The Long Dark is published/developed by Hinterland Games, this is hinterlands very first title. The Long Dark is an exploration focused survivor simulation game, set after a geomagnetic disaster. This means all of humanity’s technological might is removed. It is quite literally you versus nature – flora and fauna.
The Long Dark is set in a Canadian Rocky-esque environment, the story when it’s completed will focus around your character who crash landed his aircraft after the geomagnetic disaster. You will have limited food and clothing and the “goal” is to survive as long as possible. It’s cold, you don’t know where you are or where to go. What you do know is if you don’t find shelter and supplies soon you will die.
As you venture out into the great unknown the stark reality of your situation really hits home, it’s nothing but trees and snow, the isolation is near crippling. The only way you’re going to see another human face again or make it back home is if you find a way to survive. First things first you’ve got to survive until tomorrow, the only way that’s going to happen is if you find food, water and shelter. As you scavenge for supplies the rich bounty of nature begins to unfold, you see rabbits and soon some deer, you stop a while to admire the beauty of nature cast against the serene yet deadly Alpine backdrop.
Suddenly a fast dark creature appears and attacks the deer that you have been watching, you realise that it’s a wolf, you slowly back away and disappear while it devours its prey. You now have a new challenge, you must defend yourself against the predators of the wild. It’s getting dark, the wolves are close, the danger of their howling is second only to the howling of the wind. If you can find some shelter and light a fire perhaps that will keep both at bay. You reach an empty cave and light a fire, you can no longer hear the wolves, you’re safe for now. As you rest beside the warm glow, you fall asleep and you wonder “how long will I survive before I enter The Long Dark”
The sheer scale of survival is accented by the gameplay, you have limited resources you must manage to survive. The biggest factor is time, you spend time for example collecting wood for a fire, hunting for food or boiling down snow for water. Whilst I found certain aspects of the gameplay difficult those wanting a challenging survival will enjoy this very much. If that’s not quite what you’re into simply set it to “pilgrim” (easy) mode. For the ultimate survival “Bear Grills” experience you can of course select “stalker” (hard/realistic) mode.
Mechanically the game is very robust and solid the Unity engine works really well for these kinds of games. The only issues I found were likely to have been rather subjective, for example forging for 30 minutes to retrieve a single piece of wood using the “forge wood” option. However I will be submitting a few suggestions to the developer. The animal AI reacts extremely well the deer and rabbits will run if they see you, the wolves will correctly track and hunt and the bears are likely to be the equivalent of the behemoths that they are in real life.
Graphically as indicated the game is simply stunning. The whole game feels like a water colour painting with rich beautiful sunsets/sunrises, weather mechanics/physics where you can see both your and animal tracks in the fresh snow which is an excellent addition. The iced environment limits the amount of water seen, however the waterfalls are suitably beautiful. The soundtrack is subtle but impactful and adds to the isolationist atmosphere. The sound assets for items for example tin cans sound exactly as you would expect.
Overall this game whilst difficult was a big surprise I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent and it’s another game I am excited to see finished, as I mentioned there are a few things I would like changed or tweaked however I am fully aware this is in alpha release, and may of course be subjective. Playing this game you will understand the following phrase “it’s cold, dark and there are wolves after me”