In this series, I will be writing about games which are Alpha or Beta right now, by the definition of the developer. This means I will probably cover a lot of games like SkullGirls and Rust in this series, only because they’re games that “probably won’t ever leave beta” as described by their developers.
This game is high on my list of favourite games, and believe me that’s high praise. I have a problem.
The Long Dark isn’t just a game you want in your steam library so you can giggle whenever you glance at it, although it is definitely that too. I have owned this game for a very long time, and for a very long time it used to be a game where the goal was to survive as long as possible.
The goal of this game is to survive, in the most basic form. If you don’t survive, you can’t do anything else, it seems obvious right? With that achieved, making sure you have food, clean water, sleep and warmth, you can start to do things. Uh, well you sort of can.
The other goal of the game, which has been in the pipeline for one million billion years, is going to be put into a story mode. The story of a one player character, who is striving to get to their crashed plane, so that they can repair it and escape to safety. Probably. I mean it’s still in early access anything can happen (come on zombie mods).
Will Mackenzie find his way home? Apparently not because this is season 1
But at this point in time, The Long Dark is a sandbox, survive and explore kind of game and that’s it. I kind of prefer it, it’s nice an relaxing after a salty game of Dark Souls or DotA.
As a sandbox survival game, the main mechanics I will discuss are the ones that will cause you to not survive, which is commonly referred to as; dying. I’ll list them from most to least avoidable, but this territory gets a little murky, so this is not in listed in any specific.
Thirst: Do you have sticks and tinder (not the dating app, you can’t drink needy) Well then you should be ok. Just plop your butt down on the cold, cold snow, light a fire real good and boom melt that yellow snow. Wait, did I say yellow snow? Yeah you can’t just melt and drink snow like a Neanderthal or a 5 year old. Once you have your hip flask filled with the unsafe good stuff, what do you need to do? Of course, MORE FIRE! Melt it again, well this time you’re evaporating it so that it becomes safe for consumption. Now you have the juice, let’s talk about the steak.
Hunger: There are no takeaways in the cold Abyss of the Canadian wastelands. No pizza, no chocolate… no, wait, there is chocolate. I guess I can never escape that maiden cocoa. Food is the second easiest thing to avoid dying from in the long dark, but the marker is made obvious and you have very obvious warnings. These together make you feel as if you want to keep yourself well fed, to not worry about food as an issue. Also food is everywhere! Wall chicken? What about snow crackers? In short, food goes down slow and is everywhere. I’m getting tired of this list… wait! Speaking of which…
Exhaustion: You know what’s the most tiring thing in the world? If you answered with trekking in the long, cold and silent world of wasteland Canada, stop trying to suck up to me. If your answer was reading this article, I mean, that’s just mean. If your answer was looking after like 3 kids as a single mother yeah I can see that. Now imagine Looking after 3 kids in the cold wastes of Canada while reading this on a tablet. Adds the whole new dimension of finding Wi-Fi where there isn’t even electricity. Heh. Although seriously, walking day in day out can be tiring on your poor little pins, and you’ll need a little nap every now and then. Easy right? Just set your head down and… no, not in the snow, you’ll freeze. Do you have a bedroll? How strong do you think they are? I mean the bear fur one’s pretty swanky if you don’t mind waking up to a bear humping you in a cave. I know I don’t. Back to my point, and not my love life, if you’re not next to a source of warmth, or are out of the cold either in a love cave or in a real house you will freeze. Speaking of flawless transitions.
Freezing: You could have one million billion layers on, you know what the icy tundra says to that; 1v1 me, temperature only. The longer you’re outside, the colder you’ll get unless you have some heavy duty, dad-like sweater on the go. Full on Santa with LED light action. Anything which you need to progress such as; looting houses, exploring, hunting, gathering wood means you’re outside. It’s a little chilly out there. In seriousness, cold is your second biggest threat in The Long Dark, it’s generally going to be a killer. Poor planning and cold will kill you a lot in The Long Dark, get lost or over encumbered and tired? Yeah, you’ll start to feel like Jack in the shining, or Jack in Titanic for that matter, the point is you’ll feel cold and like someone named Jack. Living in the cold is hard, and it’s definitely the mechanic that keeps you on your toes in the game.
Doge: If you hear a bork, you must be a spook. Wolves and bears? Oh my! They will kill you, they will eat you and worst of all they won’t even take you to dinner first, because you are it! If you don’t have a hunting rifle, wolves will just hunt you down relentlessly. Even if you do, bears, oh mama they will hunt you, albeit slower than wolves. They will maul you into a fine paste before serving man-sausage to their kids. The real Long Dark. Avoid animals, unless it’s like passive mode, in which case get your revenge, teabag wolfy, they just run in this mode. Run cowards, run!
Regardless of how survival in this game is designed, how much of a threat seeing a predator is, or how hungry/cold/tired/thirsty your character gets, the game is relaxing. It has a slow paced feeling to it. There’s no well-defined goal and the idea is to survive as long as possible. It always makes me feel like there’s no rush. Today I’ll collect from my traps and pick up some sticks. No panic.
When you want to move on to the next area which is entirely based on your style. Some will want to do this as soon as they have food in their tum and some will want to start and raise family before they consider leaving “coastal hut”. This is completely up to you, and the whole “play at your own pace” style is one of the reasons I keep playing.
The graphics in this game suit the feeling it wants to convey, very crisp, pretty looking graphics that seem to prefer the weather effects to the terrain. This suits the style they’re trying to get across because a pure white canvas has a nice aesthetic to it in the snowy tundra. It also makes footprints and items far more visible, which from a gameplay aspect in a game where finding loot and hunting animals is key, becomes incredibly useful.
One of the many weather effects. I am told by people who leave their house that this one is called fog… or mist, it’s a controversial topic
Sometimes you’ll see some borders around rocks, this is the game telling you you need to get 80s 3D Glasses. It’s intentional and is called chromatic aberration. It’s there because the designers like it.
The feature you’re seeing here is called Chromatic Aberration.
The music in this game gives a feeling of relaxation, and is in my opinion one of the key factors in setting the themes that the game wants. If the music was tense whenever there was a wold, or played different tones when leaving a building it would make the game a game with a feeling of I need to survive. The feeling as I understand it is “I want to survive” I enjoy living in this world. I feel this is definitely a different way to look at survival games, and is definitely worth giving this game a look.
In conclusion, The Long Dark is a lovely, slow relaxing game that can be threatening so you shouldn’t grow idle, but you shouldn’t rush and panic. Play at your own pace and don’t feel the need to rush.
Just chill. Geddit, snow pun? Ok, I’ll stop.
There are so many aspects to this game I could discuss. Foods, tactics, region and map design. In short this review could have been 10x the size, nay 20x but I’ll stop. If I wanted to make a long dry article I wouldn’t have made this one half jokes. If someone does want a super long detailed review, ask. Unless requested it will not be made.