The Long Dark

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The minions of the Indie Skunk made the mistake of telling Its Stinkiness and It got really upset. It started complaining about how unfair it was that “the Jupiter guy with the Edison cars” outbid It.

Our Master went on rambling about all the other times that It has been cheated out of things that were ITS idea (among others It mentioned the Internet, the saxophone, shoulder pads and, for some reason, France) and when it became obvious that Its loyal minions were not paying attention anymore, Its Stinkiness decided to “focus on Its other businesses”.

Since Its only other “business” is this website, It started checking our content and found the celebrated post (well, brother Tagonius and I really like it) Our Top 5 Indie Games—Or how we stopped being productive citizens and became minions of the Indie Skunk.

It came to Its attention how this minion promised there to write an article about his favourite game ever, The Long Dark by Hinterland Studio Inc., and he never did.

So Its Most Glorious and Venerable Stinkiness, the formidable pagan god known as the Indie Skunk and also as, uh, DJ Furr, started chasing yours truly through the Skunk Tower chanting “liar, liar, pants on fire”. Brother Tagonius joined soon (of course) and they actually tried to set the aforementioned pants on fire.

So, long and full-of-unnecessary-details story short, this minion is now hiding in a closet and writing the promised article.

These are my only pants.

What came beforeThe long development of The Long Dark

The Long Dark is the brainchild of Raphael van Lierop, who was formerly involved in the development of some Triple-A titles, such as Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, which he directed. It was after the completion of that game that he decided to do his own thing.

And so, in 2013, Hinterland was born. The team included other developers like Marianne Krawczyk (writer of the God of War games) and Ken Rolston (lead designer and writer of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind), among others.

Also in 2013, and after obtaining seed funding from the Canada Media Fund, a successful Kickstarter campaign was launched and The Long Dark was born.

It is remarkable that the game has been in continuos development since then, and that the fruitful updates, both in content and communication from Hinterland, have been broadly celebrated by the game’s players. In a world of disappointing, underdeveloped Triple-A releases that often feel like outright scams, it is worthy of notice.

As a testament to this, the game had sold 5 million copies by 2021 (according to Wikipedia).

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a howlThe story

I should probably tell you, dear follower, that I won’t say much about the Story mode of The Long Dark, since it is not finished. I will only say that I played the first two episodes (which I really liked) and, as a player, realized that I’d rather wait until the story is completed. Yes, this minion is the kind of minion that binge-watches Netflix shows. Sue me. I could promise to write another article when the Story mode is done but my pants and I have learned the lesson.

In any case, the following premise is the same for all the game modes.

Great Bear Island, Canada. Winter. A geomagnetic disaster strikes. Electronics cease to work, planes fall from the sky and even the wildlife is affected by it. Wolves turn openly hostile, changing their usually shy behaviour and hunting you down.

You are cold and alone. And you must survive.

So begins The Long Dark.

Stuff your eyes (and ears) with wonderThe world

One of the best things about The Long Dark is its immersive atmosphere. The same is achieved with its unique art style and an outstanding soundtrack and sound design.

The art style is somewhere between realism and abstract art, introducing the player to a recognizable, yet different world where everyday objects coexist with ethereal skies. It is as credible as beautiful. For a far better and deeper explanation this minion recommends the article The Sublime Scenery of The Long Dark, by Tristan Ignas-Menzies.

The engine behind the graphics is Unity. The game is well optimized, so it doesn’t demand a too powerful PC if, as in my case, that is your platform of choice.

Noir and Heritage filters.

The player can choose, in addition to the regular display mode, between two different image filters, Noir and Heritage (which resembles old school TV nature documentaries). This minion strongly recommends the contextual HUD setting, that hides the same and only shows the icons that require attention (and the full HUD with the touch of a button, which is helpful sometimes).

As per the excellent soundtrack, composed by Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan, it couldn’t be more on point.

This soundtrack is wisely different in the Story and the Survival modes, switching between the more folklike and elaborated music of Story mode and the minimalistic one of Survival mode.

In Survival mode the musical cues are sporadic and, when they break the silence of the quiet apocalypse, they underline each moment perfectlyThe mysterious melody accompanying us while we explore a cave system. The sudden, elevating motive that makes us be even more in awe of what we find while exploring. The ominous, dark score of danger and what can be imminent death. Every part contributes to the immersive atmosphere of The Long Dark.

One of the haunting, beautiful pieces of the Survival mode OST

Great Bear Island, the game’s location, has an impressive extension of over 50 square kilometre and (currently) 13 regions. There are mountains, forests, frozen rivers and lakes, cave systems, mines… and other surprises. There is, therefore, plenty to explore and much to find.

Since The Long Dark is a game about survival in the wilderness, there is a gorgeous dynamic weather system that has a direct impact on gameplay. Besides the occasional, and never to be trusted, bright blue sky, blizzards, fog and snow will affect us in different, often lethal ways.

Welcome to The Long DarkThe gameplay

This minion still remembers the first time he played The Long Dark. It was 2016 and the game was, of course, way different from what it is nowadays, let’s not forget its long, fruitful development. Nonetheless its essence was the same, it pays to have a clear concept in mind as Hinterland did/does.

I tried the Survival mode. I died SOON, and so I did the next 20 times. I was not familiar at all with the concept of “permadeath” and I just couldn’t see the point of it. So after a few hours of really frustrating failing I gave up.

But the seed had been planted and it didn’t take long until I tried again. And again. And again.

I was, after all, in love with the world of The Long Dark from the first moment. And the whole permadeath thing started growing on me. It was a clearly a challenge. A really steep learning curve. And, at the same time, exploring Great Bear Island was a form of meditation. There were, and still are, those moments of contemplation between tense, dangerous situations (under the shadow of permadeath) that are full of awe, wonder and contemplation.

After 6 years playing (on and off, more on than off) and 897.6 hours of gameplay (I don’t have a problem, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM), this minion is still amazed by the scope of Great Bear Island, by how I always find something new and how, no matter how good I think I am at it, the quiet apocalypse always finds a way to remind me that maybe I actually suck at it and that “little” permadeath thing is always waiting (those players that have survived for, let’s say, 500 in-game days and suddenly suffer cabin fever while there is a blizzard know what I mean).

(Yes, Master, sorry, Master)

This minion was just found in the closet by his Most Magnanimous Master and Its Stinkiness is reminding me that nobody cares about my weird crushes on video games and my insufferable melodramatic tendencies and that maybe I should actually talk about the gameplay without more “pedantic and poor attempts at poetry”.

So I guess that’s what I’m going to do.

(No, Master, I don’t know why my pants refuse to catch fire)

Chilled to the boneThe gameplay (once more without feeling)

Dear follower, if you have never experienced The Long Dark and you like survival games, you are going to love this one. It will definitely keep you on your toes.

It is a difficult game. In Survival mode there are several difficulty settings (and you can customize your own one). But even the easiest one is hard.

You may (what the heck am I saying), I mean you WILL be killed by wolves, bears, moose (you will never find moose cute again), hypothermia, food poisoning, bloodloss, some other charming ways to die that I don’t want to spoil and, mostly, by your own false sense of security and catastrophic mistakes.

Spoiler alert: That bear is not cuddling you.

First things first, your main concerns will be not freezing to death and avoiding dehydration and starvation.

There are also certain skills that will help you to survive and that, the more you use, the better will work.

This is one of the best things about The Long Dark, improving those skills will definitely make you a better survivor BUT will also make you feel invincible sometimes, which is a huge mistake.

Nonetheless, you should totally do your best to improve them. There is a RPG component to the gameThe succesful use of your skills depends on percentages. The better your skill, the better chances you’ll have to start a fire, to hunt that deer or to put a moose down with a single shot of that rifle you found.

Yep, dressing like that will probably land you in jail in real life.

Maintenance of your gear and encumbrance are also key to the gameplay.

The better your clothes and the better their condition, the better you will resist the neverending cold of the quiet apocalypse. This also affects fundamental tools like the hunting knife and the hatchet. Not finding them soon and letting them break once you have them will lead to a couple of the charming ways to die mentioned before.

And if you carry too much gear, it will slow you down, preventing you from climbing and improving the chances of spraining an ankle, which would make you move even slower and…

If you catch my drift, the game mechanics have to do with pieces upon pieces upon pices of inventory managing decisions AND understanding the game’s world and mechanics that should never be taken lightly. Your life literally depends on it. Once more, a steep but rewarding learning curve. That will get easier as you learn it. Duh.

There is also a minimal crafting aspect. It will become more important the longer you survive but it is not the usual cumbersome, boresome crafting concept of other survival titles.

You may craft clothes, tools and a couple of helpful outdoors “constructions”. No, dear follower, you will not be building your own cabin or anything like that. It is not that kind of survival game. And personally I welcome it.

In order to craft stuff, you will of course need materials and some specific locations/workshops for certain items (I get why I wouldn’t be able to craft bullets in a cave, for example).

But the process is pretty straightforward, the carefully crafted (the Indie Skunk is daring me to say “craft” one more time) inventory/condition/map/everything in-game menu system is really clear and helpful for that.

In a game called The Long Dark, darkness is also your foe, or course. It will be annoying when looting a cabin without a light source. But potentially lethal if your torch dies when you are deep in a cave. And every single light source you may find will not last.

The first time an aurora lights up the night sky you will be happy about it (they look awesome after all) but that feeling will probably not last. I will not spoil aurorae for the new players but they definitely affect the gameplay.

So far this 897.6 hours minion has failed to do that.

In addition to the Story and Survival modes, there are challenges and seasonal events. Both of them are the final test for that steep learning curve. They are hard as hell.

Challenges will dare you to achieve a specific goal, usually within a time limit.

Seasonal events only happen for a limited time during certain times of the year (duh). There was a Halloween one, Escape the Darkwalker, that is now a fixed challenge and that, combined with the Heritage filter, will delight any Horror fans.

There is plenty to do in The Long Dark.

The path is the goalOpinion rhymes with minion

Dear follower, if you have made it this far (the Indie Skunk and brother Tagonius are not betting on it and are smirking about it), I hope that you enjoyed this article.

This minion is obviously very passionate about The Long Dark. I’ve been playing video games for a long, long time and it’s the only game I always come back to.

It has always been there when I was in dark places andNo, Master, I am not crying. You are crying (sob). Yes, Master, I do miss my mommy.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more domestic abuse way less entertaining than the one in that YouTube’s celebrity couple trial. Also for more reviews of the most amazing indie games.

Hail the Indie Skunk!

One response to “The Long Dark”

  1. Thank you for nice information. I love every Indie Skunk review, though my favorite minion is Brother Tagonius.

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