Stranded deep in the Canadian wilderness you are left with only one option, survive at all costs against the harsh conditions and fearsome wildlife. Make it through the night and you might even consider trying to solve the mystery of the geomagnetic disaster that caused all this mess.
Early Access Beginnings
The Long Dark, developed by the Canadian team at Hinterland, is a stylised survival game that focuses on exploration and realistic simulation over many of the current ‘if you built they will come’ EA survival games.
Launched into EA in September 2014, The Long Dark has more than 550k sales on Steam and enjoys a ‘very positive’ rating from over 22k reviews, and that’s before they implement the actual ‘game mode’ they had planned all along. Its amazing to believe that the sandbox version, as it is now, was originally only meant to be a test bed for the upcoming story mode.
The world is a beautiful stylised depiction of the Canadian wilderness, reminiscent of Firewatch, that from the sound of the first crunch of foot on snow and the wind whipping about your face, you are sucked into the environment that makes the challenge ahead feel very real! And there isn’t a Zombie or Cannibal in sight, its you verses the harsh conditions and the many natural inhabitants, and believe you me that’s more than enough to keep you on your frost bitten toes.
As well as the standard fare of Hunger, Thirst and Fatigue to manage in The Long Dark you have to also consider Air temp and Wind Chill, the later of which can be negated some what with better clothing that can be found in the deserted cabins and buildings scattered across the landscape. As you wonder the landscape looking for Rabbits to snare or the ominous circle of crows circling a distant carcass, you must also be weary of how far away from a safe fire you are, or how close to a hungry set of Wolf or Bear teeth!
As well the sandbox mode there is also a set of challenge modes, these give a differing set of scenario’s with a goal and a win state. E.g: Hopeless rescue -“Recover the pistol from the summit of Timberwolf Mountain and fire it from the top of the Desolution point Lighthouse’ or Whiteout – ” A monster blizzard is on its way in 30 days, stockpile enough food and water before it hits!”
There are over 30 kilometers of wilderness to explore and survive and like most games in the genre The Long Dark tasks you with making choices when looking to manage your health on in this case your Condition. This again is very realistic with the basic function of your hunger covered by the calories you gain through eating versus the calories you burn through your various activities in the game. As you would expect running and chopping increases the calories you burn but so does the biting cold as your body is forced to generate its own heat.
The game really emphasis’s the importance of fire to survive as it gives you heat, light and a source with which you can heat up or cook raw food, and melt snow for water. In order to light a fire you need to scavenge or gather fuel, kindling and an ignition source and its isn’t easy at first. Just like real life, unless you are a boy scout, this takes practice and you gain skill the more times you try, and fail, to light a fire.
Crafting items is kept to a realistic minimum, there are currently 15 items that you can only craft at set locations that have a workbench. You will need to scavenge the correct tools first however, from Sewing Kits and Knives to Heavy Hammers, as well as the resources needed. Each has a set amount of in game time it takes to craft depending on it complexity, the coveted Wolfskin Coat takes 25 hrs and needs several sessions to complete, unless you want to starve or freeze at the workbench that is!
With the full release this spring comes the additional story mode which will introduce both new area’s to discover as well as entirely new narrative content, you will get to play as either ‘Bush Pilot Will Mackenzie’ or ‘Doctor Astrid Greenwood’. It offers the potential of morally challenging scenarios that ask the players the question, ” How far are you willing to go to survive?” and will be released over the coming year as episodes.
The question you have to ask yourself is, do you have what it takes to survive in one of the most realistic and challenging survival games where problem solving and intellect is king over gung ho big gun tactics…Oh and by the way make that decision quick as the price will increase at full release!