The Long Dark: Review

Written by: Karen Benitez

Games | Aug 21, 2017

game review Hinterland Studio The Long Dark

In its Early Access form, The Long Dark only allowed players to partake in its Sandbox Mode. It was in here where gathering resources to survive was the core gameplay element. Hunger, fatigue, and the vast assortment of things that can kill you are a far cry from the game's hardest challenge. That title goes to the player's cluelessness when they are dropped into the world.

You will die a lot, but you always learn something that allows you to survive just a little longer the next time. It's better to understand everything and make all the mistakes you can, as the game uses a permadeath system which deletes your save file when you die.

Now that Early Access is over, things feel different.

For one thing, the new music in the background takes away the quiet eeriness I experienced before the game's full release. It shifts the tone just a bit, but it really changes the experience.

This isn't to say the game is devoid of its solemnity. The Long Dark relies heavily on sound: steps on grass make loud, exaggerated crunches, while the wind in caverns howls and casts doubts to what genre of game you're playing.

The story mode acts more like a tutorial for the sandbox mode. While engaging, I found this to be the game's weakest link. With survival being the core theme, I could not help but hope that the narrative would provide strong key elements.

did this well when it allowed players to relive the lives of a dead space station's crew. Firewatch's narrative made smart use of the constant engagement between Henry and Delilah. What Remains of Edith Finch is a fantastical piece of visual literature with unique storytelling techniques and exploration. And Everyone's Gone to Rapture oozes enough drama to make it an instant classic.

Everything that made each of these games' narratives engaging is absent from The Long Dark. It's almost as if story mode was only added on as an afterthought. This is a shame because there was so much potential in the game for a good survival story.

The story takes on an episodic format, with the first episode being a disappointment. Its ending is a poor attempt at creating an exciting cliff-hanger and is so abrupt that you would laugh out all the tension you felt while playing through it.

Things pick up a little in the next episode, with the sequel mitigating the first episode's disappointment. Only two episodes are available as of now, with three more slated to release in the future. These five episodes form the game's first season.

This kind of format is nothing revolutionary, but it does away with the traditional methods we've seen in games like Life is StrangeHeavy Rain, and Telltale Games' story-based titles. While the aforementioned titles play like a video game film, game developer Hinterland Studio's concept of episodes and seasons-based updates give The Long Dark as a premium network series kind of feel.

There's always something to look forward to after finishing each episode, with each new entry supposedly providing new mechanics to enrich the experience. It's not a big trendsetter, but it is exciting to imagine how other developers will build their games using this kind of format. 

The Long Dark does not break any new ground, but its visuals and core survival gameplay make it a fun enough game to take on and experience.

About the author: Karen Benitez

Skater, musician, carpenter, gamer. Karen is interested in culture, science fiction, and Cthulhu. She participated in MMA bouts, got her ass kicked many times, and ended up with broken bones. Life is good.

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