A Walk In The Long Dark
by Marcus Estrada
The Long Dark had a mightily impressive Kickstarter campaign last year. Hinterland Studios raised over $250,000 for their survival sim and have been rolling out the alpha to backers. Although there’s no story mode currently implemented, players should get a good taste of what the game is like. As promised, The Long Dark is a serious first-person survival game where one wrong move might very well end your life.
Sandbox mode drops players into a snowy forest landscape with little pretense. You know that the protagonist Will Mackenzie has just been in a plane accident but little else. Suddenly being plunged into the wilderness is incredibly daunting for him – and us. After all, this is the middle of nowhere and all he has are thin clothes. If you’ve ever been in the snow you know that multiple warm layers is a requirement. Poor Will will be in a ton of trouble if he can’t be taught to survive.
So far, The Long Dark doesn’t do much to explain survival tactics outright. It’s mostly up to players to explore, experiment, and discover what works. Some things are obvious like the fact that Will needs to eat and drink water occasionally. But how do you find the food and water to satiate basic human needs? Well, there are some signs of civilization out in the Canadian wilderness. Locations like a logging camp and watchtowers can be discovered, although wandering upon such areas reveals grisly realities as well. As you seek shelter and food you’ll come across people facedown in the snow; frozen warnings about your own fate.
In this world you can only live for yourself. Ransacking deserted buildings for food and water are required, as is learning other ways to subsist in the hostile environment. For example, staying exposed to the freezing cold snow and chill outside for a long time is practically a death sentence. Gathering wood and other kindling for fires is another task to take care of. As is the morbid task of taking clothes from any dead bodies you come across. All the while, players must remain alert to their surroundings. The wildlife can be dangerously hostile.
Wolves are currently the biggest threat. They wander about, often shielded by trees, and seem to appear out of nowhere. Once you’ve seen a wolf it’s likely too late. Without a proper defense they will lunge at you upon sight, causing tremendous injuries. Keeping a keen eye out eventually becomes second nature. As does hiding if you hear their howl somewhere out there. What happens after you’ve been bitten (but don’t die)? Well, as would be the case in reality, you’ve got a bleeding wound to contend with.
Medicine is an aspect that The Long Dark could explain a bit better. As of right now the menus state what you need to do to heal but it feels out of place. In either case, bandages and the like are required alongside bedrest. No matter what you’ve got to sleep eventually, but ignoring it with an injury leads to damaging Will’s health continuously. Alongside injuries there are a lot of status effects that take their toll. Hinterland Studios made sure this was one difficult, authentic survival experience.
Even though survival mode is free of much official storyline, it’s really easy to get caught up in creating your own. There’s just such a perfect atmosphere for it. Players might initially be frustrated by the difficulty, but my suggestion is to keep trying. Eventually you’ll start to get a lay for the land and learn how to keep Will going. Survival is thrilling and has been the main draw to continue playing. I want to prove myself as a survivalist against all odds. Honing these skills now will also help once the story mode becomes available. My version of Will has succumb to freezing cold, wolf claws, starvation, and falling from great heights but somehow death keeps me hooked to The Long Dark.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]