Indie Game Showcase: The Long Dark

With the growing interest in survival games – and more specifically, zombie survival games – not much has been produced that we could go so far as to call ‘realistic’. Certainly, there are ‘real’ aspects to a game: House alarms go off when you break a window, you have to cover the basic necessities (eating, sleeping, drinking), and, sometimes, you have to deal with the emotional baggage that come along with the end of the world. Or, at least your world. However, despite that, most of the games take a solid fantasy approach to the game. In other words, survival is second.

For instance, let’s look at The Forest and Project Zomboid. Both games focus on survival – in fact, there is nothing else to do but survive to the next day. Yet, that is not the immediate focus of the game. In The Forest, you focus primarily on the cannibals – where they are, their attitude towards you, having enough defenses to stave them off . . . you get the point. And Project Zomboid is no different (just substitute cannibals for zombies and you get the same idea). However, that seems to be coming to an end with Hinterland Games’s early access release: The Long Dark.
Just as with the other titles, The Long Dark lacks a preset goal other than surviving. And it goes further. There are no cannibals to fend off; there are no zombies to exterminate; there are no people to find; there is no one, but you. You, and the long, dark nights ahead.
The game takes place in the far flung reaches of the north. You spawn into the frozen wilderness with little but the clothes on your back and the fog of your breath to your name (that is lacking for the most part). With the cold setting in, you have to find shelter – quickly – and begin preparing to stake it out in what appears to be some back water of a campground.
Since the game focuses on survival without any flashy, flesh eating distractions, there has been a much heavier focus put into the survival mechanics. At the moment, there are four main concerns for your long term survival chances: food, water, sleep, and cold. Each of these are regulated in a handy-dandy tab along with items and things like that, but there are other features to the game as well – one in particular that has been causing players a great deal of problems.
Since they want to focus on survival alone, the developers put injuries within the game. Now, injuries come from two main sources at the moment – wolf maulings and sprained ankles. Wolf attacks are understandable. At the moment, there are only wolves and deer within the game, so it’s not surprising that they may attack the pink flesh sack that comes stumbling across them. However, the sprained ankles are a different story. It seems that, for a man with the outdoorsmanship to survive in the harshest of climes, he is surprisingly ungraceful and unawares. What I’m trying to get at here is the characters ability to not just sprain his ankle descending hills, but climbing them and walking on flat surfaces as well. It can be incredibly frustrating, to say the least.
Then again, the game is still in early access and has much more content coming its way. So, if you’re a survival nut, but find yourself annoyed with all of the gimmicky distractions put on by the other ‘survival’ games, then consider looking into The Long Dark for a change of sprained ankley pace.