Release Date: April 21, 2016
Systems: PC, PS4
Number of Players: 1-6
Steam Review: Overwhelmingly Positive
Don't Starve Together, the multiplayer successor to Don't Starve, describes itself as an "uncompromising survival game" on its Steam store page. After sitting down with this game for a couple of hours, "uncompromising" is definitely the word for this experience.
Before entering the game world, there are a variety of characters and gameplay styles to choose from. Each character has strengths and weaknesses; I played as the robot, who is weak to water and “isn’t a picky eater”. One of my partners played as a Firestarter character, as making fire is an incredibly important part of the game. With our characters chosen, we had to select a gameplay mode. For our first experience with Don’t Starve, we picked the “Endless” mode. Players can die and respawn over and over again with only minor penalties.
The player and friends are spawned in a world with a striking visual style and varied resources. Gameplay is in third person from above, allowing the player to see quite a bit of the landscape around them. Various constructed items are needed for survival as players race against the ticking clocks of their hunger and "sanity" meters. Players can work together to harvest supplies such as food and raw materials. Food must be consumed on a regular basis to avoid starvation (duh). Many different NPCs roam the land, representing both a source of resources and potential danger. A day and night cycle regulates player activities. Early on, nothing can be done at night except huddling around a campfire and fending off fire-stealing shadows.
In the beginning, our group began by picking up pretty much everything we were able to and harvesting whatever readily available resources we encountered. We quickly discovered that characters will die fairly quickly of hunger, so many of our activities were focused on gathering whatever we could find to eat. We also quickly began to go “insane”, which was an interesting feature of the game that added a lot of atmosphere. As players walk around, spectral shapes can be seen roaming the landscape, but they cannot be interacted with. Certain player actions take points from your sanity or intelligence meter; as the meter goes down, these shapes become more real. The world becomes darker, and your character becomes noticeably distressed. Eventually, the formerly shadowy monsters are able to attack and even kill the player.
Full disclosure: I only played two hours of this game, so I most certainly only got the introductory experience. If you are looking to sit down and play for a short session of gaming, this likely isn't the game for you. Without a knowledgeable guide, figuring out the crafting, combat, and health system can be confusing. However, players can quickly gain an understanding of gathering materials and begin to explore the world around them. With more time and resources, more advanced structures and combat items can be built, making interactions with enemies significantly less stressful. If you enjoy spending time gathering resources, crafting better items, and building a home base, then there is a lot that this game has to offer you.