Don't Starve: hands-on with the cartoony and macabre survival game
Preview by Philippa Warr
"Weaponised bees. What could go wrong?"
In fact, ever since I spawned in Don't Starve - a survival game set in a Minecraft-via-Lemony Snickett gothic patchwork of biomes and resources - I had been pondering the bee situation.
My character - stuck as a pointy faced scientific gentleman equipped only with the ability to grow an impressive beard - encountered them almost as soon as he arrived. But, in video game land, bees spell trouble. My Girl levels of trouble.
The progression of bee-related events in games I have played tends to run approximately:
1. Disturb bees.
2. Run away from bees.
3. Try to remember plot of My Girl to escape bees in manner of Anna Chlumsky.
4. Die horribly from bees in manner of Macauley Culkin.
Kinder games might sometimes stop at mild bee-related disfigurement. This is not a kind game. This is the sort of game which tells you "don't starve" as a helpful basic premise and then seems to delight in revealing the sheer volume of other things you shouldn't touch, prod, eat, walk near, or forget to build in case of sudden death.
In fact it would be more accurate to have called it "Don't Starve And Also Don't Try To Make Friends With That Tall Bird And Did You Remember To Build A Fire And There Are A Lot More Spiders In That Nest Than You Think And Seriously Please Stop Going Near That Bird".
As a result I had decided the bees were probably going to be yet another world of pain, especially given that wielding my axe had altered the mouseover interaction option from "examine bee" to "attack bee". I had no intention of abandoning a weapon in this hostile landscape and so the bees remained unexamined, unattacked and largely ignored. That was until I built a selection of machines to aid my survival.
Feeding the machines with turf, I soon found myself swimming in unspent research points.
After maxing out the hat research options I turned my attention to defence. A spear! That will help. A trap! I will trap some of the things intent on killing me. A bee mine! Wait, what?
Wooden planks, flint and just four little bees in my inventory would see me richly rewarded with some kind of explosive insect-powered device. Unfortunately the game is not a big fan of explaining how to come into possession of things like bees, preferring you to cautiously prod at your options and tiptoe round the landscape until something (hopefully) non-fatal happens.
While I continued to mull over the bee problem I decided to use some of my new equipment to probe a spider nest. All was going well - smack nest, spear spiders, collect monster meat, pocket silk, rinse and repeat - until the game's layering limitations made themselves known.
You see, objects directly behind other objects can't be seen or interacted with. It's an irritation when you cannot see the wood you've just chopped for the trees that sit in front of it. It becomes a fatality when you smack a spider nest not realising you are in fact smacking two spider nests and the spiders have realised they can take you in a fight.
Gone was my fledgling berry farm, my straw hat, my collection of meats and pig manure... The only reminders of my previous visits to the Don't Starve world were a handful of unspent research points and the menu of unlocked items.
I respawned near a beehive, contemplating my losses. What could go wrong?
Marching up to the nearest bee I hit it straight in the face.
I can now confirm that you can't jump into the beautifully animated water in Don't Starve.
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Release: late March