The Long Dark - Game Review

Source:Hella Average Gaming, Cameron

        Imagine, waking up in the freezing cold, confused, hurt, and all alone. You look around attempting to assess your situation, but the light is quickly fading, and if you don't find shelter, you will surely die. This is how The Long Dark, a survival simulation from Hinterland Studios, begins your journey. In order to survive this harsh, frozen environment, you must manage your caloric intake, hydration levels, injuries, and plenty of wildlife that are out to kill you. Not only must you manage these aspects of the game, you must stay rested, and above all else, always have fire nearby. Fire is truly your main line of defense in The Long Dark. If you can successfully manage these mechanics, you might just survive another day.

        There are two modes of play in The Long Dark, Wintermute, and Survival. Wintermute is a five part story, currently there are two episodes available, that features Will Mackenzie, a bush pilot that finds himself in a deadly crash. Will is not only struggling to survive, but he is also trying to find a loved one, who was in the crash with him. The opening parts of Wintermute serve as a tutorial, nudging you towards certain objectives, and teaching you basic survival needs. As you progress in the game, you begin meeting more people, and completing mundane fetch quests, in attempt to gain a morsel of information to the whereabouts of your friend. During this time, you are also battling the elements, the wildlife, and your own body. The story mode seems extremely linear, and although you can explore and gather resources, it never truly feels like you are playing your own game.

        Enter Survival, the mode that truly makes The Long Dark shine. This is the survival sandbox experience players are looking for, and The Long Dark does it very well. This mode is meant for you to spend your days however you choose, not forced to complete specific objectives. Rather you are exploring, storing wood for the fires you will need, hunting for food, finding the perfect shelter, or just admiring the surroundings, you will always have something that must be done. Each day will bring new challenges, and each night will test your survival prowess. If you make one wrong move, you may not survive, and this game is not forgiving, in any sense of the word. This mode is a near perfect example of the survival genre, and is the main reason I continued to play the game.

        The art style of this game is absolutely amazing. It feels like the player has been pulled into a painting, but it never loses its sense of realism. The HUD is minimalistic, and never seems to hinder the experience of being alone, and surviving. Look up into the sky at night, and witness one of the most beautiful scenes in gaming. The aurora in the sky can make you forget you are fending for your life, and actually enjoy your surroundings. Although the game is visually stunning, the audio falls short, and never truly makes itself memorable. To truly become immersed in a game, the audio and visual components must work in tandem, and I believe this is not achieved with The Long Dark. Sure, there are some parts of the score that work extremely well, but the bulk of the forgettable audio, combined with the repetitive voice cues, left me wanting more. However, the ambient sounds, are absolutely phenomenal. Listening to a crackling fire, hearing your footsteps in the snow, running for your life when you hear the howl of a wolf, or hearing the bitter blizzard winds are just a few examples of the well done sound design. 

        The Long Dark began as a Kickstarter, and was successfully funded in October of 2013. From there, it launched on Steam early access, with just a survival mode, but the creator had a bigger vision for his game. In August of 2017, a full release of The Long Dark hit Steam, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and featured the story mode, Wintermute. I reviewed this game on the Playstation 4 Pro, and had a blast. If you are a fan of the survival genre, I can't recommend this game enough. It has everything that is expected in these types of games, and it executes them better than I have personally ever experienced. However, if you have never played a survival game, or are not a fan of the genre, this is definitely not the game for you. Even if you aren't a fan of survival simulations, there is no denying this game is executed well, and is a welcome edition to the genre. Are you playing The Long Dark? Let us know your thoughts, and make sure to give us your feedback. Play on, and as always, stay Hella Average.