The Long Dark is a survival/exploration game that comes to us from Hinterland Studio and was brought to life via various different funding websites including Kickstarter. The Long Dark has been in early access for years, beginning in 2014, which gave players and backers access to a sandbox survival mode that grew and evolved over the years. Now in 2017 The Long Dark has officially released with a story mode and a much more fleshed out game. But is the final product worth the hard work?
After spending roughly 13 hours messing about in the survival mode before and after its release, I’ve seen The Long Dark grow and become more of a fleshed-out title over the years. Now finally it has left early access and the game finally has an episodic story mode. At the time of writing this review there are currently 2 out of the 5 planned episodes available already.
So far, the story mode seems more like a tutorial to the game more than anything else. I understand people need that introduction to the game but I’m so far in and I’m wondering how much more I’m going to be taught that I already knew. There are also numerous fetch quests to do which becomes tiring after a while and repetitive after the first couple of times you do them. I personally still find the survival mode to be the real draw here for me. Whether in the story or survival mode, you’ll find yourself using the menu dial a fair bit. Play around with it and study it well.
Survival sees you waking up in the middle of nowhere, depending on the map you chose to survive on. You are tasked with going out and finding supplies to keep yourself warm, fed and hydrated. You also have access to some firearms if you’re lucky. You can build various items with resources you have found, out in the wilderness or inside cabins and buildings. Breaking down items also provides resources to help aid you with surviving. You’ll come across various articles of clothing to help keep you warm while you are out scavenging for supplies. Be aware though that everything in the game does wear down over time and with use. Clothes especially if you come across and are attacked by bears or wolves.
Clothing have their own benefits to stats as well, so make sure you always compare against other clothes you find out in the wild to get the best out of each. You’ll want the best stats of course, temperature is something you’ll need to keep an eye on as well as blizzards do kick in so it can be a risk to go out into one, sometimes it is best to just hide up in a cave or a cabin and just wait it out.
To keep warm, you’ll find yourself building log fires and adding different kinds of wood to keep the fire going for hours so that you don’t die in the middle of the woods overnight in your sleeping bad. Fires are used to boil and cook food and water to make both either editable and drinkable. Taking meat from a deceased dear and eating it straight away could cause food poisoning, same with untreated/unboiled water. Nature is your true enemy here. Death can come from many forms, you’ve always got to be well prepared. Before heading out to hunt or find supplies, it is always best to be stocked with bandages, meds, food, water and any tools or weapons to make the journey easier. Remember though, that you can only carry so much, and depending on your condition that amount can decrease as your stats and strength will go down if you’re injured or sick. There is a day/night schedule here so make sure you have a torch handy or try not to hunt too far from your main base. When venturing out, your biggest foes like I said is Nature itself and predatorial animals. If you happen to find a rifle, use its ammo sparingly and only in the most dire situations.
Graphics and Sound
The Long Dark’s most impressive feature in this section is actually its voice work throughout the story mode. You have some top tier video game voice actors here, such as Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect) and David Hayter (Metal Gear Solid). The episodes are nice and beefy so you get enough dialogue from these pros to be satisfied with the story.
Environmental sounds are lovely and immersive as well. You could be inside a cabin as a blizzard is blowing outside and you will have a fire going in a kiln. You’ll hear the blizzard battering up against the cabin with fire crackling away keeping you warm. The ambient sound works so well that there were times that I felt a little cold in real life at times. I strongly recommend playing with headphones.
The art style looks like a mixture of hand drawn with a mix of water paints. The Long Dark is a hauntingly beautiful world that you will find yourself exploring every part of for supplies so you will see a good chunk of this beautifully designed world.
I did encounter a couple of frame rate issues, nothing game breaking. They were few and far between and until I get my hands on the Xbox release, for all I know, it may have been my rig’s performance at that time.
The Long Dark has finally left early access, which is something that seems very rare for a lot of titles these days. Where games like DayZ and Rust are still in their early forms, The Long Dark really has grown and blossomed into an amazingly well detailed game. Close the blinds, put on your headset, and be prepared to be immersed into the cold, rocky, Canadian winter lands. This is one game of survival that I am happy to constantly return to and will continue to as more story episodes get released.
The Long Dark is definitely worth your time, it is currently available in the Xbox and PlayStation stores, however not yet in Australia. I’ve been playing this on the PC since before it left early access. It has grown a lot and also improved. The Long Dark is fantastic.