Lesson One: Being cold sucks.
Lesson Two: Being on fire is worse.
The Long Dark is an exploration and survival game by Hinterland Games. The early access is currently available on Steam. The only play mode available is sandbox but they are working on a story mode to come.
You can choose to be either Jennifer Hale or David Hayter and crash your plane with surprisingly few injuries into the northern Canadian wilderness. Then you have to survive. Sound easy? There are three difficulty settings for the sandbox mode. Pilgrim (wildlife leaves you alone), Voyageur (stuff attacks you if you get close) and Stalker (everything hates you and wants you to die). I wanted to get the feel for the game’s environment and be able to chill out and take pretty screenshots so my first playthrough was on the easy ‘Pilgrim’ setting. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good screenshots while I was frantically trying to make it through the night after my last fishing line snapped and I had not yet found any other source of food. I made it to morning and ventured out into the blizzard to find some more food. I suppose you are supposed to wait out blizzards as it is -1000000 degrees centigrade and impossible to navigate. However I had no choice, I could stay where I was a starve or put on all 4 pairs of socks I had found and brave the cold. …and I got lost. I couldn’t even find my way back. Bloody pine trees all look the same. So with Jennifer Hale reminding me that she was bloody cold and would quite like to go inside I tried to light a fire. It was too windy so I tried again snuggled nice up close to a fallen log. The only angle the fire would light was directly beneath my feet sheltered from the blustering winds. It lit! Toasty warm flames licked around the cedar logs, and my trousers! Argh. 2% health left and just great, the fire went out already. Dizzy and rather crispy I clawed my way up and over a snowbank and saw salvation. A tiny cabin lay across a frozen lake with a plume of smoke coming from the chimney. Inside it was only -5 rather than -1000000 and never have I been so happy to see a fairly poorly drawn bag of beef jerky on a rectangular representation of a coffee table.
From then on my luck turned. To prevent the embarrassment of getting lost again I drew myself a map (which later turned out to be hugely inaccurate, but nevertheless lifesaving) and eventually found myself the one in game item which makes this game in my opinion. The hunting rifle. For hours I had been finding 0.22 rifle rounds, teasing me for what was to come. Once I had the smooth wooden curve of the rifle in my hands, nothing was safe. Blam! Blam! No starving for me! Venison for everybody!
In my confidence I thought I’d mastered this game and plunged into what I would describe as the normal difficulty ‘Voyageur’ setting. Whereas in my previous playthrough all I had to worry about was getting lost, cold and hungry. Now the wolves you can hear howling through the trees are hungry for gamer flesh. The wolves won’t actively seek you out on this setting, but if you get too close they won’t hesitate to chomp on your face meats. Around the internet you won’t find much talk about this game but you will hear one thing consistently from the few of us who have played, and that is: “Don’t go into the dam.” Just trust me on this.
As for the ‘Stalker’ setting, I was too chicken to try it. I don’t play games with the intention of filling my trousers at unexpected moments. If you have the stones to try it then great. I look forward to hearing just how many seconds it took for you to die and then try again on a lower setting.
I give this early access alpha 7/7 promising winks as a rating. Hell, if I have already put 24 hours into the alpha imagine how good the full release story mode is going to be. In the meantime they are releasing new updates later next week to the sandbox including a new region to explore which is larger than either of the previously released areas, new wildlife and new items to craft. Cannot wait.