In Don’t Starve Together Nothing Escapes the Wrath of Time
It has been 2 weeks and I am still playing Don’t Starve Together, provided there has been the Quality of Life update which only makes the crafting menu more cumbersome although potentially more navigational. The main limit to the game so far is that outside of curated groups much of the game is about the joy of building rather than a goal or conclusion.
As I described in my previous article, Don’t Starve Together is a communal experience, there’s very little to be gained from building alone, most people can off a surplus of food and gathering for other players to use simply for their own pleasure indulging in a task like farming, lumberjacking, or hunting and taking pride in the mass of materials and master of their craft. What one player stated to me was that the majority of worlds don’t go past early Winter. Why is that? Well for starters it’s a really long play session just getting there. Each day is 8 minutes, short but 20 days of autumn mean that players will be over 2 and 1/2 hours on a server world. Server as in each world is generated and will continue running so long as it’s open on the hosting device. In that sense many players prefer joining during the autumn days to get as much fun out and time to prepare for the onset of winter.
The character affinities motivate most of the player’s duties with talking trees farming and were-creature lumberjacks razing the forests down. Strongmen swell to immense muscle mass and a half-digested child herds flocks of spiders all the while a twin sister summons her better half from the dead to cull the nightmares for their precious fuel. There’s a lot of room for player expression both through community workshop mods adding custom content and official cosmetic items and characters that can be unlocked with gameplay. There’s also a swath of less bizarre human characters for more grounded players each with some special craftables and features to diversify them.
So you’ve found a server and chosen your character, well the first thing you want to do is collect all the resources you can for crafting and base building. Fire is always first so one doesn’t die from the lethal monster that strikes in darkness, then, of course, food foraged along the way as you explore and fill your map. Most players will either plant their bases next to the Pig King who is protected by his subjects and can be expanded as a source for gold and protection. Alternatively, the oasis in the middle of the wasteland provides cooling when the summer heat razes the land to the ground. Both are viable spots for a base’s full facilities and for building fortifications against Canadian beasts.
But remember that catch earlier? Most generated worlds don’t go past early winter, by then fewer players are interested in joining since they will quickly freeze to death if they can’t build a fire or get help and other players have already scoured the world of resources. It’s laborious to explore the world in winter and most players have already built all the faculties they need for the long game.
Where many open-world games either build around a final goal as a story or adventure game or struggle to find a conclusion that wraps up all the player’s trials and accomplishments. There is something like that in Don’t Starve Together but I doubt many players even know or care about getting there. The game isn’t about the goal it’s about the progress towards success as the players see it.
In games like Minecraft, Factorio, or Satisfactory there’s an industrial element to the progression of the player’s estate. Food, fuel, and goods can be approached using automated systems like sensors and pipes to harvest large quantities of food. No such technology exists in Don’t Starve Together, despite the magical and fantastical equipment characters use everything requires upkeep. Farms need to be aggressively cared for by caretakers, monster nests need a combative presence to safely harvest their flesh. Any equipment that can operate autonomously either requires repairs or persistent refueling. Some tasks can potentially be delegated to other creatures such as the Pigmen who patrol and fight off monsters but these have to be carefully accrued as similar to the city fires that plagued pre-industrial Europe so too can dense living facilities catch light. In this way Don’t Starve Together is limited to technologies nomads and settlers and ultimately rely on the grace of nature they harness and not the supremacy of machines.
Compared to the aforementioned games of industry and construction nothing in Don’t Starve Together is monumental, even rock and marble conceptions are fast to ruin. If players survive the onslaught of Winter, Spring, and Summer bring their own contests. Spring is littered with rainstorms that will flood out players, some characters are even allergic to extreme moisture. The water will cause fast hypothermia and faster degradation of any food players can’t keep dry. Summer is the opposite with extreme heat causing heat stroke and potential combustion of any structure of organic material. If that wasn’t hard enough players who scramble to collect resources to weather their bases will find many plants have gone inert due to the stress of hibernation or even mutate into other life forms. Grass lawns for making fibers can quite literally spring out of the ground and scamper away as matured grass lizards. Even so, the Trees for their precious lumber will summon increasing quantity and sized guardians when struck down.
Don’t Starve Together isn’t a game about rising beyond adversity, it doesn’t look at our modern world as man mastering and overpowering nature. Instead, the message is humbling and pits players against the force of nature at every step of the way. Nature is not alien or tranquil such as depicted in documentaries and impressionist paintings, nature is a storm of species each fighting for life capable of experiencing the world and all its thrills and cruelties. But Don’t Starve Together isn’t pessimistic or cold to nature either. There’s a whimsy to how in life and depictions nature seems eternal even when death is always so sudden and overbearing in its world.
Naturally, there are opportunities for players to become powerful but that’s not the fun part of Don’t Starve Together, it’s about the whimsical dance players have through the strange worlds and with each other, together.
If you wanna give Don’t Starve Together a spin you can pick it up on Consoles or from Steam for PC, it’s a great co-op opportunity since every copy comes with a second to gift to a friend.
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