Your objective in Don’t Starve is very clear – stay alive, don’t starve. However, starving is often the least of your worries. You can die in a multitude of ways in DS. Weather, killer animals, poison vegetation and darkness, will all kill you. DS is a sandbox survival game. Think Minecraft meets The Sims minus creative building features.
The game mechanics are straight forward. You left click to move and interact with the environment. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard. I immediately remapped the hotkeys using the Options menu available on the startup screen. From there you can change settings and controls. No can do WASD for movement. I also re-mapped the primary and secondary keys to something that was more natural for me versus the defaults.
Clicking to move and interacting with the environment is much too slow. You should use the keyboard. For example, spamming the secondary interaction key will auto-harvest items nearby that match the weapon you have equipped. This is MUCH FASTER than left clicking every item with the mouse.
Editing your World
Unless you’ve played many survival games or watched a lot of video on DS, I would suggest tweaking the settings on your first game. Not in a way that trivializes the experience. Just enough to tone down the RNG death traps so you are more assured of getting through a few days to gain experience with how the game mechanics work.
Modifying the environment settings is done by selecting World which is available on the New Game screen. It’s the same place you see the Character selection option. Below are settings I suggest you tweak at first.
- Day = Long
- Rain = Less
- Lightening = Less
- Tall Grass = More
- Rocks (Boulder) = More
- Rabbits = More
- Hounds (black beast) = Less
Your character has three stats that must be closely managed. If any one of these reaches zero you die.
- Hunger – stomach: satisfied by eating berries, seeds, carrots, meat and cooked meals
- Health – heart: satisfied by eating cooked foods like toasted berries, toasted seeds, cooked carrots, cooked meat and meals
- Sanity – brain: satisfied by picking flowers, crafting items and by crafting and wearing special clothing such as a garland.
Edible items will have a green background on the icon. I don’t believe in letting any of my stats run below 50% ever. There are too many surprises in store. If you get caught with your stats low and something unexpected occurs it could mean your death. This is especially true as a new player, who may not respond in the most optimal fashion.
Fire is your Friend
Fire is life in DS. From torches to light your way in the dark, to campfires or fire pits to cook individual food items like berries, carrots, seed and meat, you should never go far without making sure that you have grass and twigs on hand to make a torch or campfire. Reserve crafting fire pits for permanent locations as it requires stone and wood.
You must feed your fire so that it lasts through the night. Hovering an item over a fire will let you see if it can be used as fuel. Most commonly used is wood gathered from trees. In a pinch use anything the fire will take.
Beginning Your Journey
Your first priority after coming awake in the game is to prepare yourself for nightfall. For this you’ll need to collect TWIGS and TALL GRASS to make a torch. If you’re in the dark for more than a few seconds you will die. You’re also starting to work on your first objective which is to uncover the map so that you can see where the different types of biomes are located. THIS IS ESSENTIAL.
A good technique for uncovering the map is to run along the shoreline. Doing so exposes the biome type as you cross it. Knowing where one instance is of each biome type is necessary for your long term survival.
Day 2 – Day 4
Spend day 2 through 4 running along the shoreline uncovering the map, while collecting twigs, grass, rocks, flint and any berries you see. Rocks and flint will be on the ground. For now, we’re only collecting items that don’t require special tools. Keep running through the night using your torch. Eat berries or carrots when your hunger dips. Pick flowers if your sanity is dropping.
If you haven’t uncovered at least a Savanna (tall grass and rabbits), Forest (trees, berries, flowers), and Rockyland (stone, flint, gold), keep running. You need these 3 to get going in a reasonable way. By now you should also have enough materials to craft an AXE and PICKAXE.
Use the Tools tab in the craft menu to make an Axe and Pickaxe. You want to begin harvesting wood from trees, stone from the boulders you see and GOLD from the boulders with gold veins running through them.
Before Day 5 is over, I like to have the following materials to craft the items below. DO NOT CRAFT THEM until you finish reading the Day 6 section.
- Science Machine ( 1 gold, 4 logs, 4 stone)
- Alchemy Engine (4 boards, 2 cut stone, 6 gold) – planks and cut stone are refined materials crafted from the Refine tab using wood and stone)
- Fire Pit (2 logs and 12 stone)
- Chest (3 boards)
- Totals = 7 gold, 22 wood, 19 stone
Day 6 – Day 8
Once you’ve uncovered at least the biomes I’ve suggested and have the raw materials to craft the items in Day 5, it’s time to establish your first basecamp. Basecamp is your home of operation and where you’re going to live during the first winter. Some people setup a winter specific basecamp but I don’t bother with that as I find it too much work to gather enough resources to setup two bases when you’re playing alone. I’ve survived three winters and I only have one basecamp.
I prefer to situate my basecamp in between the 3 critical biomes if possible – Savanna, Forest and Rockyland. If I can’t have all three, I prefer being closer to trees and rabbits (Savanna and Forest). I’ll walk to the other stuff I need. This means my basecamp is at the apex of a Savanna and Forest. But that’s not all.
I’m also not a fan of living out in the wide open. I like to enclose my area and avoid having 4 sides of me unprotected. For that reason, I look for a location that is an apex of Savanna and Forest AND is along the shoreline. AND I like to be in sight of a Pigmen. Pigs are excellent allies for fighting other creatures. The same animals that are enemies to you are enemies to them. Having a cluster of them within reach of your base camp means you can run toward them when you’re in trouble and they will engage in the combat too.
When I find the location that satisfies my requirements I craft a Fire Pit. Fire Pits are permanent structures. This will provide protection from the dark, warmth during winter and a way to cook food items until I have the Crock Pot. After the Fire Pit, craft the remaining items listed above in Day 5. Note that these are ALL PERMANENT STRUCTURES. They can’t be moved without destroying them which returns only a fraction of the materials used.
Important Animals for New Players
There are three animals important to your survival in DS. First is the innocent and quick rabbit. Don’t bother chasing them around. They easily trapped by crafting traps from the Survival tab. Place 1 to 2 traps near a few holes. You’ll catch them while off doing other activities. When you see one of your traps flat and wiggling you’ve caught a rabbit. Click the trap to catch the rabbit then place it back down.
Spiders are used for meat, silk and their glands. The meat is straight forward. You can cook it over any fire and eat it. Silk is used for many clothing items. Glands can be use raw to heal yourself until you can craft one of the salves. If you go near a spider nest they will come out ready to fight. You can kill them to get a random drop of meat, gland or silk. Or trap them like you do rabbits for meat.
I like to trap spiders by placing a few traps a distance away. I draw their attention by going near them and then RUNNING OVER one of my empty traps. BAM – they’re caught. Just keeping running over your empty traps until they’re all caught or they return to the nest.
Beefalo are needed for manure and fur. The manure is used as fertilizer on farming plots and as fuel for a fire. The fur is used to craft cold resistant clothing.
If you situated your base as I suggested, you’ll be near all of these animals. Doing so makes winter easy as long as you have a plan and are watchful.
Around Day 9 – First Game Initiated Deadly Encounter
Surviving the static environment is a challenge but not all that’s in store. DS also throws larger advisories into the mix at different points in the game. Somewhere around day 9, a pack of Hounds is coming for you. The game is going to spawn them near wherever you are at the time.
You’ll be given a few minutes of warning. You’ll hear a growling sound and I think the earth shakes a little bit. Your character will say “Did you hear that?” The minute an encounter is about to start here’s what you need to do:
- Make sure all of your stats are close to 100%. If not, eat whatever you have on hand
- Equip a weapon
- If it’s close to getting dark make a torch. Be ready to equip the torch when darkness falls
- Find a village of Pigs and start heading their way. The bigger the group the better.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES RUN INTO YOUR BASE. Your base isn’t equipped to protect you from them. You need allies to help you fight. Ideally, stay nearby and fight. You’ll also want to collect whatever is dropped. You NEED the special items dropped from these encounters such as pigtail if a pig dies, hound’s tooth when they die, etc.
Some of the game initiated encounters spawn mobs that will WRECK YOUR BASE. Burn it to the ground. Stomp and break all of your structures. Steal all your shit. You don’t run home when the game initiates an event. The exception would be if you have equipment in a chest specific for the encounter and you know you have time to get it and get out. Or you’ve advanced to the point where your bases is booby-trapped. Otherwise just don’t. Out run the encounter if you’re not prepared and there’s nothing nearby to help you. Run until you find something to help you fight.
To be continued…