I learned a lot about myself and my girlfriend as we played Don’t Starve Together through the past few nights.
- I’m terrible at exploring.
- My girlfriend is a hoarder.
- I get more stressed about videogames than I do about anything in real life.
That said, Don’t Starve Together is a lot of fun, and it was a great way for my girlfriend and myself to work together to create something we were really proud of. Until, y’know, we died.
I entered the franchise after discovering that a new co-op version of Don’t Starve became available, so if you haven’t played the games yet, I’ll explain the game a little before I continue.
You play as a hero you choose out of a small roster, who is thrown into the wilderness through a strange portal. You’ve got no tools or supplies other than your mind and what you can find/create. You must work with your companions to turn a survival situation into one where you can thrive in the vast wilderness and claim it as yours, all while spiders are trying to suck your brains out of you.
Graphically, Don’t Starve Together is more or less Don’t Starve. Its cartoonish, Burtonesque designs are clean and communicate a macabre theme, which sound and gameplay elements tie in with beautifully. You’re faced with flat characters against a flat map (think old Pokémon games) that you can rotate in a disorienting 3D space. I find it easier to keep the camera facing the same direction at all times, lest I lose track of where I am.
Don’t Starve Together uses elements of contrast to make really muted colors seem vivid. Even fire is unsaturated and yet its brightness against the dark landscape makes it seem bright. Different objects and elements are communicated clearly and plainly within the game, right down to the easy-to-use graphical interface.
The character design is brilliant. Characters are cute and creepy, with ridiculous looking run cycles and floppy animations. This style of animation only emphasizes the Tim Burtonlike design of the world, giving Don’t Starve Together a childlike, fun, but terrifying atmosphere.
Graphical options are few for this relatively simple game. One can toggle flashy effects and resize the window, but other than that there’s not much to change. Being a simple game, though, Don’t Starve Together should run on even the saddest of computers.
Gamers finding themselves thrust into the world of Don’t Starve Together should not be fooled by the simple communication of elements – the game is hard.
The most interesting feature for a new player to get used to is the fact that if their team dies, that’s it. Game over. Start from scratch. The co-op feature allows the benefit of players reviving each other, but if the team is dead, you’re done.
Staying alive isn’t easy either. In the starting area, berries and carrots are plentiful, but efforts to explore are quickly impeded by lack of food and supplies. Players must balance their hunger, sanity, and health, as if any of these levels begins to fall, it could spell death for players. Partners must cooperate and manage their inventories together. Make sure to work only the right amount to not waste hunger, but work enough to keep supplies comfortable. Make use of traps and farming. Find a home quickly where settling will be easy, and begin to build a base camp.
There are a lot of different things to balance. You’ve got to explore to keep supplies up. You’ve got to farm or hunt to get food. Farming is time-consuming and hunting is dangerous. Armor and clothing are important to prepare for the coming winter. Resource management is key. That includes an armory of unique items with their own uses, as well as health, sanity, and hunger. Gathering too much uses up hunger, and gathering too little causes you to starve.
Expanding your technological advancement may help you live more comfortable, but resource costs are bound to improve. And if your team dies, that’s it. Everything you worked for is gone.
That may sound stressful, and it is, but that doesn’t mean Don’t Starve Together isn’t fun. It’s fun to explore and uncover new goodies, resources, friends and enemies. Working together to create a base is fun and satisfying. The gameplay of Don’t Starve is really, really addicting.
The sound, like the graphical interface of Don’t Starve Together, is very simple in order to communicate information clearly while maintaining a strained, yet cute atmosphere. Upon examining an item or a player, a male avatar’s voice is represented as the bleating of a trumpet, while a female avatar’s voice is more like the trill of a flute. Their voices are reminiscent, in this way, of any adult in Charlie Brown’s universe.
The music of Don’t Starve Together is orchestral and macabre, while remaining lighthearted. Its atmospheric background music which plays sometimes throughout the day keeps the landscape interesting and engaging, and the music that starts up when a player engages in combat is stressful and quick, rolling across the landscape to create a heightened emotional response to the difficult and hectic form of combat present in Don’t Starve Together.
Sound design is clean and efficient, allowing players to understand their surroundings, including danger they pose and food sources nearby, more easily. Without being on top of a food source, a player can hear the sounds of the animals, and detect the distinct cries predators make from a distance. Weather is quickly communicated by distinct thunder rumbles, howling winds and pounding raindrops. All of these elements combine to increase immersion and help the player feel the dire situation their avatar is in. It elicits an emotional response and creates empathy with the avatar, giving gravity to situations players make in-game.
Go get Don’t Starve and Don’t Starve Together on Steam!