Don't Starve: Hamlet in Early Access
Don’t Starve, Klei Entertainment’s dark and whimsical survival horror game, is a game I return to again and again. Even the original base game provided hours of playtime. You play as one of several characters dropped into a randomly generated cartoon hellscape with no supplies and a warning that you look hungry. You gather supplies—rocks, twigs, grass—to build tools that let you break rocks, chop down trees, build fire, and cook food you scavenge. You continue gathering resources from there, dealing with the sometimes friendly, often times deadly local wildlife.
You have to balance your sanity, your health, and your hunger, and aside from crafting (this plus this plus this equals a weather vane to protect you from lightning strikes), the game offers you no clues as to what is or isn’t safe. Each character also has their own unique abilities—one girl has a lighter, but is also a pyromaniac, another man can transform into a werebeaver for better strength but more unusual hunger demands—to help you survive in the many changing biomes of the game.
Since its initial release in 2013, Don’t Starve has received multiple ports to console and mobile devices, a multiplayer sequel (Don’t Starve Together), and two different DLC releases. In Reign of Giants, the game added seasons, new biomes, two new playable characters, and the titular giants. In Shipwrecked, the game added a whole new tropical world, complete with sailing, new seasons, new crafting recipes, and a whole new survival system to learn. Don’t Starve still receives free periodic updates to tweak the experience and sneak in new elements, though the original base game has not seen a new DLC since 2015.
That changed yesterday. Hamlet, the long awaited third DLC, finally became available to purchase with Early Access on Steam. Much like Shipwrecked, this DLC creates a brand new world for you to explore with new rules of what you can or can’t do. It is touted as the hardest DLC to date and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
Remember that list of supplies I said you could pick up by default? Sticks, rocks, and grass? Not anymore. The grass in Hamlet is too hard to pick by hand. You have to scavenge sticks and stones to build a machete to chop down the grass needed for so many of the base game items you’ve probably taken for granted in the past. My first run at the new DLC ended in literal starvation as I spawned in a world largely devoid of rocks and quickly ran out of the few raw food items I spawned with. I was mercifully playing with Willow, the pyromaniac, so I had the ability to set fire to the trees and keep myself safe at night. Otherwise, it would have been even shorter.
Once you acquire the new base kit of tools—an ax, a shovel, and a machete—you’ll have time to explore the new wildlife and surroundings. Don’t Starve: Hamlet is the busiest DLC to date. The new biomes are beautifully detailed with colors that just haven’t been in the game before. The trees and new creatures look like they’re plucked from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, which makes deciding which are deadly and which are friendly all the harder.
The reason Hamlet became so anticipated is a brand new shop system. Hamlet isn’t just a pun for the name of the pig-monster village you can enter and interact with in the new DLC; it’s an actual community that spawns in the randomly generated world. You can enter shops to purchase goods and interact with the locals. You also have the ability to build and design your own house with those goods now. Basically, Don’t Starve: Hamlet is a survival horror riff on Animal Crossing and I am here for it.
I imagine incorporating an indoor game mechanic and a bartering/sales system on top of all the new world slowed down the release. Hamlet was originally announced 13 September 2017; over a year later, we finally get Early Access. There was an invite-only free-to-play beta in between, but I sadly didn’t get to participate. This DLC is easily the most ambitious addition to the original game and will add a lot more hours of playtime to your experience. Just be aware that, as of Early Access, you cannot combine all of the DLCs. Hamlet works with Shipwrecked or Reign of Giants, not both. That’s mostly relevant for the large mod community that creates alternate skins for the characters, but it’s still worth noting.
We don’t know when the full release of the Don’t Starve: Hamlet DLC will be. The developers are very transparent about the DLC being a work in progress. There are bugs and frame rate issues. What they have confirmed is Early Access will end on 6 December during the Aporkalypse. Much like Hamlet itself, the Aporkalypse isn’t just a cute gag; the Early Access world of the pig monsters will end on that day whether we like it or not.
Don’t Starve: Hamlet is currently in Early Access for PC through Steam.
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