The Long Dark is an incredibly interesting survival experience. It’s an intense and atmospheric adventure, with a few hiccups along the way, but thankfully, none that takes the shine of an otherwise great foray into the Canadian Tundra.
As far as World-ending cataclysmic events go, The Long Dark is the most interesting one in a while, predominantly down to its setting. The abandoned townships, set against the backdrop of the chilly, Canadian mountains and frozen lakes, make for an incredibly diverse and, frankly, terrifying experience. There’s plenty of wildlife to catch and eat too, providing the Predators don’t get you first.
The game is split into two main modes – Wintermute, our story mode, and a straight up survival mode. I started with the former, taking the role of Will, a pilot whose plane has plummeted into nothingness, and, after surviving (albeit badly beaten up) sets out to find his missing friend. Along the way, he discovers other survivors, and slowly uncovers the truth behind the sudden geomagnetic event.
Both survival mode and Wintermute have the same principles; manage your resources, craft survival equipment and keep a check on your health. There’s a lot going on in The Long Dark, and it can be a little overwhelming to begin with. You’re thrust, very quickly, into dangerous situations, and finding the resources you need can be tricky. You need to constantly watch your warmth levels, check you’re not hungry or thirsty, and that any broken bones or illnesses you’ve come down with are looked after correctly. It makes for a really messy first couple of in-game hours, and I found myself dying quite often until I’d become accustomed to the quirks of the system.
Heat management became the first tricky hurdle, as I found my starter clothing pretty useless against the even colder Canadian nights. Once I’d gathered enough raw materials, I started a measly fire, that after 5 minutes (of real time) I’d fully warmed up and felt confident to continue my adventure.
Herein lies perhaps the thing that will separate casual survival fans from the hardcore survivalists most – many things take a while to craft and use. It’s all part of the games desire to achieve as much realism as possible, but there’s something about the slower pace seen here that gave me itchy fingers – I’m fine waiting, but sitting in my tiny ice-cave until I’m suitably warm for well over two real-life minutes was a bit much for me.
Resource gathering can be cumbersome at times too, especially exploring buildings, mostly thanks to slow loading times that make entering and leaving properties tedious. I did, however, enjoy Hunting, especially crawling after wolves on the prowl, trying to keep my rifle straight, as the hunger pangs I felt morphed into straight-up starvation, causing the screen to wobble and my need for food even more drastic.
Even the most minor of falls in The Long Dark will usually sprain something, or pop a bone out of place. Nearly all games offer some sort of medpac to heal your wounds, but here things are taken one step further. You must find antibiotics to fight off infection, bandages to stop bleeding, water purifier to stop dysentery – it’s a really intuitive and intricate system that felt fresh and exciting compared to other survival titles.
Wintermute is surprisingly well written, with a great cast and wonderful voice acting. It isn’t, however, finished – this game has been in early access for several years now, so if you want to indulge in the full storyline experience, you must, unfortunately, wait. It is, however, a non-linear experience, so the speed you complete each of Wintermute’s episodes is completely down to you.
Survival mode, while echoing the same basics as Wintermute, is a permadeath mode intended for players to see how long they can last for. Rather than having very basic differences between the difficulties, The Long Dark offers genuinely interesting changes that alter how you enjoy (or endure, as it were) the experience. For example, the hardest difficulty not only challenges you with more imposing predators but also makes finding resources much more difficult, forcing you to make meaningful choices to achieve survival. There’s also a challenge mode, where you’re given an objective and conditions in which to complete your task in, such as surviving for a set amount of days under harsh (…er than normal) conditions.
The game design won’t be for everyone, but it’s a pretty little game, and one that looks perfect for the Switch. That being said, it’s a game best played docked, as it feels squashed on the tiny handheld’s screen. I, admittedly, don’t have the world’s greatest eyesight ever, but I struggled with some of the tiny text on the many menus that the developers have had to squash onto the Switch’s operating system.
Now I’m up to date with Wintermute’s episodes, I can’t wait for the story to continue in the future episodes. That being said, until then, Survival Mode will keep me satisfied whenever I feel like testing my grit against the Great White North.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Long Dark Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 7.5/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
User Review( votes)
The Long Dark is an incredibly interesting survival experience. It’s an intense and atmospheric adventure, with a few hiccups along the way, but thankfully, none that take the shine of an otherwise great foray into the Canadian Tundra.