The Long Dark — Review

The Long Dark is a survival game that seemed destined to be stuck in early access forever. Thankfully the trend of games never quite making it out of the early access tag has now been broken.

The Long Dark maybe one of a number of survival games, but to me, this one felt a little different. The game originated from Kickstarter and released on Steam as an early access title back in 2014. After its solid Kickstarter campaign and years of hard working development, we finally have the full release of the title in 2017.

Survival with a difference

The game has changed quite a bit from it 2014 release from what I can gather. The Long Dark now includes an episodic story mode called Wintermute. So far we only have the first two episodes, with another three to come shortly.

You play a pilot who has crashed a plane into the Canadian wilderness; your only thought is now on surviving. There’s a great sense of character in this story, which needs commending. After being delayed for a short while, you can always be more understanding when the finished product you get was worth the wait.

So far the first two episodes seem really great. The game starts you in a sort of tutorial area, it’s safe enough for players who haven’t played this title in early access to learn the basics and come to grips with the world.

The difference with The Long Dark to other survival games is that this game leans heavily on the management side of surviving. The need to gather wood to build a fire in order to keep warm in the icy climate has a sense of realism and a difference to it. You’ll need to cook and hunt to keep yourself alive, keep your clothes dry, find bandages to tend to your wounds and above all else, avoid being eaten by wolves.

The Long Dark doesn’t focus on what can be a mundane trope in survival games; building and resource gathering. You won’t be staring at a tree whilst you chop it for hours on end. Instead, you’ll need to carefully manage your resources to keep yourself alive.

A Story of Survival

The protagonist of the story is Will McKenzie, a pilot traveling with an ex-partner. after being caught in a nasty storm, the plane crashed in the cold depths of the Canadian wilderness and the couple was split up. The story is told through some really great voice acting with some solid and convincing dialogue.

As you awake from the plane crash, you’ll need to start figuring out how you can survive as the game won’t hold your hand much. This creates some real moments of tension and challenge as you scrape recourses together.

There are over 11 hours of story content so far and that’s just in the two episodes we have. With the three more on the horizon, it looks likely to be quite a large adventure. So far, it’s not an exceptional story, but it is acceptable and it’s told through a really unique art style that’s pleasing to look at.

Quests can be a harrowing adventure in The Long Dark’s story mode, with simple fetch quests becoming ever more dangerous due to your surroundings. Finding keys or hunting can mean the end of the road if you’re not careful in your preparation.

The Long Dark starts to really open up towards the end of the two episodes when you find the town. With civilization at your door, you’re almost forced to change your play style, and this is something I liked about the game. This kept The Long Dark from feeling samey and added freshness in my so far 11 hours or so of play.

The Harsh Reality

Besides the sandbox story, there are also other modes to keep players busy whilst we wait for the next three episodes. There are these objective based modes called challenges. They’re not always as fun or interesting as the other challenges in the story mode, but they do offer something a little different.

The challenge mode in The Long Dark can throw players right into the action and provide some fun scenarios, albeit in smaller chunks than the story mode offers. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, as it can be almost a welcomed retreat from the story.

Survival in The Long Dark is as harsh and challenging as any game in the genre. What The Long Dark manages to do better than other is provide a survival game with a certain class and depth to it. Despite its somewhat cartoonish look, the game feels raw and real, with that art style making it look different to other games.

It’s an interesting game because of its characters and its look. There is some really great voice acting here and line delivery, notably David Hayter, the former Solid Snake is one of the cast members.

Overall The Long Dark has been fun for the most part. After finishing the first two episodes I still felt I wanted to finish the story, which can only be a good sign. There are lots of different experiences in this sandbox and that’s something I’ve not found in other similar games. I think this is largely due to the game going in a different direction than the typical crafting based survival game.

I’m not the biggest fan of survival games, I’d like to make that known, but I enjoyed this title for the most part. The Long Dark offered me something different and kept me interested. I will definitely be playing the next three episodes when we get them and seeing where the story takes me.

Constantly threatening to write a book, but always with a story to tell. Tom has a typical northern English soul. He may sound as mundane as Jon Snow, but at least he tries to articulate. Lover of video games, comics, geek pop culture and wishing he could play Dungeons & Dragons.
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