The long dark is a game about survival, nothing original there I hear you say, survival games are everywhere, Minecraft, Ark, Rust to name a few. The long Dark is different. It starts the same as most, waking up alone not sure where you are or what to do but it soon becomes clear that that’s where the similarities end. You have a few items of clothing and a few scraps of food in your back pack and that’s it. Starting location can be chosen or randomised and the difficulty ranges from “What did I do to deserve this?” To “Tell my wife I love her..”
Before we get into the game lets get the business talk out the way, this is, at time of publish, an unfinished game. Developed and published by Hinterland Games an alpha version was released through Steam Early Access on September 22, 2014. Development efforts are ongoing with regular updates. The alpha version was later launched on the Xbox One on June 15, 2015 through their game preview scheme. (I in no way copy and pasted this from Wikipidia.) The story mode is currently a work in progress but sandbox mode and the newly added challenge mode have more than enough life in them for me right now. Even though it’s still in development it looks and plays really nice, I mean, look how fucking beautiful this game is.
This game needs to be beautiful because you spend so much time trudging through it. The visuals need to make you want to leave the safety of your shelter instead of bunkering down and waiting for the inevitable. You need to explore to survive and the quality of the graphics help to make that happen. This may sound boring but it really isn’t. The relief you get after finally seeing a small building on the horizon when there is only an hour of daylight left, the sudden panic of hearing a feral growl in your vicinity and realising you used your last bullet on a rabbit so you could finally make those mittens, these pale in comparison to the desire of pushing further, surviving longer, becoming better. Every time you start a fire or darn your socks your ability in that skill increases by one. One measly point. One measly point could be the difference between life or death. What if you really need to light a fire in adverse conditions? What if you only have one piece of cloth left and really need to up the durability of your jeans? All these things have a success rate dependant on your skill level, amongst other things and this is just something else to worry about. Wolves, bears, the weather, starvation, dehydration, infection. Everything is there to slow you down, to grind you down, chip away at you from top to bottom but never quite enough to make you want to stop.
Onwards, constantly onwards, searching. Searching for food. Searching for weapons. Searching for anything. The one thing you don’t have to search for? Beauty. It’s in the shadows dancing on the walls by the fire. It’s the fresh snow covering your footprints quicker than you can make them. It’s the wind rushing through the trees, howling out your funeral choir. It’s the teeth of a snarling beast pouncing on top of you. It’s beauty. It’s terrifying. It’s the long dark.