Klei Entertainment likes to mess with videogame conventions. Mark Of The Ninja took the stealth genre in exciting new directions, while Shank breathed fresh life into the ailing scrolling fighter. Klei’s latest offering Don’t Starve once again appears to be one thing – in this case a traditional roguelike – but ends up being so much more.
From the moment main character Wilson gets dropped into Don’t Starve’s randomly generated world you know it’s special. With a landscape seemingly cut from stiff pieces of paper and an art style that looks like it’s been plucked from the feverish mind of Tim Burton, Don’t Starve delivers a delightful environment that deftly mixes the macabre with the surreal.
And you’ll want to explore the diorama-like world because Klei has filled it with all manner of weird and wonderful things to discover. The aim of Don’t Starve is to survive as long as possible, holding off your inevitable death by mixing together all manner of resources to create food, weapons and shelter. There are no handy tutorials, no quick and easy prompts and no real story to speak of – just a dangerous (fully customisable) world where you must constantly experiment in order to keep your doomed avatar alive.
The magic of Don’t Starve comes from this bold experimentation; it comes through the discovery of wormholes, or the altars that will bring you back to life (without your previous items of course) or even a village full of docile pig men.
It offers a surreal experience that’s only really let down by the annoying reset of your character at the beginning of each new game. Unlike Demons’ Souls you retain no knowledge of previous discoveries, meaning the first 20 odd minutes of play can often feel like a grind. And yet you’ll continue to grind away anyway, because surviving every new night in Don’t Starve brings new discoveries and even greater dangers. Ultimately, it’s a game that just keeps giving, even as it tears your life from you.