Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants Review

Don't Starve: Reign of Giants

I don’t know what’s out there. Much of the world remains a mystery to me, and I find a strange sense of comfort in that. Not comfort in the traditional sense, however. In fact, it’s more of a lack of comfort in a traditional sense; an edge that I remain poised upon. But it makes me feel more alive. I feel comfort in that discomfort.

Don’t Starve drew me in from the moment I first sat down with a preview build of the game. I have a natural affinity for the wilderness, for the unknown, and for subsisting on my own skills, knowledge, and adaptability in times of adversity. This top-down wilderness survival game taps directly into that primal instinct, dropping me, as one of its many playable characters, in the middle of a randomly generated world map with nothing but the instruction to find food before it gets dark.

And the entire map is just that — dark. In the beginning, I know nothing about the resources available to me or what lies in wait at the other end of a field, forest, or swamp. It’s up to me to explore. More specifically, I must explore the resources this foreign world presents to me, and I must explore the laws of its virtual reality, which waver between those of the natural world I’ve experienced and grown familiar with throughout my life, somewhat logical concepts drawn from steampunk fiction, and a layer of magical fantasy that turns things…weird.

Don't Starve: Reign of Giants

I must also learn the rules of the crafting system: how I can use flint or stones to make tools, how logs refined into boards can build structures, and how twigs plus a pig skin plus a spiderweb makes an umbrella…along with many other handy recipes.

To survive, I must experiment with the systems set in place using the resources I gather from the world, and apply my newfound knowledge to formulate a strategy to survive…and perhaps even thrive. Is this easy to do? No. In roguelike fashion, I died on the first day of my initial outing, and then on the third, the sixth, and the eighth days of subsequent attempts. I learn a little bit more about Don’t Starve with each foray into every new, mysterious world generated without the slightest intention to show me any mercy.

This is Don’t Starve. It’s a challenge, and it’s discovery. It’s always having a reason to continue, because there’s always something more out there that you haven’t run into. And the team at Klei Entertainment has stood strongly behind Don’t Starve and these pillars of the experience by continually updating the game, tweaking its governing laws, and adding new and interesting content for players to encounter.

Don't Starve: Reign of GiantsMost recently, Klei has released the Reign of Giants expansion, which, most notably, makes the world even more harsh and unforgiving. On top of food rotting, tools breaking, lightning striking, winter coming, and monsters attacking, now I find myself battling four different and dangerous seasons in total. If the summer sun isn’t scorching the land, threatening heat stroke during every moment of daylight, then the skies are opened up and pouring down, soaking my muttering avatar and everything else in this German-expressionism-inspired fairy-tale world. Now I have to keep dry as well as satiated, healthy, and sane, and if you’ve ever camped in the rain, you already know that it’s a demoralizing experience. And heat stroke just straight-up kills.

What else is out there in Reign of Giants? I’ve been so focused on survival that I couldn’t even say with certainty. I still have wormholes to travel through (transporting me to remote sections of the immense map) and sinkholes (monster-filled caves) to explore. I have new deserts and deciduous forests to traverse, and new creatures to run away from, screaming. And then there are the mysterious statues I’ve come across, and the strange items that I know combine to reveal more of the world’s secrets…if only I could find them all. And then there are the pig people and the pig king who aren’t immediately hostile, as well as the automaton creatures that drop gears behind when I gnaw them to death after turning into a were-beaver on the night of the full moon.

Yes. You read that last bit correctly.

Don’t Starve is a wonderful experience for the patient, curious, and persevering survivalist. Anyone who derives some sense of fulfillment from exploring virtual worlds and systems will find a myriad of elements to enjoy, hidden somewhere beyond the threshold of the unknown.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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