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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Avatar image for dannydopamine8

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for sniperwol_basic

<< LINK REMOVED >> Nice to meet you. I like what you said

Avatar image for krazken

Looks fresh and interesting.

Avatar image for agamersparadise

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

Avatar image for Gamer_4_Fun

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

Avatar image for Selindrile

It's also about subpar indie games?

Avatar image for Gamer_4_Fun

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> 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.

Avatar image for 59Hertz

<< LINK REMOVED >> Hahaha. Oh boy..

Avatar image for KoRniTo

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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 ?

Avatar image for deadkingdg

<< LINK REMOVED >> 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.

Avatar image for 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...

Avatar image for WolfgarTheQuiet

<< LINK REMOVED >> I think art style looks great :)

Avatar image for kindlewithcare

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I think the same thing. I am excited to see more.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for miken

<< LINK REMOVED >> couldn't agree more. Star Citizen has gone nuts I'm not even sure what they're making anymore.

Avatar image for chippiez

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> A 60 million$ flop?

Avatar image for XNEXUS666X

<< LINK REMOVED >> 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.

Avatar image for seanwil545


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.

Avatar image for jj2112

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

Avatar image for 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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for hystavito

<< LINK REMOVED >> Just remember as soon as you include other players, the focus will often shift away from wilderness survival :).

Avatar image for notorious98

<< LINK REMOVED >> Kind of like the show Naked Castaway.

Avatar image for ferna1234

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for EdAl2112

People really seem to like these walking simulators.

Avatar image for foxrock66

this looks amazing

Avatar image for abcdefgabcdefgz

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

Avatar image for Bowser05

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

Avatar image for Cero89

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for Selindrile

<< LINK REMOVED >> You spelled it wrong twice! *twitch*

Avatar image for razamataz45

The Oregon Trail: Open World Edition.

Avatar image for IndremaLover

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