The Long Dark Is a Brutal Yet Beautiful Twist on the Survival Genre

Alone in the woods.

What is it about the survival genre that inspires such grim scenery? You've got DayZ with its zombies and decaying cities, The Forest with its mysterious caves full of dead bodies and cannibals, and Rust with its ramshackle player homes and gun-wielding bandits. These are games where the world around you is often just as dire as the task of staying alive.

The Long Dark is not one of those games. Developed by Canadian startup Hinterland, a team comprised of veterans from studios such as Relic, Ubisoft, and Volition, The Long Dark drops players into a gorgeous and highly stylized vision of the northern wilderness. Its striking art design blends a clean, minimalist look with vivid colors and exaggerated angles to create a setting that feels like a piece of hand-sketched concept art sprung to life. The Long Dark is, in a word, beautiful.

But there's a twist. What you soon realize is that this is one of the most brutal, unforgiving survival simulations to date. It doesn't just present you with a meter to gauge your hunger; it tells you the precise number of calories stored in your body, and how many of those calories you're currently burning per hour. You have to keep tabs on not only the outside air temperature, but also the windchill factor and the warmth bonuses for each piece of clothing. Forget to stack enough wood in the fire before you crawl into your bedroll and you could very well freeze to death in the middle of the night.

Indeed, death is constantly peering over your shoulder in The Long Dark. As a bush pilot who's crash-landed in the frozen Canadian wilderness, you're left wandering through deep snowbanks and dense forests as you search for anything to help you survive, whether it's a can of peaches you find in an abandoned logging camp or a pair of boots you've unceremoniously pilfered from an icy corpse.

In my first playthrough, I managed to find a ranger watch tower stocked with food and equipment. There was a fireplace, bottled water, and enough beef jerky and chocolate bars to last me for days. The only problem was, I was perilously low on firewood. With the sunset casting a yellow glow across the horizon, I could tell things were about to get real bad real soon.

So I set off in search of firewood, descending from the cabin's hilltop perch just as the sun began to set. After wandering around for long enough to see my character's breathing become more and more strained, I found enough wood to last me through the night. And just as I began to proceed back toward the cabin, a blizzard set in and visibility dropped to practically zero.

I could no longer see the cabin perched atop the hill, or even the hill for that matter. Just a fierce snowstorm and a tragic lack of any maps or compasses. I did my best to get my bearings, but to no avail. I wandered around for what felt like hours only to die cold, starving, and alone.

In my next playthrough, things went better. I survived the first night before setting out in search of supplies the next day. Feeling confident, I found myself running through the snow in an effort to soak up as much of the picturesque scenery as I could. And just as I crested a large snowbank, I spotted a lone backpack practically calling out to me from across the way. I dashed toward it only to discover that the drop down from the snowbank was more precipitous than I realized. With a nasty pop, I sprained my ankle and had no choice but to limp gingerly toward the bag of supplies.

I searched through the bag, but it was just food--no medical supplies. Without any bandages or painkillers to treat the injury, I painfully trudged off in search of more supplies. But as it turns out, I wasn't the only one canvassing the woods that afternoon. In the distance, a wolf spotted me limping along. He barely had to run with the condition I was in.

The Long Dark does not hold your hand. It's a harsh, demanding survival experience that punishes you for your carelessness and rewards you for studying every last hazard before you. And even with all the data it throws at you--hit tab to pull open the interface and you'll see all kinds of calories and kilograms and status bars--there's a certain elegance to it all. It leads to a situation where the most satisfying reward is simply being able to exist in this place for that much longer.

And that, I think, is what makes this game so alluring. The survival genre is a crowded place and it's getting more crowded by the day. But so far, The Long Dark seems to be one of the few games in this genre focused on capturing the solitary wonder of fighting to staying alive in the brutal wilderness. It's a game that relies on this idea that the natural world is a big, beautiful, dangerous place and we're a small and insignificant part of it. There are no enemy players waiting to loot your gear, no zombies roaming the woods. It's just you against the elements.

That being said, The Long Dark is a game that's still very much in its early stages. While Hinterland is working on a full story mode, as of right now The Long Dark exists only as a survival sandbox available to those who donated to the Kickstarter last year. That will change in September when The Long Dark makes its way onto Steam Early Access. It will release with the survival sandbox at first, followed by the story mode once the game hits completion.

You can find out more about The Long Dark on the game's official website.

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Discussion

126 comments
dannydopamine8
dannydopamine8

Im glad im not one of those stupid hipster people who think "Crap graphics are art" 

TheDoovdePlayer
TheDoovdePlayer

I'm not trying to be funny but, with the right mod combination, you can actually almost achieve this very concept in Skyrim, albeit with NPCs around the place. This concept of lone survival is very interesting but I don't think, unless the story is "Last of Us" quality, that this will be as successful as it is teasing to be. Just my 2 cents.

nicolasetespqr
nicolasetespqr

Ok, I'm reading so much nonsensical comments in this video that I feel I don't have the strenght to start replying one by one... so I'll put it short and let each person take the hint: YOUR ARGUMENT SUCKS. NOT EVERYONE THINKS LIKE YOU AND HAS YOUR SAME TASTES. STOP TRYING TO FORCE YOUR SHITTY IDEAS ON OTHERS WITH SUCH CHEAP ARGUMENTS.



Thanks, have a good day. 

krazken
krazken

Looks fresh and interesting.

agamersparadise
agamersparadise

It looks really nice, should be interesting to see where this leads too.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

PC gaming, it's not ALWAYS about technical prowess :)

KoRniTo
KoRniTo

This looks like it could be really good. Different from the pack.

j_kizi
j_kizi

I appreciate the unique art style this game tries to bring. It's good to see the industry experiment with different approach to design, in my opinion it makes things fresh. I for one wouldn't like if all games took the "hyper photorealistic graphics" road. Variety is always welcomed.  

Talavaj
Talavaj

Chocolate, Beef Jerky and bottled water ? What is this, a survival simulator for city kids ? Thousands of people live in these conditions, even willingly so. 

You can eat and drink virtually anything in the wild, how exactly do you think all those animals survive outside ?

horosavinXX
horosavinXX

not that the visuals are the most important thing but, in my opinion, it doesn't look too good - neither graphics nor design.

i suppose that the gameplay must be it's strong point...


ditronus
ditronus

I'm a huge fan of survival/Crafting games, and Rust is probably at the top.

However, I really wish that all these survival games would stop showing up as early access games. There's a bit too many early access games now that want players to support their development instead of purchasing a completed product. That's not entirely bad, but it can be.

Although Rust is my favorite, the development process has slowed to a crawl, and I've long since left it. Even though they have garnered tons of resources to expand production by hiring on more staff, they stick to a barebones crew that keeps progress low and their margins high. These alphas are lasting years or more; they're far from being in alpha state.

Early access disclaimers or not, these products are being released too early.

jj2112
jj2112

Looks pretty similar to Miasmata then, which is interesting but just a slideshow on my PC.

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

Sounds and looks interesting, thanks for the news/article about this game, I have thought about games like this from time to time, myself, looking forward to playing this, when it's released, or when it goes early acsess 

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

i actually have been wanting this more than a zombie survival game. A game that sets you in a land thats just YOU and theres no one else on the planet and you have to figure out what to eat, how to get water, how to survive animals in the wilderness and diseases etc. I think that would be really interesting. Have a The Sims like survival system.  So if you take a risk and eat random mushrooms, you can get really sick. But the elements and animals in the wild are your enemy not zombies. You have to learn how to use a stick and make fire.  Have TONS of real life animals in the wilderness from every creature you can think of including birds, monkeys, gorillas, bears, lions, tigers, panthers, elephants, alligators. Everything you can think of.. Charging hippos if you annoy them.. Poisonous plants. Sloths.


Also in multiplayer all players can make and build their own houses or dwellings out of local resources. So you can actually see other peoples real houses they have built. So you could have houses built on sides of cliff faces, or in the forests or on top of trees. People can build their own transport systems. using natural resources. Rock and stone and wood. Make your own clothes etc to.


Like set it in 100'000 BC or something and a massive landscape.

ferna1234
ferna1234

i don't intend to be an asshole, but the visual design looks more lame than striking to me.

wyshouldi02
wyshouldi02

Loving the look of this! Even though I really can't stand the idea of early access, I will seriously consider picking this game up in September.

EdAl2112
EdAl2112

People really seem to like these walking simulators.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Im glad to see anything thats not an fps game and that is trying something different.

Bowser05
Bowser05

This sounds really intriguing. I can't wait until this comes out. I'd love to give it a go.

Cero89
Cero89

I don't think the survival genre is a crowded one. If anything we need more survival or survival horror games around.

divinejester
divinejester

This sounds like a more realistic version of Don't strave. Don't strave is more cartoony but it basically works the same way.

razamataz45
razamataz45

The Oregon Trail: Open World Edition.

IndremaLover
IndremaLover

It's this kind of off-beat, inventive stuff that give me hope for the future of games.


Sgt-Damain
Sgt-Damain

Looks interesting, but this is far from beautiful.

thermalmotion
thermalmotion

This sounds pretty great, I'm just hoping this one doesn't languish in Early Access for too long. Bugs and glitches ruin the immersion for me.

cbxero
cbxero

Game looks cool. I tried Don't Starve, I'll give this one a shot if it ever comes out.

dannydopamine8
dannydopamine8

i dont get it, all i heard was some stupid voice and crap graphics

deadkingdg
deadkingdg

@Talavaj Having a fair bit of survival training, even if you can eat a lot of things in the wild in summer, in winter, food is scarce. Many animals just hibernate through winter. Also, every living beings have a different digestive system. We may be omnivore and thus have more possibilities than many animals, we cannot digest everything some of them do. So it's not really "virtually anything". Not knowing the difference between different plants could kill you. Some of the good ones even look a lot like some of the bad ones, making things much harder.

miken
miken

@ditronus couldn't agree more. Star Citizen has gone nuts I'm not even sure what they're making anymore. 

XNEXUS666X
XNEXUS666X

@ditronus Yeah that's it, I kinda think since they've already got our money it takes away that drive and desire to deliver their best work as soon as possible.

hystavito
hystavito

@nyran125tk Just remember as soon as you include other players, the focus will often shift away from wilderness survival :).

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

@Selindrile @Gamer_4_Fun subpar, above the pack, you name it, we have it. Diversity can be an amazing thing and rating is just a personal number if anything.

seanwil545
seanwil545

@XNEXUS666X @ditronus 

Kinda reminds me of Performers, Artists, Musicians. Some of their best work is early in their careers...when they are hungry and on the grind.

brockelley
brockelley

@xantufrog @Sgt-Damain right and next you're going to say the pre-rendered backgrounds of Destiny's Beta show how powerful the systems are... puh. lease.

gamingfriendly
gamingfriendly

@jack00 @dannydopamine8 Gaming is going down hill more and more every 5 to 10 years and every new gen of players brings it down even more as they grew on crap so they demand even worse crap and so the cycle repeats.

Kinguard73
Kinguard73

@jack00 No Jackoo I really DON'T like the new gen of gamers Bunch of mouth breathing COD and EA Sport freaks that endless rebuy the same game year after year.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

I don't f*****g get it. Dumb as dog sh!t new gamers, and cynical older gamers.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@gamingfriendly

Games are better than ever. Some policies and franchises could depart with haste, but in no way has gaming gone down hill. I'm always amazed, and fully appreciate what games look like and play like today. People, from time to time, do suffer from nostalgia (as do I), but those games aren't as good as you remember them--they were fun though.

jack00
jack00

@dannydopamine8 @jack00  You're right, I didn't see the artstyle and graphic direction that will make this game appealing even after 10 years, I didn't see the atmospheric setting this game will plunge the gamer into, I didn't see the challenge of surviving against nature, it was just a pile of crap... fuk this game.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@Kinguard73 CoD has indeed become the same as those EA Sports franchises. I think those people that do buy such games year after year, are casual as a gamer can be. They're not really concerned about whether a new engine was used to create that game, whether the AI is revolutionary, etc. That said, since the franchises are massive even people who are more than a casual gamer, are sucked into it, since you wanna play with your mates n' all.

123whatever
123whatever

@Devils-DIVISION so which one are you? - i think i got it.  the mouth of a child, the wits of a petty thug, and the desire to put everyone else down whose opinion doesn't match their own in some messed-up form of self-reassurance. those are right next to fan boys in the dictionary.. we call them douchebags. 

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@123whatever

LOL! Offended by the realisation that you fell into one of the two categories?

Which opinion did I bring down (I missed that part)?

Also, so as to save myself from suffering another one of your banal rants, and since I'm mortified by your description of me, do I have to agree with everyone's comment, henceforth, or are there specific comments that are still OK? 

Oh White Knight, defender of the defenseless, protector of the realm of Gamespot, here me out, fvck off back to sleep.