Game Review: Survive in the cold wilderness in The Long Dark
After three years of waiting, Canadian Hinterland has finally officially released The Long Dark. It is a first person survival game, which story is being divided into episodes. With the first two episodes available and the next three expected in the coming months, The Long Dark seems to be an interesting choice for the lovers of the genre.
You take on the role of Will Mackenzie, who agrees to help his ex-wife, Dr. Astrid Greenwood, to carry a mysterious load. After an initial dispute, where Astrid doesn’t want to tell anything to Will about the contents of the cargo, Will and Astrid start their journey on a small plane. However, an unexplained geomagnetic storm ruins their plans by dropping their plane into some desolate forest in northern Canada. As Will, you are invited to survive in the snowstorm, find Astrid, who has disappeared even though she was with you on the plane, and find out what happened to the cargo you were carrying. Through brief flashbacks, you learn more about the relationship between the two protagonists and their past, with each flashback providing more interesting information. At the moment, the story is as promising as it is a little weak, and it has a lot of room to evolve. The fact that pilots and passengers are split gives hope that the story holds many interesting developments.
The game doesn’t have a tutorial so you have to learn everything yourself and think about how to solve the objectives and survive. You can choose between two modes: story mode (also known as Wintermute) and sandbox / survival mode. On the first one, you learn gradual survival methods, starting by lighting fire, eating and turning ice into drinking water. In case you die, you repeat the day with the resources you had with you when you died, making this mode more lenient. On the other hand, survival mode offers an adjustable degree of difficulty. It also includes challenges to accomplish, without worrying about completing them in a specific order.
The most important part of the gameplay in both modes is time management, since every move and choice is a matter of life and death. Everything costs time in the frozen forest. Activities such as collecting wood, turning larger objects in smaller ones, burning or hunting and exploring the surrounding area, cost a significant amount of time. Will you spend 10 minutes breaking a branch in small parts or collecting meat from a dead animal? Will you only collect the meat or look for something more, risking to find yourself in the dark and cold? This and more questions will follow you throughout the game and you’ll have to make the best choice you can think of.
As you can see, your main goal is to keep Will alive. When hungry you have to hunt, look for dead animals or - if you are lucky - find ready meals. When you get injured, you have to find bandages and get natural painkillers from herbs. When thirsty you melt ice to drink. Beyond the basic objects, you can make it even more complex, such as a torch or a knife, as long as you have found the necessary blueprints. Naturally, neither the blueprints nor the fabrics of these objects are easily found in the wild and are slow to make their appearance. However, as close to reality as the gameplay is, there are some exaggerations. For example, Will is not happy enough, even after eating a half-roasted deer. Also, it is not possible to preserve the meat, even though you are in a frozen environment, and if you accidentally click on the fire, then you burn immediately and you need ointment and bandages.
The forest is at the same time an ally and an enemy. Caves provide temporary protection, but a wild animal may be lurking inside. A dead animal might be an easy food source but you have to look out for wolves. At present, wolves are one of the game's weaknesses, primarily in story mode where they cannot be bypassed. The wolves and other bigger wildlife are more difficult to deal with, but there are always solutions for them (stones, weapons, etc.).
Pricing & Availability
The Lone Dark is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC on Steam for $32.
Graphics & Sounds
The graphics, though simplistic at first glance, are atmospheric and adequately reflect the Canadian nature. Wildlife is not designed in absolute detail, but it successfully offers the necessary atmosphere. An interesting feature that adds to the whole atmosphere is exploring dark caves and other places where other people have stayed before and left their mark in one way or another. On the other hand, the animation of the protagonists during flashbacks is quite simple, with the environment being designed with dull colors.
The sound ranges in the expected frames of a title survival. You listen to Will's steps when he sinks in the snow or when he is standing over cracked ice, the strong wind rumbling in the snowy mountain and the rattling of the logs in the fire. The work done in voice acting is satisfying, though sometimes more melodramatic or monotonous than it should be.
The Long Dark offers an interesting survival approach, combining survival gameplay with good story and an open world. Although there are no zombies or vampires, death is lurking in every corner, disguised as hunger, thirst, cold or wild animals, so you must be alert every minute of the game. Your goal is to keep Will alive in every way, without help from anyone. With three more episodes coming we are excited to see the evolution of The Long Dark. Let us know your thoughts and impressions in the comments below.
The Long Dark screenshots (above) and trailer (below)