Playing The Long Dark made us feel cold. Sure, the longer nights are slowly drawing in, but this ambitious port of Hinterlands' 2017 survival hit exudes such a frosty atmosphere that we were reaching for the blankets. The stylised visuals, muted use of colour and the sheer pitch-black oppression of the nights spent in this hostile world almost make it seep out of the console. Or maybe it's you seeping into it. Pretty difficult to tell in the dark.
The episodic content for The Long Dark is surprisingly good. The story itself is broken up into three episodes that follow William McKenzie and Dr Astrid Greenwood through their harrowing journey into the Canadian wilderness. It’s a great experience that truly places us within their boots and quite literally tasks us to make sure that both William and Astrid survive their encounters with the wild.
Survival is the most basic mode and brings with it relatively little hand-holding: your only goal is to not die. This mode is the most open-ended and has a variety of really interesting maps, which is why it’s good there are two other modes that are a tad more restrictive to draw in different types of players. Wintermute is the game's campaign, and it is being delivered in episodes. The first two episodes are available at launch, with subsequent instalments to follow. These two episodes already offer quite a lot of content, so after all five are released, it's going to be quite impressive. Wintermute is still, however, built around the survival mode, except with some cutscenes spliced in between areas, and some characters to latch onto and care about. This added structure is nice, and while the core narrative isn’t anything special – two people on a plane crash and you have to go searching for the other – the world building around it is exceptional.
Control-wise it's all very much adequate, though far from accessible in some ways – using any kind of projectile, all the way down to a lonely pebble, is an exercise in wildly varying aim; it'll take you a good few throws of said tiny rocks in order to learn exactly how your stone is going to sail through the air and hopefully bonk a poor little bunny rabbit on the head. It's a steep learning curve, and the game – and nature itself – really doesn't want you to live. Wolves and bears are one thing (well, two) but it's the onset of the jet-black night that will really be the reckoning of many survivors. It's not just "dark", it's blacker than the blackest black, times infinity. And if you're out of supplies – no matches or fuel for a fire – you're going to have a bad time.
The Long Dark is a survival game through-and-through. It’s especially unforgiving as it is rewarding and at times can really put you through some harsh punishment. It pits you against the elements in which darkness kills and the monsters that stalk the darkness are both hunger and thirst. You never know what’s waiting for you out in the wilderness and even stumbling upon an abandoned shack doesn’t necessarily offer a reprieve. With this being the wild we’re also sharing it with various Bears and Wolf packs. As threatening as these wild animals may be, the cold and darkness are top of the food chain.
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