Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants isn’t your typical downloadable content offering. With the roguelike survival game Don’t Starve, it’s not as straightforward as getting a unique story as seen in BioShock Infinite’s Burial at Sea: Episode 2, or as simple as additional modes and weapons like in The Last of Us’ Grounded Bundle. Instead, Reign of Giants is a mode that you can switch on before starting a new game that makes dozens upon dozens of giant and subtle modifications to the normal experience that Don’t Starve offers. However, in order to play much of what this expansion has in store, you must come in with knowledge and skill to face the bigger challenges that it will ruthlessly throw your way.
Since the game’s core aspects, such as the unforgiving, trial-and-error gameplay, solid crafting and inventory systems, and appealing art style all remain intact, we’ll gloss over repeating our impressions of these things, which you can read in our review of the standalone game. In lieu of that, we’ll take a gander at how much Reign of Giants changes how you play, what’s fresh off the table, and if this fairly inexpensive add-on is either a more hearty meal to gorge on or slim pickings.
When we were dropped once more into a randomly generated, harsh world, nothing appeared to be immediately different. Upon a good amount of further exploration and experimentation, however, the DLC makes its impact on the game well known in numerous ways. New biomes called Deciduous Forest and Desert appear alongside typical environments like the Grasslands, Marshes, and Savannahs, and these two contain surprises to be found.
Animals such as goats, moles, and “catcoons” roam these parts, and can be helpful in unconventional ways if you figure out how to deal with them. Birchnut trees and tumbleweeds yield various supplies that can come to your aid, while unexpected monsters like a living Birchtree and new giants – who would’ve guessed – can have you running in an instant. Though we weren’t able to experience or exploit all of these new features, we could definitely tell how these biomes add small yet significant layers to item creation, exploration, and the strategy to survival.
Whereas you could only get half of the weather changes our planet goes through year-round in vanilla Don’t Starve, you have the full, four seasons in effect here with Reign of Giants, which is where you’ll discover that two seasons are much easier to handle than four. Each one has its pros and cons in regards to finding certain items or animals, but the most notable influence that the four seasons have is on your character’s status.
Not only do you have to worry about your hunger, sanity, and health to stay alive now, but also how hot or wet you become. For example, spring is a period when rain reigns, and if you don’t seek shelter under your own structures or nearby trees, you will eventually start to freeze and drop equipped items. On the flip side, summer can cause you to overheat and gradually lose health, specifically when you need to be near a fire.
Surviving long enough to see these seasons is tough. Even if you customise a game to spawn you during seasons like summer or winter, you’ll likely meet death’s embrace out of being ill prepared. The same goes for the titular giants that can be found during specific seasons like the DragonFly or Bearger, which are hard to stumble upon. Should you find a mammoth mammal, you’ll learn that these goliaths are banes to overcome, but they do drop precious items that can exponentially increase your fight for livelihood in varying manners.
There are two extra characters as well, with strengths and weaknesses like the rest of the peculiar cast. Wigfrid is an actress perfecting her role as a valkyrie who wields a spear and helmet at the start, but starves more quickly and only eats particular foods. On the other hand there’s Webber, who horrifyingly lives in a spider that ate him as a child. He can befriend the creatures and grow a silk (a useful commodity) beard, but is viewed as an enemy by usually neutral characters.
If you’re not an expert, you’ll find it hard to get to the content in Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants, but fans will definitely appreciate the deeper difficulty and complexity to the gameplay offered as part of this expansion. With more customisation options to make your own rules and new characters to survive with to boot, this is a divine dessert to feast on if you adore the merciless and Dark Souls-esque appeal of Don’t Starve. However, if you weren’t originally fond of the game’s punishing design and time-consuming nature, this extra content is only harder to swallow.