When Steam introduced Early Access, it opened the flood gates for games like Rust, The Forest, and Hinterland’s The Long Dark. We’ve spent some time with each of these, and though they all have their merits, The Long Dark is the best of them.
The Long Dark has a bit of an odd distinction as being one of the only survival Early Access games to actually leave Early Access. On the way to reaching this point, Hinterland provided quite a lot of content. There are three primary modes, all of which are for the most part variations on the “survive until you die” core gameplay that the title offers.
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.
The reason you are hanging out in the Canadian wilderness is because of a global disaster that seems to have rendered electronics non-functional, as well as having caused a plethora of Earthquakes. It’s not clear if the entire world was impacted completely, but it seems to be implied. These narrative ideas create a tough, treacherous world where survival is not guaranteed. Wolves in particular had us for lunch far more times than we’d care to admit. That's not to say the world is without beauty though. The skyboxes and environments are actually quite beautiful, and the aurora's lighting up the night sky in particular are nothing short of breathtaking. Not only that, but they actually have plot relevance, making it even more interesting.
Finding enough food also proves a challenge as well. There are plenty of rabbits around to hunt, but the fact you have to personally break its neck and hear its death throes turned us off the whole thing. In addition, staying hydrated and warm and clothed and all manner of other important survival techniques factor into the game. It's strange to think that a game in which harvesting sticks to make a fire, and eating lots of tinned food are exciting mechanics, but here we are. Finding tins of peaches when scrounging through abandoned buildings might as well be like finding a gold mine. All the little things like that truly elevate the title.
This constant need to juggle many aspects of your well-being could very easily have been bogged into a bunch of menus filled with tedium – much like the infamous inventory system in No Man’s Sky – but despite actually consisting of a whole bunch of menus to navigate, managing everything feels easy to do and sometimes even tense. For example, if you really want to finish sewing up your socks so your feet don’t get frostbite but it’s almost dark out, you have to figure out a way to find light. Do you use your lantern and waste precious fuel or do you find a building and hole up inside and wait until you can just use natural light? Juggling all of these options makes for a surprisingly exhilarating experience, even though much of it is just in menus.
If all of this sounds like positive feedback, that’s because it is. Outside of a couple small things – the game’s third mode, Challenge, which is somewhere in between the Survival and Wintermute modes, feels unnecessary as it’s just a combination of the other two modes – there is virtually nothing to complain about with this title. Sure the frame rate chugs once in a blue moon, but the brunt of the games issues will have already been patched out by the time you read this. The 1.00 version of the game had a horrifically frequent issue with crashes that has mercifully already been rectified. While that was frustrating, it is to the game's credit that even with constant crashes we still found ourselves enjoying it.
The Long Dark is a strong survival title, possibly even the strongest of the entire genre. A beautiful but dangerous Canadian wilderness provides the backdrop to a challenging but largely satisfying fight for survival. While micromanaging every facet of your well-being while trying to survive might sound tedious in description, it actually ends up being fun, satisfying, and even tense. With three more episodes to come for this title's story mode, there's already tons of content to chow down on. Just watch out for the wolves.
Just an editor's note on this: we originally had a problem with this game where it would crash virtually every few minutes. We contacted the developer, and they sent us the patch notes for v1.03, which launched today.
We decided to hold the review until we could test with the patch installed, and that fixed the crashing issue (to the best of our knowledge).
If you are going to buy this game, make sure that you download and install the patch before playing.
Anybody know if the Ps4 version comes with a FOV slider?
@HefHughner It does!
This is great news!
What is the price on this. Sounds really good if the price is right. I would love to get a good non-zombie survival game. Err there's no zombies, right?
@ellsworth004 $35 US, which isn't exactly cheap, but there's a lot of content, and it's really good too. And nah, zombies are not in the cards. You against mother nature!
@gbanas92 $35 not bad with alot of content. I was hoping it was below $40. So good deal! Gonna have to watch some game play, but I may just pick this up. Thanks for the info
I was already super excited to play this, happy it's transferred well to PS4, will be picking this up very soon.
Good review! Any pro support?
No flaws listed yet 8/10? Surely there was something that caused you to drop points? Maybe it was just lacking fun factor?
@sketchturner It doesn't work like that.
@get2sammyb How does it "work" then? Going off the scoring policy, this reads like a 9. It even says in the review the only real issue was the third mode being unnecessary, and that there was virtually nothing else wrong with the game.
A "9" is for games that are among the best for their genre, and have very few minor issues. That's what this review read like, not an 8. So i guess if it doesn't work like how myself or @sketchturner described, can we get some clarity?
@fuzzy833 If I remember correctly, it's in the pipeline, but not implemented currently. Not sure if that'll end up getting scrapped or not though!
@sketchturner Nah nothing like that. I thought it was quite fun. More thrilling to struggle to survive, but still fun nonetheless! And it's not a traditional problem per se, but it's more just that the games lacking that little bit of extra polish, which makes sense. Hinterland's a rather small team (25 people or something I think?), and a game this large would be hard to smooth entirely. It was an oversight on my part to not actually mention that in the review proper though, sorry about that!
Sounds cool,but i just find cell shaded graphics obnoxious - Pass.
Just downloaded. I'm from yukon Canada and love survival sandboxe's. Hope it's as good as I think!!!
Can't find this anywhere on UK PSN. Says above in "Game Info" box that it was released in UK/EU on 1 August.
@sketchturner being a survival game is a flaw
@Nightcrawler71 Got pushed back last minute due to some PEGI rating issues. It's releasing the 8th now I believe. THanks for the heads up on that though, gotta fix that!
@sketchturner @RedMageLanakyn We work off a scoring policy. An 8/10 for example: "An accomplished experience, these titles excel in crucial areas, mitigating any shortcomings encountered elsewhere. A game awarded this score may have an outstanding gameplay loop or an incredibly compelling story. Other releases awarded this score may be content confidently re-treading familiar ground."
In the case of this review, Graham talks about the third pillar of the game, Challenges, being a weak link. He also talks about performance issues.
A 10/10 is this: "The pinnacle of a given genre at the time of release, these titles raise the bar in virtually all critical categories. You can be sure that a game awarded this score has the highest quality presentation and expertly honed gameplay, but also breaks boundaries and pushes the industry forward in a meaningful manner."
Ultimately, we don't just look at a game and tot up the flaws until we determine a score. If that was the case I would have given Vostok Inc a 10/10 recently because it's hard to fault, but it's not a 10/10 because (as described above) I don't believe Vostok Inc is something that "pushes the industry forward" or "breaks boundaries" and that's what our scoring policy stipulates.
@get2sammyb I know about the scoring policy, and my point, and sketchturner's, was that after reading such a good review, it was a little baffling as to why it didn't hit a 9. I'm not saying his review is bad, or that it's a bad score, or that it will affect sales or purchases. I just read what looked like a 9 according to the same page you were quoting from. I'm not going to pick apart piece by piece what was said and compare it to the policy, because it's not a huge deal, i was just curious as to why it got an 8 instead of a 9.
@gbanas92 OK thanks
@gbanas92 hey sorry quick question, the wintermute mode, is this actually complete-able? Like its not just see how long you can survive but you can actually finish/beat it? I like survival games but I hate having no ending or not being able to 'win'
@bbtothe yep! Well eventually. Only the first two of 5 episodes are out for now, but that mode is beatable and has an end point.
@gbanas92 awesome thanks, will keep an eye on it
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