After two hours with The Long Dark, the Unity designed first-person survival game from Hinterland Studios, a horrible existential awareness came over me. I was excited about surviving the Canadian wilderness after a global incident had laid waste to, meh… you’ve heard it all before.
This enjoyment would be ever the more special as I would play The Long Dark from the safety of my armchair, which I lifted from the corner of my street five years ago playing the real life survival horror simulation of life in London. But even here, in the warmth and protection of my modern conveniences, I knew I could not endure. It was then, as I crumpled dead for tenth time from freezing to death, it sunk in.
I couldn’t survive The Long Dark.
I would be doomed in the wilderness by its standards. But The Long Dark has utterly stupid standards. Now, I’m not saying that I’m by any stretch of the imagination Ray Mears, or that Welsh guy who is like the orienteering Opera Winfrey. I can’t chop a bear up and use its carcass as a boat. I can’t craft special clothing made of leaves to survive the cold, harsh rains of Monsoon season. I can’t drop off the side of a cliff without falling off the side of a cliff. I can scowl beneath an umbrella in mild drizzle and tut loudly at offensive puddles. That’s what I can do.
Despite this, there are still a few realities about life on planet Earth that five years of secondary school science has gifted me.
For example, I don’t know how many wildernesses you’ve been in. Personally, I haven’t been in that many. But each one I’ve been in has had a campfire, on which I have heated things. Like water. Now, I have always had to bring a container to put the water in, either from home, or from a camping shop that where I spent a huge amount of money to never use any of the items again. I have always had to put the water in the container, by hand, and hold it over the fire. I thought this was the case everywhere in the world.
Well apparently NOT in the Canadian wilderness. In Canada, which is obviously the better America or Britain or anywhere, they don’t settle for normal planet earth style campfires that are subject to petty universal laws. Their campfires have ethereal selectable drop down menus, from which you can select containers you can conjure from the flames. That’s right folks, Canadian campfires are essentially rudimentary molecule manipulation machines.
Other things you might need to survive, like food or wood, you have to find those in Canada. But plastic containers derived from oil which takes millions of dollars in research, months of hazardous environmental drilling and thousands of hours of man power before being sent through intricate industrial processes to produce, can be summoned on whim from the most basic of Canadian campfires. If only the Canadian government knew this. They’d be rolling in the potential profits from Campfire Container exports.
The Long Dark is probably the most infuriating gaming experience I’ve had in years. Why? Selective Reality.
There are a couple of positives. You can absolutely tell that there is a talented team behind this. There has been a great deal of attention given to the game, it looks great and the challenges in most cases feel legitimate, but these good points are overshadowed by the game’s bigger issues. It’s just a bit dull.
For me there are so few positives. I attempted to play through the Story Mode but the voice acting and cut scenes was so bad it was unbearable. My housemate mentioned it was worse than the first Resident Evil. I’d have to agree.
In a world with Uncharted, Heavy Rain, and Until Dawn the importance of well developed narrative is an increasing factor in a games success. The Long Dark doesn’t offer that. But then, if you can conjure elaborate physics with your mind through a campfire, it’s not offering much in the way of survival realism either.