Don’t Starve: Giant Edition is a game crafted for a very particular type of fan. The game features protagonist Wilson, a gentleman scientist who is thrust into the wilderness with nothing but his wits and the materials found in nature. Wilson must craft items, mine objects, and forge creations all designed to let him survive through the night. Night time is perhaps the most imposing of antagonists as the darkness beckons all of Wilson’s nightmares to bear. In order to combat the darkness, Wilson must quite logically create light—first in the form of torches, then a campfire, and then more elaborate contraptions.
This logic permeates throughout Don’t Starve. Wilson is malnourished, and therefore he will need food. Berries aren’t sufficient, so he’ll need to begin hunting the wildlife. In order to do that, Wilson must create weapons, which require more materials and force Wilson to expand his sphere of exploration. The wildlife are at first docile, but eventually Wilson will encounter monsters that make nightmares seem tame.
In the first fifteen minutes of my play session, I burned down a forest. This took approximately fifteen real world minutes for me to do. My torch was burning out, monsters were closing in, and I needed light immediately. I found the closest tree and lit it on fire. The forest went up in flames, the monsters temporarily receded and I was covered in fire. As the fire died down, the darkness closed in, and I died.
The second time I died, I starved. Perhaps a day (in game time) into my second session I had harvested plenty of food, but failed to actually eat it. That is the mantra of this game. Don’t Starve is a brutal and unforgiving game that allows for very little in the way of error. I died a number of times after this by way of monsters, starvation, fire, and the darkness. Death is permanent in the sense that any and all acquired goods are lost forever and you’re set back to square one, armed with only your experience from before. For players who enjoy a challenge, this will certainly prove appealing.
Don’t Starve’s procedurally generated levels are a welcome inclusion as no two play sessions are alike. Invoking simplified aspects of Minecraft alongside a hand-drawn art-style that seems befit of Tim Burton, Don’t Starve’s simple directive of “survive” meshes well with the subtle art and charming musical tones that accompany the player throughout their adventures. Each action is accompanied by a musical tune or a sound effect that non-verbally portrays the feelings of the in-game character. The minimal dialogue present in the game is humorous and self-aware, which is a welcome change of pace from so many other games striving to be something they’re not.
The Xbox One edition is dubbed Giant Edition and includes the Reign of Giants, which gives dedicated players even more of this world to explore along with additional challenges. There is a discoverable adventure mode for players observant and talented enough to find it. The adventure mode sheds more light on the seemingly sparse story (it is anything but). Moreover, there are unlockable characters, each with their own attributes, to keep players coming back.
Don’t Starve is not for everyone and it does not try to be. The game is brutally hard for the uninitiated and makes no apologies for being so. Players who are not bothered by the initial difficulty or who enjoy crafting will find plenty to do here. There’s also plenty of art to be appreciated in the same way games like Limbo and Bastion can be appreciated for their unique approach to artistic storytelling.
Undoubtedly the game is well made and offers plenty to the gamer who invests time into learning it, but the steep learning curve and consistent deaths while on the way to mastery may put some off. The asking price on Xbox One of $15 seems reasonable for the amount of content available to the player and is a must buy for anyone who enjoyed the game, but missed out on Reign of Giants.