if you have all of the required “ingredients” to craft specific items such as an axe, torch, or farther on, a fire pit or science machine (among many other things).

As I learned, when you obtain the correct items, you can craft a trap but you’ll also need to correctly bait it. What I didn’t think about was the fact that I had created a trap for small critters, even though I was trying to use it to catch a bird. Once I figured that out, I caught a rabbit, which I then had to kill and make into edible meat. As was revealed on the stream, if you eat the meat raw, you’ll actually lose a bit of your sanity, which is indicated by your Sanity Meter. I however, not even knowing about that fact, cooked the meat in my campfire before eating it. So not only are you doing everything to keep yourself fed, you’re also fighting to keep your sanity and to actually survive, all while the environment becomes increasingly more harsh.

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So, there are a lot of elements at play in Don’t Starve that make surviving quite difficult. Not only do you need to figure everything out, but the harsh elements fight to take you out by not offering much in terms of supplies. There’s a complete day and night cycle, so you’re always finding firewood so that you can have a fire for when the sun goes down. If you don’t, the night will swallow you whole (as I found out on my first play session.) Lucky for me though, I had encountered a resurrection stone relic in my travels, giving me a second chance at living. But I met my ultimate demise in the sixth day of my first attempt when the game released the hounds on me, and there was nothing I could do about it. You’ll feel so alone as you wander around looking for supplies, and when you accomplish something, you actually feel like you did.

Being procedurally generated, the game is different every time you play it, but the overall mechanics all stay the same. This helps in your goal at learning everything involved here. What do items do? What’s the best way to keep from starving? How do you get to the point where you can actually build defenses up? All of these things are vital in your quest to survive as long as you can, which can then allow you to unlock the Adventure Mode, which will allow you to uncover more of the story elements that integrate with what happens in the opening movie. Another cool addition is that there are 8 other characters to unlock and play with, all having unique strengths and weaknesses. So yeah, for those wondering about replayability, you needn’t look any further.

Visuals:
The art style is inspired by cartoons and comics from the 20’s and 30’s, and I love it. Everything has the looked of colored-in pencil drawings, and especially the way they handle water (in multiple planes as if you’re watching an old-time play in a theater) is just a treat for the eyes. Textures are sharp and detailed, and the animation all-around is wonderful.

Audio:
Music is actually sparse and understated, but it helps with creating a specific mood, especially when danger is looming. Sound effects are pretty great, and help immerse you into the experience. Everything has an applied sound, and all sound unique and well-done.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
Unlike many other games, the goal isn’t just to get from the beginning to the “end”, but instead, it’s about exploration and learning the game mechanics while trying to survive for as long as possible. It’s all about playing time and time again so that you can learn how to accomplish specific actions, and learn what items do and how to most effectively use them for specific situations. You can’t over-think things though, as what you expect something to do is probably exactly what it will do.

Don’t Starve is a game that I wouldn’t normally play, but I’m very glad that I did. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and since it’s different every time you play it, you’ll never get bored while working toward unlocking everything that the game has to offer. I can see why it’s quite popular on PC and on video sites like YouTube. The control scheme has been converted from PC to console quite well, as have the visuals and overall feel of the game. You’re always learning while you attempt to survive, and that is not only fascinating, but also quite fun.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were supplied by Klei Entertainment. The video was captured using the Avermedia Extremecap U3.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Nice review Glenn. I’ll definitely hunt this down and purchase upon release….oh wait, it’s part of my PS+…even better!

  • Keith Dunn

    Very interesting!

  • Been waiting for this for awhile. Come on Sony with the update.

  • himdeel

    Im looking forward to this game.

  • Pingback: PlayStation Store Update: 1.7.14 | PlayStation Nation()

  • John Davidson

    Really enjoyed what I’ve played of this game so far.