The Long Dark
Developer: Hinterland Studio
Publisher: Hinterland Studio
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 17/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
I’m a sucker for survival games, so when the opportunity to review The Long Dark came through I jumped at the chance to review it. Playing The Long Dark on the Nintendo Switch isn’t my first experience with the game. I had previously played the game during its early access state on the Xbox One way back in 2017/2018. Back then The Long Dark was just a shell of what it is now and only contained two explorable areas and none of the episodic story.
Loading The Long Dark up on the Nintendo Switch, however, is a different story. What we have now is a fully fleshed out game with a pretty robust survival sandbox and a great self-contained episodic story mode. As bang for your buck goes, The Long Dark has enough content to see you through the harsh winter…in real life…not the game.
Winter Is Coming!
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.
We start the story as William McKenzie, who is stationed at a remote Airstrip. We follow William as he goes through the motions of a typical day whilst a blizzard wages outside. William soo receives a visit and a plea for help from Dr Astrid Greenwood, and its soon made apparent that the two have a shared dark history. Astrid pleads with William to take her into the wilderness to a remote village for reasons that she cannot explain. A reluctant William eventually agrees to the request purely down to their history and prepares to venture out into the ominous storm.
This opening scene has a nice little interactive sequence to it where William gets his plane ready for the arduous journey. Soon after this, the duo finds themselves out in the sea of the foreboding darkness. Before too long, a swirling flash of light fills the sky which signals the start of William and Astrid’s troubles. With the plane now unresponsive, William struggles to keep it airborne.
The story then picks up after the plane has crashed and we take control of an injured William McKenzie. William’s first priority is to provide first aid to his injured hand and then find shelter and warmth. Once this has been achieved, he can then start his search for the missing Doctor and that all-important help. All of this runs concurrently with the need to survive the elements which are anything but gentle with no guarantees of survival!
Walking In A Winter Wonderland
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.
The Long Dark brings basic human necessities to the forefront, and it becomes a delicate balance of managing; food, water and shelter. Anything and everything can also become a hazard with iced lakes and various tripping hazards just waiting to spoil your day. This also adds to a nice risk vs reward element as well where a well-timed shortcut could lead you to brief salvation or an untimely demise.
Throughout our time in the frozen wilderness were tasked with exploring and seeking out supplies. Its a constant chore, but it never actually feels like a burden to do so. There’s also a crafting component but its not as in-depth as games such as Minecraft or Ark: Survival Evolved in that we won’t be building elaborate forts or bases, but more fire pits and cave shelters. Clothing also affects our overall survivability and insuring that our clothing is in top condition is always a must. Hunting also comes into play, and we can create various traps and snares as well as being able to craft rudimentary bows, arrows and various other tools.
Whilst there are a lot of survival elements in play Hinterland Studio have stressed that these elements have been slightly relaxed. This is done in a way to make the experience more engaging. The Long Dark draws you in with its enticing gameplay and a strong sense of atmosphere. Whilst it suspends certain aspects of realism to achieve this, the game still feels realistic within its approach. There are times when the gameplay can feel a little repetitive. However, the sandboxes and modes aim to keep this fresh.
It’s fair to say that the narrative and gameplay are the strongest elements to The Long Dark. The art is very simplistic in style with the white landscapes, leaving a lot to the imagination of the player. The world, however, does do a very good job of painting a bleak, desolate world full of drudgery and despair for our protagonists. Looking too close can reveal poorly textured buildings and the occasional object clipping through each other. But given the sheer expanse of the Canadian wilderness, this can be overlooked.
The use of a musical score is clever in both its style and implementation. There are moments when the score is non-existent, and we only have the wind or the distant howling of wolves as a company. When the score does kick in its usually during moments of heightened tension and does a perfect job at capturing the frantic survival moments. The games ambience is well presented with the open-world feeling very claustrophobic at times.
Back In The Warmth
Overall The Long Dark is a very good survival game. Both the Wintermute story mode and the various sandboxes have a strong survival experience that can take hours to explore. For the more die-hard survivalist, there are added challenges that can be completed for a more hard-core experience. Though there are some graphical issues, these shouldn’t subtract you from experiencing The Long Dark. The whole experience is extremely engaging, and more often than not, you come out of a situation wondering what could have happened differently. Its foreboding and desolate landscape is a joy to wander around in, and the survival experience is one that’s worth venturing.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase The Long Dark from the Nintendo eShop by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.