Early Access Preview: The Long Dark

Posted by: 10/2/2014

When players load up The Long Dark, they are greeted with a warning. The warning is pretty simple. It says that The Long Dark should not be used to train oneself to survive in the wild. At first it seems like a humorous warning, until you load into the harsh condition of northern Canada.

After a geomagnetic disaster brings down the airplane you are traveling in, you awaken on in the cold snow of the Northern Wilderness with one goal: survive.

When you load into the world, you are given some initial supplies to survive with. Your character is clothed with basic winter gear, you have some matches, a bedroll, and other miscellaneous items. But you must find shelter and more supplies quickly, or else you will not survive long in nature.

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The Long Dark is unique in the fact that you have to survive against nature, and that is it – at least for now since this is an Early Access build. There are no zombies or monsters for you to fight. It is simply you versus the elements, and some wolves of course. It may sound easy, but the scarcity of items in the world leads to racing between deserted buildings, grabbing any supplies you come across.

One aspect of The Long Dark that the developers have already nailed is the mix of emotions you’ll go through during a run. At times you’ll feel incredibly desperate, keeping a close watch on your calories and your condition while you traverse the snowy landscape. Other times you will feel a sense of security when you find an abandoned house that has food and fuel inside. But it is pointless to spend too much time in the house as you go through food and fuel fast (and by fuel I mean fuel for fire or lanterns).

Right now the only available game mode in the alpha build is the sandbox mode. The game drops you in the middle of the wilderness, and you see how long you can survive. The developers plan to add a campaign to the game, as well as an additional map for the sandbox mode.

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On my third playthrough, I was able to find a dam that had a rifle and a bunch of food inside. For a while I felt like I could survive for days. That is until I started going through my food supply quickly to replace all the calories I used to walk to the dam. I quickly took a nap since I was inside and I wouldn’t freeze to death, and went back into the wilderness, looking for more supplies.

I stumbled upon a trapping lodge next. As I walked towards the lodge, I saw that there was smoke coming out of the chimney. Like any cautious survivor, I equipped my rifle. I know there are no human enemies in the game right now, but I couldn’t help feel like there was a threat on the other side of the door. There was nobody inside, and I came across a nice stash of food, first aid equipment, and rifle ammo. I was going to use it as a temporary home base for a few days. It was in an open location, and with smoke rising out of the chimney, it could be seen from a distance.

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The next morning I went looking for a new building with supplies. A neat feature in The Long Dark is footprints stay around for a long time in the snow. This means that you can follow your footsteps back to an established shelter rather easily. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that the footprints are not permanent. A wind storm had blown fresh snow over my footprints. This was when I got turned around, and froze to death in the middle of the night. I had survived for four days, but I know I could have lasted longer if I used another method to find my way back to the lodge.

After my third playthrough, I realized that Hinterland Studios has a brilliant premise already, and I can’t wait to see what they add in the future. The developers have been updating the game rather frequently, balancing the sandbox mode. There is no word yet on when the campaign will be added, but for $20, I would recommend jumping into this game right now. It is in a very playable state (you’ll still come across a few bugs), and is a very unique game.

PC Previews

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