PAX East – Don't Starve: Reign of Giants DLC Hands-On Impressions

After I was introduced to Don’t Starve by PlayStation (the game is free for PS+ Members), I was instantly in love. Don’t Starve is challenging and addictive with a twisted sense of humor. Think Minecraft with a Tim Burton art style except where you’re constantly under threat of being killed. Besides the obvious danger of starving to death, Don’t Starve features enemies and environmental elements that persistently aim to kill you and it is up to the player to manage them all.

And it’s about to get a whole lot harder. Now nearly everything is out to see you dead.

Don't Starve, Reign of Giants, Klei

He’s not gonna make it….

When I asked a developer from Klei about the reason for the new Reign of Giants DLC, he explained to me that they had to goals. First, they wanted to vary the gameplay so that players were not trapped in any type of repetitive cycle. The developer mentioned how most players (myself included) got into a rut of collecting grass/twigs/rabbits, making food at camp, and doing the same exact thing the next day. Reign of Giants aims to rectify that by introducing new options for players to choose from. For example, where the rabbit served as the standard source of meat, the new wormmole now also fills that role. The wormmole consumes rocks and minerals and so must be baited with like materials (flint, stone, etc). What makes it different from the rabbit is that it can’t be baited and trapped as easily, which makes sense because it would just escape by digging underground. Instead, they have to be actively attacked and can actually do a bit of damage in return. This same concept is applied to several aspects of the game varying from new characters (Wigfrid the performance actor and Webber the humanoid spider), to new seasons (Spring and Autumn), and to new biomes (desert and deciduous forest).

Second,¬†they noticed from the community that many players would evade the initial threats and create a setup that would last them for (in-game) days on end. The team at Klei didn’t want players to hit that “plateau” state because the intent of Don’t Starve is to manage the continuous threats to your life; not to survive forever but to see how long it takes before you die. So Reign of Giants adds several new threats to ramp up the difficulty such as the titular giants. Each of the seasons features a unique giant whose sole purpose is to kill you and they’re scary. Very scary.

Don't Starve, Reign of Giants

The giants of each season: Dragonfly (Summer), Bearger (Autumn), MooseGoose (Spring)

So why package it into one big DLC? Klei had been releasing multiple updates on a semi-weekly basis so why not continue to do so? The answer is that the developers felt that having one large DLC would help players feel the impact of all the changes they’ve implemented. The developer I spoke to explained that having a minor update allows players to use the new features and then quickly forget about them while a major update creates a lasting impact on the player’s gameplay experience.

Reign of Giants promises to elevate all of the features that players love about Don’t Starve while diminishing the few that detracted from the game. It is great to see a developer take feedback from their community and continue to perfect their already great game.

Reign of Giants will be available this month for $4.99 (and soon on PS4).

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