This week I’ve chosen Don’t Starve Together as The Anchor. It may be an older game, but it’s still actively supported by the developers and in every way defines what The Anchor is meant to do. This will be a multi-part series of articles, but follow-up parts will go into the guides category.
Don’t Starve Together is easily one of my favorite games on the PlayStation 4. Its simple opening gives new gaming parents and young children the simple tasks of picking grass and twigs, crafting crude tools, and chopping down trees. Later, more advanced tools make these actions easier, but they’re always necessary. You’ll always need wood, stone, grass, and twigs.. no matter how far into the game you are. This leaves the less experienced players with plenty to do while the more experienced go on crafting magic hats and winter coats.
Setting up your Don’t Starve Together server
Before you can start dying (you’ll die a lot in Don’t Starve Together) you’ll need to set up a server. You can skip this step and join an existing server, but it’s not a good idea for new players. You can play offline (local only) or online (up to 6 people can join), and these settings will apply to both modes.
You can set the game public, friends only, or local only to restrict who joins. As a proponent of cooperative gameplay, I’ve obviously chosen cooperative playstyle and PvP off. Game Mode is the big option here, and you’ll need to choose carefully. In Survival, if everyone in the game dies the game is over. You’ll have an option to restore the world to Day 1, regardless of how many days you survived for. Endless never ends, and you can revive yourself at the portal where you enter the game. The third mode, Wilderness, is a more difficult Survival mode where everyone starts in a random place.
My kids die all the time. They starve, they stay out after dark, they attack beefalo and get swarmed.. whatever it is, they’ll find a way to die to it. For this reason we choose Endless and we always try to stay close to the portal for easy resurrections.
Choosing a Character
Once you’ve set up your server and launched, it’s time to choose a character. Don’t Starve Together features 11 playable characters, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The character you choose won’t change the fundamental rules of the game, but will have a massive effect on how you perform certain tasks at various points.
The “starter” character. Wilson has no weaknesses, unless you consider the lack of a powerful strength to be a weakness. His only strength, in fact, is his ability to grow a beard. Shaving your beard generates beard hairs, which you use to craft a handful of items. Probably the most important item you craft with beard hairs is the Meat Effigy, an item that can resurrect you with no health penalty. But his beard resets to 0 with each death and it takes 15 days to grow to full length. You can acquire beard hairs in other ways, but none are easier than shaving Wilson’s beard.
Recommendation: Choose Wilson if you’re brand new to Don’t Starve Together and don’t want to deal with weaknesses yet.
Younger kids might enjoy playing Willow because she should never die from darkness. Unfortunately in Don’t Starve Together, Willow’s lighter doesn’t last forever and it requires gold to craft. Other than a mild resistance to fire, she doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. Her sanity management is inferior to Maxwell, and sanity doesn’t really come into play in the very early game anyway.
Recommendation: Willow is a safe choice for young kids if they keep dying to darkness.
Straight from reddit’s totally not robots subreddit, WX78 is a human/robot hybrid who still needs to eat but also loves getting struck by lightning. WX78 can eat gears, which you’ll find a fair amount of in the mid-game period (and are now a sustainable resource, whereas they used to be limited in supply). Gears upgrade his stats, making him quite powerful at endgame. If he dies, however, he loses his upgrades and only drops a percentage of the gears he’s consumed. His is a dangerous playstyle, forcing you to choose very carefully when to eat gears. Although he can grow very strong, early game he is barely above average. It doesn’t help that the monsters who drop gears can be hard to kill for new players.
Recommendation: If you’re familiar with Don’t Starve Together already, WX78 can be a nice beefy character. If you tend to die a lot, avoid.
Woodie has an axe that never runs out and a fast tree chopping speed. He also has an additional resource, his wood level. If it reaches the max he transforms into an angry beaver that can bite trees and dig up plants, but can’t pick anything up. After eating enough wood he returns to his human form. Managing three resources (food, sanity, and life) is hard enough for beginners; don’t make it worse by choosing Woodie.
Recommendation: If you’re Canadian, Woodie’s for you. Otherwise, only if you like the challenge of an additional resource.
Wolfgang is fantastic in the hands of a player who knows how to keep his belly full. At max food, Wolfgang gains strength and melee damage, allowing him to kill monsters faster than anyone else. If, however, you’re one of the players who sits just above zero hunger, eating a single berry when you start to take damage from starvation, Wolfgang shrinks into a much weaker version of himself at low food, significantly reducing his damage. He also takes a huge hit to sanity when near monsters and in the dark. This is both good and bad, because it means he can farm shadows in middle game much easier than others, but it makes him much more likely to be ambushed by shadows when fighting other monsters.
Recommendation: Wolfgang’s strength works well alongside Wickerbottom’s farming books. Wolfgang can also work well with Wigfrid for a combat-heavy combo, but food may become scarce once winter sets in.
Referred to as “meat girl” in my home, Wigfrid is a strong character with severe weaknesses. When she attacks monsters she heals a small bit of health. Against weaker monsters she can always come out unscathed. Even groups of weak enemies (like spiders) pose no real threat to her. But her weaknesses.. are hard to deal with. She can only eat meat, which limits her available food in the early game. Her custom weapon and helmet require gold to craft, making them difficult to replace in the early game. Gold is a valuable commodity later as well, but by then you’ll have access to better weapons and armor anyway. Best used when you can settle near rabbits.
Recommendation: Like Wolfgang, Wigfrid makes a great duo with Wickerbottom. Wickerbottom can feed herself vegetables, but can cook meat dishes using vegetables as filler, making meat go a lot further. Wigfrid also works well with another Wigfrid, but the food restriction makes Wolfgang a better partner for a combat duo.
Wickerbottom is the ultimate teammate. The person everyone wants the other person to be. Her unique ability to craft books comes in handy from the very beginning, as she can instantly regrow twigs, grass, and farms. Later, she can craft powerful combat books that blast enemies with lightning, summon tentacles, or summon birds.
Recommendation: Wickerbottom can enhance anyone, but she works best with a few. Wickerbottom and any combat character (Wolfgang, Wigfrid, WX78 with gears) allow the combat character to focus on boss kills while Wickerbottom provides food and builds the base. She also works well with farmers like Woodie, Wilson, and Maxwell, allowing the duo to quickly build a massive base. She’s best partnered with Maxwell, though. His farming is top tier, but it’s his ability to read Wickerbottom’s books that brings this duo up above the rest. Maxwell is the only other character who can read books, enabling amazing co-op gameplay when these two work together.
Wes is Don’t Starve Together’s “challenge” character. He’s weaker than other characters and his special ability is to make balloons—which serve no real purpose. Playing as Wes in Don’t Starve Together is kind of like playing as Dan in Street Fighter. You do it to have a laugh, but you can’t take it seriously.
Recommendation: No. Maybe if both players choose Wes and you fill up your base with balloons, but that’d only be fun once and then you’ll die.
I mained Wendy for a long time before realizing that she just wasn’t that amazing. Her sanity benefit at night is fine, but Maxwell does it better. Her physical attacks are weaker than other characters, made up for by the ghost of her twin sister who follows her around. This sort of makes up for her weaker attacks, but when the ghost inevitably dies in a spider den you’re weak for another 3 days until the ghost comes back. And you have to retrieve the flower from wherever the ghost died. She ends up being a lot more trouble than she’s worth for what amounts to a novelty.
Recommendation: Wendy can be fun when you’re learning Don’t Starve Together. Her flower/ghost system isn’t hard to understand, and if you do lose the flower you can craft another one. Paired with Wigfrid or Wolfgang, she can actually be a decent combat partner because her ghost can take hits and interrupt enemy attacks, saving damage against the other player.
Maxwell is the ultimate farmer. His weakness is low health, but his strengths are so good the health doesn’t even matter. Maxwell can use Nightmare Fuel (a limited resource early game, but easily farmable mid game) to create shadows of himself. These shadows can mine rocks, chop trees, dig graves, or fight monsters. The fighting shadows aren’t very good on account of being easy to accidentally destroy, but the gathering shadows are great. They don’t have durability like tools do, meaning endless farming on a single summon. Three woodcutters and one digger can clear an entire forest in minutes. The gatherers do cause trouble later in the game when they summon Treeguards, but hopefully by then you’ve found a way to deal with bosses.
Recommendation: Maxwell is a great choice for anyone. Maxwell pairs best with Wickerbottom, because he can read her books. His gathering speed combined with Wickerbottom’s fast base building leads to strong, self-sustaining bases early on. He also works alongside combat characters like Wigfrid and Wolfgang. His combat shadows can absorb hits and distract enemies, but make sure your partner doesn’t accidentally kill the ghosts (it’s the same button to dismiss ghosts as to attack enemies, for some reason).
Webber’s strength is his unique playstyle. Webber is friends with spiders—and enemies with pigs—allowing him to recruit up to six spiders as followers (anyone else can recruit pigs as followers by feeding them meat). He can craft and plant spider nests, allowing him to build heavily concentrated spider “towns”, a great place to pull bosses to in mid game. Webber can use his spider pets to start what we call “spider wars,” where all the spiders in your town start attacking one another. You feed meat to a couple of spiders and command them (press Square near another spider, then move before you attack) to attack a neutral spider. Spiders will jump out of their nests and help one side or the other, attacking and killing each other, dropping silk, glands, and monster meat.
Recommendation: Webber works best with another Webber. Together, they can build a base in the middle of a spider town and be virtually immune to boss attacks.
So there you have it.
Don’t Starve Together earns top marks in the survival genre. Its cooperative play encourages teamwork and severely punishes selfish play. Kids and inexperienced adults might not contribute much at the start, but learning comes quickly and the game continues to evolve along with your skills.