Around 2012 during its early-access phase, I had my eyes firmly planted on the peculiar looking game, Don’t Starve. My one gripe was that such an interesting concept for a game had no initial plans for a co-operative mode. Needless to say, when I saw there was a co-op expansion in beta testing, I rounded up the time around my college schedule and purchased the Frontier Pack for my girlfriend. Which in the past week or so has allowed me to experience the joys of Don’t Starve all over again, but this time with a player who was brand new to the game.
At first we were encountering some issues; the main one being lag. Now, both of our internet connections are by no means terrible, we’re dealing with around average speeds, but to start off with the game was near unplayable. However, it was almost as if our clients just needed to get used to the servers, because once a game or two had passed the experience gained some stability. Simply put, Don’t Starve Together is just like Don’t Starve but with another person to help you and enjoy the game. Some people may snort at such an obvious remark, but I feel it’s completely justified, especially as some games change entirely when you join other players. Yet, it feels as if Don’t Starve Together adds to the game as opposed to taking away from it and confining you to a different set of rules entirely. You still have to brave the night, you still have to keep a level head and you still need to find food.
My experiences with Don’t Starve Together have been solely as a duo, as I said, this includes myself and my new-to-the-game girlfriend. Which does mean that I personally don’t know how several players stacks up in comparison to two. I’d assume that there would be potential for increased lag and instability dependent on the host, but would also guess that the work and survival rate go through the roof. Unless of course you’re like us and all you want to do is pick flowers, make nice hats and learn how to cook. That’s the point, though; the game really doesn’t care what it is you’re doing, because your hunger and sanity meter will deplete regardless. This means that it can be a relaxing and unwinding experience where players shoot the breeze and collect resources, it could be a life-threatening and demeaning rush to scrape seeds off the floor so you don’t starve or it could just as much be a battle to the death against a gigantic dragon fly accompanied by a horde of werewolves in a biome full of boulders and lava pits.
What I’m trying to say is: yes, you may have strength in numbers and trust in the players surrounding you, but you’ll still run out of supplies. Because of this, it’s far more sensible to allocate your days to certain chores so that you’re better off for it tomorrow. But then again, who wants to waste the day away with chores of cutting wood and picking up Beefalo poo when you could be exploring the world and uncovering secrets. It’s also a possibility that you’ll play a good portion of the game and not even see one another, but it’s about the connection with the other player. You’re discovering a new land together and in that it’s far more comforting; the giant tree monsters aren’t as intimidating, the werewolves aren’t as terrifying and the night times not as lonely. That is of course assuming she isn’t out playing detective by following the dirt tracks and trying to befriend a Koalefant.
There are currently three game modes to choose from in Don’t Starve Together, these are known as Survival, Endless and Wilderness mode. Survival and Endless are rather similar; if a player dies, they are reincarnated as a ghost who can then be resurrected, haunt items or explore with no fear of being harmed. However, the difference is that in Survival mode, the longer there are ghosts active in the world, the more of an impact it will have on a living player’s sanity. On top of this, if everyone is a ghost, a counter will begin which can end the session if no players have been resurrected in time. The only difference in Wilderness mode is that if you die, there is no limbo, you are merely given the opportunity to respawn as a new character in a random spot on the map.
We both find the game to be extremely fun and refreshing, even during some of the longer play times, but there are definitely some changes we feel could improve the overall experience. Some of which I’ve listed below:
Characters: I think it’d be awesome if we could have the final three characters added to the game. It may not be a lot to some players due to the already awesome selection, but Woodie, Wes and Maxwell deserve to be added. If not for completion sake, then at least for the sense of having all the characters available to mix and match.
Day Counter: I also find it peculiar that if a player disconnects and joins back (E.g. my girlfriend due to infrequent lag issues) then their day counter resets. My personal preference would be having the overall counter of the server reign over a personal one, maybe even have two for reference? It just doesn’t make sense to have it this way as the other player isn’t able to make justified decisions by themselves based on the date. Whether this be making armour for the inevitable werewolves or creating a hat for winter time.
Map Markers: finally, my last improvement would be in regards to map markers. If we’re not allowed to mark our base or important areas, then we should at least be able to see other players on the map (Not just if they’re three steps away). I understand you couldn’t place markers in the original, but the second request is at least reasonable. Some people may think of it as a sort-of cheese for the game, but I think it could help, a lot. rather than wasting days upon days navigating to one another via generic landmarks, it would increase play time and productivity by so much if even an optional feature was added into the server settings.
I understand there are plenty of mods available for download which could add these things, but many people like us aren’t really interested in altering the game too deeply. The above points are just a few things I felt would improve the game, even by a small amount.
In my opinion, Don’t Starve Together is actually far more enthralling than the single player version of the game. Don’t be mistaken, I played on the PC during early-access as well as on the PS4 upon its launch and I enjoyed them both, but there’s just some kind of charm to playing with someone else. The game’s longevity increases significantly, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing; it’s just that when playing Don’t Starve alone, you’ll spend your time in one sitting putting all your effort into an attempt only to inevitably die. This death can be frustrating, it will usually result in you taking a break or leaving the game altogether until your next urge to play. Yet, with Together it’s different, I believe our longest stint has been four hours, which wasn’t just one consecutive run, it was several. As when you die, your both fuelled by the other to keep going, not because you have to, but because it’s an experience that’s progressed mutually. Instead of my girlfriend being fed up and bored after seemingly wasting all that time, straight after our deaths she’d be telling me to delete the save and start again.
Alone, Don’t Starve is fun; it’s a unique little gem that is different from anything else I’ve played. But together, the experience can easily match all other co-operative game out there, whether that be Minecraft, Terraria, Day-Z or any game in between. Don’t Starve Together is created by Klei (Clay!) Entertainment and is currently in early-access, which is where it looks to stay for an indefinite period of time. However, as of June 3rd anyone who owns Don’t Starve will be gifted Don’t Starve Together free of charge, as a test of good faith to their fans and a way of increasing players for beta-testing. Regardless of its release, I can honestly say that I look forward to the future of Don’t Starve as well as any other game Klei put out, they have solidified two fans for life and I thank them for such an awesome experience.
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