The beauty behind Hinterland Studio’s wilderness survival game, The Long Dark, is that its rewards don’t just come from the completion of the challenge modes, or even in the story mode when it releases. It’s the magic of the journey and struggle to survive in a startlingly captivating environment with the need to constantly adapt. This beginner’s guide will not ruin The Long Dark experience for you, there will be no maps with key locations in this guide, no exploits, just pointers to help you get in the right mindset for enjoying the game and having your own wonderful journey of discovery.
The Long Dark is at its core a brutal survival game and is most enjoyable when played in its Hardcore mode ‘Stalker’. However due to the game’s depth and many mechanics it is recommended that you get some play time under your belt in the easier ‘Pilgrim’ or ‘Voyageur’ settings. This gives you time to learn all the deep game mechanics and makes for a more rewarding Stalker experience in the long run, as you spend more time surviving the elements rather than just trying to figure out how to play. For the experts and perhaps slightly masochistic people among you, there is the Interloper mode; if you watched Predator and thought Arnie was a wimp, you might like this!
The start of a new game heralds the opportunity for you to practice what you learnt in your previous play through, maybe getting a better understanding of the map and its regions or perhaps changing your approach for long-term survival. If new to The Long Dark don’t worry, in the first few attempts its just about getting to grips with the base mechanics. What makes this fun is that you can apply some real life experience and knowledge to help you on the way.
Use the sun to get your bearings depending on the time of day, the Sun will rise from the East and set in the West. This and the fact that the weather and world gets more dangerous at night means you should only travel during the day if possible.
Hypothermia is a real threat in the early stages of a game, especially when you are unsure of where to find shelter. Pressing ‘tab’ will bring up your Survival Panel, the better quality clothing you have, the warmer it will feel, but even the best clothing doesn’t protect you forever. The wind chill factor plays a big part in how cold you get, so avoid walking across open expanses if you can and stick to cliff edges where you get some protection. The colder you are the more calories you burn as well. If you do need to move from one protected area to another use sprint. Also remember that most actions take time, even breaking down branches into smaller sticks, so bare this in mind if you decide to spend a lot of time doing something in an exposed area.
Shelter Is Life
Ultimately as you get more accustomed to the world you will look to plan your exploration in stints between landmarks, don’t be afraid to get an old fashioned paper and pencil out to help you create your own map highlighting area’s of interest for later. Finding and sticking to roads, rail tracks, rivers etc will often lead to abandoned areas of civilisation that will provide you with shelter from the freezing temperatures and oppressive weather. Getting caught in a blizzard may encourage you to move with haste but be warned, while you may come across some potential sources of food like Rabbits or Deer you are also just a likely to come across other animals who see you as a food source. Certainly early in the game you want to keep you eyes peeled and your ears tuned to get any early warning of Wolves or Bears. Avoiding them is the best scenario but sometimes you’ll walk right into one as you explore. If you get to close then you need to run to the nearest shelter, one with a backdoor is best as chasing animals do have a memory and will wait for you outside the door you enter for quite a long time!
When you find a location of interest in The Long Dark, you need to make sure you search all the nooks and crannies for food and equipment, don’t forget to crouch to see under beds. Remember you have a carry weight limit so bare in mind you may want to set up a base camp in a suitable location, perhaps somewhere near renewable food sources, a workbench for crafting, stove and bed.
Keep checking the sky for crows, they are often a sign there is a corpse or landmark nearby. Caves can be a good place to get respite from the cold, make sure to look for signs of occupation before you dive in! Don’t forgot; try to only eat or drink safe food and water to minimise the risk of getting ill.
As I’m sure most boy scouts would tell you, a hatchet and knife are great tools to have when living in the wild, matches and a bedroll don’t hurt either so don’t be tempted to leave these behind when you find them. If you get unlucky and can’t find some key equipment you can craft them at a workbench if you have the right resources. If you don’t find them within a couple of days then you may want to think about crafting a source of light like a torch and a way to catch food like a rabbit snare or fishing line and hook. Be sure to harvest the guts from animal corpses and keep hold of any metal scraps and reclaimed wood.
Time and resources are precious so think of ways to make the most of every trip or activity you are doing, if you light a fire to cook food then make sure you use what time is left to boil water.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
There is much more to learn as you play through The Long Dark; find a place to call home and start to delve into the crafting mechanics and mid to late game survival. We hope this brief guide has set you up to dive into the Canadian Wilderness and appreciate this wonderful game.
The best piece of advice we can give you is, if and when you die, take a few seconds to appreciate the journey you just had and the story it told. Take note of what you learned, what will you do differently, what mistakes did you make? Then get back in and do it again!