It’s incredible to have the opportunity to see a game evolve. Far and away from the olden days when a game came out on a cartridge and that’s the end of it, digital downloads have allowed games to progress, change and even be totally reborn before a players eyes. Some, like ARK or DayZ, have the displeasure of disappointing players time after time with the direction they travel, and that’s just a damn shame. Others, like 20XX, chug along, expanding in content and perfection, with every weekly update. And then there are those who come from humble beginnings, just a proof of concept, really, and have grown into fully-formed, borderline daunting projects. So sets the bar and brings about the mentality at hand as we look at Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition.
Don’t Starve has a story and a plot now, but the entire game used to be just the title: an open-world, procedurally generated land where you merely had to survive as long as possible. Now, we know the story and background of our hero, Wilson, who was just trying to do some inventing one night when a disembodied voice tells him to create a specific invention. This voice gets him dragged through a portal to a lost world, where it’s revealed that the game’s antagonist, Maxwell, has brought Wilson here, either to die or free him, whichever. Wilson (and all other heroes who ultimately don this mantle) must survive through hostile elements, animals, monster and various outside forces in order to figure out exactly what needs to be done to escape. Wilson needs sleep, shelter, protection, and, especially, food. Good luck finding it all. Thankfully, you’re an inventor: invent your survival!
Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition takes the base game and the two single player DLC’s, Reign of Giants and Shipwrecked, and offers those with optional toggling for the solo player. Some people may be disappointed that the co-op Don’t Starve Together option isn’t here, but Klei Entertainment has tried to make that clear from the very beginning. Klei has also been very active in communicating to players who’ve asked about the Switch edition, and there is currently a patch in the works to fix some bugs that appear in the vanilla main game. Apparently, if you play with Reign of Giants enabled, none of these bugs appear, so it’s something to consider for players who’ve already played Don’t Starve previously. However, for newcomers, it’s going to be a better choice to start without any of the DLC enabled. More on that in a moment, but I wanted to address what’s in the package so that no one is embittered or confused about the lack of whatever.
So, this is an open-world, survival roguelike where your main goal is to not die. What appears to be a pretty simple premise at first quickly turns into an incredibly complex and enjoyable ride that will take A LOT of your free time. Pick some grass. Get some flint. Grab some twigs. Great, now you can make an axe. Chop down a tree. Build a fire. Find more flint and rocks. Make a mattock. Oh, you’re hungry. Find a carrot. Eat it. Simple, right? But wait! It’s dark outside now, and the fire is dying. Quick, fuel it up! Not enough wood! Gotta chop trees, but they’re in the shadows. Something else is in the shadows. It hurts! Run back to the fire! When is the sun going to rise?? So hungry…starting to get a little loopy. Chase after a rabbit with your axe. Find giant spiders. Spiders don’t like me! Attack! Die. Get…twenty experience for finishing one day. What?
Don’t Starve has these amazing Victorian-inspired graphics that keep you locked in on the game, and the fluid nature of it all keeps you firmly invested in how the game goes. Just because a mushroom looks poisonous doesn’t mean it is…does it? Creepy animals can still be your friends…right? I cooked the snake, it’s safe to eat, I think? For first time and even long time players, there’s so much guessing that happens, and it keeps the game fresh, fun and on-your-toes at all time. I’ve invested close to thirty hours into this game over the years, and I always find out something new. This is due, in part, to the very active development team, but also because the fans always find something new in their quest to explore and continue exploring every square inch of the game.
Should you get your bearings enough to actually progress through the first few games unscathed, that’s where the DLC comes in, and then it’s a whole new ball game. Reign of Giants is great enough, adding in new items, elements and monsters, but Shipwrecked is something else entirely, and brings in the idea of seafaring in order to survive and get places. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to worry about Spider Warriors, Killer Bees and Tentacles, but now errand Jellyfish and an actual White Whale are waiting to murder my face off if I decide to leave the island. And why is my beard so damn long?? I haven’t been playing that long, just…28 days of in game time. Huh. Guess that’s a bit.
Performance-wise, once you’re in the game of Don’t Starve, you don’t have to worry about a thing. Everything is cohesive, smooth and loads between areas relatively fast. However, if you are starting a Shipwrecked campaign from the beginning, it will take a WHILE to completely generate everything. You may even get incredibly impatient and want to rage quit. Don’t. Put down the Switch (it’s portable!) and walk away. Come back in a minute. It’s ready. Reign of Giants and vanilla load super fast, but, due to the scope of Shipwrecked, you may need to be patient. It’s gonna be okay.
With everything that I’ve said about death, dying and going crazy, you may ask: why keep playing? The answer, dear reader, is incredible enjoyment. There’s a lot of satisfaction in staying alive as long as you do. There’s over a dozen different characters to unlock and play as, and everyone after Wilson has something special about them, from summoning ghost helpers to turning into a Werebeaver and everything in between. It’s actually an incredibly quirky and funny game, and there is a real appeal to simply being able to prove you can get through the first world. Show that you can follow the path, invent the things, resist the urge to attack everything (that’s how you lose), and become a better version of yourself. Don’t Starve is a metaphor for your own life. No, not really, but imagine if it were? You can find peace and reason in Don’t Starve. You will not find love or real food. But you will find a game that’s sure to dominate your whole month if you let it. Be sure to have snacks on hand, though. Follow the game’s advice. Don’t Starve.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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