Summary
  • Developer: Hinterland Studios
 

Review: The past few years have seen the market inundated with survival games of various styles and flavors with varying degrees of success, or lack thereof. Zombies have been used as antagonists to the point where the undead have been beaten from undeath back to just plain dead all over again. Hinterlands The Long Dark takes a step back and uses mankind's oldest nemesis, Mother Nature herself, as your characters primary adversary. Taking place in the frozen wilderness of… Expand

Review: The past few years have seen the market inundated with survival games of various styles and flavors with varying degrees of success, or lack thereof. Zombies have been used as antagonists to the point where the undead have been beaten from undeath back to just plain dead all over again. Hinterlands The Long Dark takes a step back and uses mankind's oldest nemesis, Mother Nature herself, as your characters primary adversary.

Taking place in the frozen wilderness of Canada, The Long Dark provides the player with three current modes of play: The story mode, which as of this writing contains two chapters so far, where you take the role of a crashed bush pilot and learn the fate of Big Bear Island and its scant inhabitants after the emergence of a geomagnetic disaster which presents itself as an aurora in the sky. The second mode gives the player various challenges to complete for each such as retrieving a rifle from a specific location while being hunted by a bear that can only be defeated using the aforementioned rifle. The third and final mode consists of pure sandbox survival without any narrative presence, challenging you to survive as long as possible with multiple difficulties you can choose at the creation of a character.

For the sake of brevity, I'll only be going over the survival mode of play as it best defines what can be expected and encountered when playing the story and challenges. Story mode also exists in a somewhat incomplete state, each chapter or episode being released as they are created by Hinterland Studios. Currently, only two have been released, "Do Not Go Gentle" and "Luminance Fugue", with another three planned for the future. Simultaneously Hinterland has steadily improved the overall function and presentation of the core of the game, revising and restructuring things from the graphics to cooking mechanics since leaving early access. The sandbox is truly where The Long Dark shines and these changes have most impacted.

Upon starting a new sandbox you are presented with the choice of a starting region. Each presents its own level of difficulty which depends more on the knowledge and skill of the player as opposed to the character. Regions with more previous human presence than not will invariably be less difficult as more supplies and shelter are readily available to the player. Manmade resources such as clothing, food, medicine, and tools are a finite resource, however. Eventually, you're forced to rely on nature itself to provide you such things in the long term.

Hinterland has gone to great lengths to provide the experience of playing The Long Dark as realistic of an experience as possible. Clothing presents give and take between warmth, weight, windproof, and weight. Food will spoil and, if eaten, have the chance of afflicting you with food poisoning. Some cooked food and heated liquids will provide a warmth bonus for a duration. Tools will wear down with use and must be repaired or sharpened lest they break and become unusable. Weather can become hazardous, leaving you with limited visibility and, with inadequate clothing, lead you to hypothermia unless shelter or a heat source is created. But, depending upon the difficulty you choose, another threat presents itself in the form of The Long Darks predatory fauna.

Wolves and bears can be found roaming sporadically throughout each region. Even the small town of Milton isn't immune to their presence. A lit flare, a torch, firing a flare gun, or shooting a rifle should you be able to find one can sometimes be enough to keep them at bay until you can find shelter from them. But even the most docile ones won't be dissuaded if you've recently skinned and harvested a deer or caught fish. Scent markers will appear on your minimalistic HUD, letting you know that wolves will be able to track you down from much further away than normal. In the event of being attacked by a wolf, you are at least given the opportunity to defend yourself. Should you wander too close to a bear or anger them by attacking first you get treated to a first-person view of being mauled, left to wake up later with various injuries, torn clothing, and random items from your pack scattered about.

It's the culmination of such tiny details, both from a technical viewpoint and gameplay viewpoint, which lends a great atmosphere to the game. A minimal HUD that displays only the pertinent data. The sporadic, melancholy music that plays in the background while walking relative silence amidst a world devoid of humans. The added doses of realism in an otherwise unrealistic scenario. It all culminates into a "last man on earth" feeling in its portrayal of, as The Long Dark describes it, the quiet apocalypse. If you find your enjoyment in loads of action in your games, I'd say give this one a pass. If you're like me and enjoy an overall atmospheric and immersive experience, I'd say give The Long Dark a try. Hinterland Studios hasn't let the game leaving early access deter them from adding to the game and enhancing the player's experience. Close

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