First Impressions: The Long Dark

The Long Dark really is long, and often quite dark. And very dangerous.
This article is over 9 years old and may contain outdated information

Please note: As of this article, the game is in Version 2.00. As more features are released, parts of this article may become redundant.

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Open-world survival is arguably the most saturated video game genre right now, isn’t it? Minecraft, Terraria, Starbound, DayZ, H1Z1, Stranded Deep, The Forest, Rust, Don’t Starve… the list goes on. So you’d be forgiven for being cynical of yet another early-access, open-world survival game jumping on to the scene, some might say a bit late or behind the times. Does The Long Dark bring anything new to the table or is it rehashed ideas in an unoriginal setting? Let’s find out.

As soon as you open up the game, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s white. Oh so very white. The ground, the trees, the buildings, every inch is covered by bright, fluffy snow. Which, I’ll hand it to Hinterland Studios (The Long Dark developers), is fairly unique to the genre. It’s explained before you jump in that the cause for this ‘ice age’-esque phenomenon is a geomagnetic disaster, and you’re stranded in the northern Canadian wilderness. The exact reasoning for the disaster is supposedly revealed in the story mode, which won’t be released until the game leaves alpha.


The Long Dark has taken a realistic approach

Most games of this nature feature zombies or bandits, but The Long Dark has taken a more realistic route; the only thing to fear is nature itself. Wolves are the most common predator currently in this frozen landscape, however bears have also been added in V2.00. It’s apparent as you explore that the circumstances have had an effect on the wild predators, due to their inclination to attack at first sight rather than behaving more passively towards humans as is found in the real world.

Get too close and they’ll bark and charge towards you; you can flee by entering a nearby building if you’re lucky or when they catch you you’ll enter into a quick time event involving RMB and LMB. Spam click LMB to build up your strength then click RMB to strike the predator, eventually after a few cycles of this process the wolf will be injured and run off. The encounter automatically equips a weapon for you to use and the amount of damage you do is also dependent on the weapon itself and that weapon’s condition. For example, a prybar at 20% repair condition will do less damage than a hunting knife at 90%.


A wolf will die from a single shot to the head, a bear will not

If you’re lucky enough to find a rifle however, then you can avoid the QTE experience entirely. A wolf will die from a single shot to the head or two to the torso whereas bears will take between 2 and 5 shots to die and even then, you need to wait until it bleeds out. If a bear spots you before you can run or when you don’t have a weapon, there’s no chance of surviving. Loot wise, a bear corpse will provide 35kg of bear meat compared to only 6.5kg from a wolf.

You could spend tons of time exploring every nook and cranny

One of the biggest aspects of the game is the looting; every single abandoned house, vehicle and fishing hut is abundant with searchable areas such as drawers, cupboards and lockers. Not a single container is un-searchable, unless it’s been damaged. This means in a moderately sized house, you could spend a good 10 minutes exploring every nook and cranny for all the delicious Summit Soda that your frozen legs can carry.


The Long Dark also has an element of crafting with the materials and tools you’ll find scattered about the place, although it’s fairly simple. Navigate over to the crafting menu and you’re provided with a list of items possible to craft within the game; click through each one and it’ll tell you what materials are needed and whether you have enough of said required material. If you do, hit the craft button and voila; you’ve got a new item. If you don’t, time to keep exploring!

Your body is something you really need to keep an eye on: hunger, thirst, fatigue, and warmth

…one of the many abandoned beds found scattered across the Northern Canadian wilderness…

Hunger and thirst speak for themselves; if you find yourself getting hungry and/or thirsty (via the status bar found by pressing tab), eat/drink something and the relevant bar will decrease. You can fix your fatigue by sleeping in one of the many abandoned beds found scattered across the Northern Canadian wilderness, or by simply using your own bedroll. You get to choose how long you sleep for and the game will tell you exactly how many calories you burn too; eating food increases your calorie store, which is how many calories you can burn before lowering your condition, which is your general overall health.

Warmth is affected by your clothing; you start off with basic clothes (jeans, socks, shoes, coat, etc.) and you can find warmer clothes throughout the world (parkas, scarves, wool socks, etc.). Each piece of clothing has a warmth level and windchill level. It’ll tell you exactly how much of an effect it’ll have on your current levels, along with the condition of the item; an item with a higher repair condition will have a larger benefit to your warmth. 

Clothes can be repaired by finding a sewing kit and having pieces of cloth available to repair it with. Cloth can be obtained by harvesting useless pieces of clothing you find that’ll give you no benefit.


It all creates an intense environment

Hinterland Studios have created a very immersive and atmospheric world with The Long Dark. Hearing the frozen wind rushing past you as you search for the next shelter, the wolves howling as they search for their next prey, the tense, ambient music as you stumble upon a new area, it all creates this intense environment where you don’t know if you’ll see the sun rise again.

However, it’s important to remember that the game is currently still early in its alpha phase and with the introduction of more features and mechanics, my opinion on the game may change. If you’re not a fan of open-ended sandbox gameplay, keep an eye on it and wait for the story mode to be released. I’m definitely excited to see what it brings to the table. Currently, I feel like The Long Dark deserves a 6/10, however, I’m eager for that to increase as the game becomes more polished, especially the combat and crafting.

If you’re interested in a more visual representation, I have a first impressions video you can find here.

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Ford James
I'm a 19 year old guy who enjoys playing video games and making YouTube videos.