reviews

REVIEW: The Long Dark by Hinterland Studio

We take a look at the survival horror game #TheLongDark by @HinterlandGames

 

Firstly, let me introduce you to Hinterland Studio, a relatively new name in the world of Indie Development.

We’re an independent game studio headquartered in the heart of the picturesque Northern Vancouver Island wilderness.

Established in 2012 by veterans of the games industry, Hinterland exists to create thought-provoking entertainment, emphasising story-rich gameplay experiences, and original fictional settings conceived from the ground up to exist across multiple mediums.

Hinterland’s games are imbued with a sense of social awareness and aspire to provide immersive, sophisticated worlds to anyone seeking a mature gaming experience.

As with the studio, Hinterland’s games exist to pioneer original experiences from the fringe of the mainstream games industry. Join us on our journey.

hinterland

There is an international team of 27 people working across Canada and The United States and have used the wintery wilderness of Canada to build The Long Dark around.


 

INITIAL OPINION

The Long Dark {TLD} itself is a pure survival game. When I say that, I mean it! It’s not you trying to survive against a mass of zombies or a crazed cult that have taken over the world; it’s you against the elements, pure and simple.

It’s a game that is designed to challenge solo players to use their brains. You play as Will Mackenzie, a bush pilot caught up in a world event no one saw coming. That is where I will leave that, I am not going to spoil anything as far as the brand new storyline goes.
I say brand new, as it is. Wintermute was officially released on August 1st and contains 2 episodes new to The Long Dark.

To save a lot of confusion now, let’s go into a quick history lesson.

  • Firstly, a Kickstarter appeal was launched in October 2013 to help gain funding to build and release The Long Dark.
  • In September 2014, the early access was launched on Steam.
  • June 2015 then saw the launch of the game preview on Xbox one.
  • August 1st 2017 saw the release of Wintermute which is the new narrative experience built around the basics of TLD.

So, The Long Dark has been around for a couple of years as a basic survival game, one which you can still play if you want to and is included within the full game. However, I do recommend that when you load up the game, you head straight for Wintermute. I was an idiot the first time I started up the game and went straight into Survival Mode finding myself in the middle of a snow covered wilderness and not having a clue what I was doing for a good hour or so.

It was after dying of cold that I headed back to the main menu ready to start writing this review , ready to say that the game was awful and you have to avoid it like you would the cold areas I had just been walking aimlessly around.


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ON SECOND THOUGHT

 

Then I remembered the Wintermute game option and begrudgingly started on it.

I’m glad I did…

You find yourself coming round after some sort of crash being surrounded in burning debris. Straight away, you must survive. The game doesn’t have one of those irritating training missions that every other game you ever play does, but does give you hints of what you need to do by offering you a journal (how it survived the crash as well as you seem to, I’m not sure).

The basic idea of the start is to work your way to escaping the small area that you have crashed in by gathering supplies and surviving the elements and your injuries. To do this you must scavenge sticks, medical kits, plants etc. The game’s creators Hinterland Studio haven’t made it that simple though. You are after all in the middle of nowhere. You are made to make use of the snow around you to melt it over a fire to drink as your thirst and hunger grows. You could simply eat the snow, but if you do there will be consequences. You must boil out all impurities to get the best from it.
The screen layout is simple. There isn’t masses of details within the HUD to give you a sense of aiding you within your quest for survival. The pop up survival wheel is easy to navigate whenever its needed however.

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So, the gameplay is extremely clever and thought provoking, which then leads me onto the next section:

GRAPHICS

OK, I’ll be brutally honest; they’re nothing special. I have seen a lot better in games. However, I have also seen much worse. It has been built using Unity which a lot of Indie Studios do.

This game relies more on its gameplay than amazing people with stunning graphics and they have succeeded. The focus of survival is paramount and you don’t tend to notice anything else. Your brain is automatically looking out for the next thing you need to find in order to survive.

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SURVIVAL MODE

 

As well as Wintermute I touched on Survival Mode at the start of this piece.
I went back to it after getting a grasp of the basics of survival and did enjoy it the second time in.
In the press pack I received with the game itself it describes the Survival Mode:

In Survival Mode, your story is your own. Use your eyes, ears, and wits to fashion a unique adventure for yourself in this distinct and expansive vision of The Long Dark. In this mode, your only goal is to survive, and your death will bring a permanent end to each game. How you go about surviving, and how long you last, is entirely up to you. Use your wits, your persistent spirit, and the clues Mother Nature leaves behind to push away that final ending for as long as possible.

In Survival Mode you can choose four different ways to experience the world – Pilgrim, Voyageur, Stalker, and Interloper. Each offers a unique interpretation of our vision of the Northern Canadian wilderness – from poetic to wrathful. This mode doesn’t hold your hand, but it does give you enough tools to last dozens, even hundreds of hours in-game. And like WINTERMUTE, Survival Mode has a pace of its own as well.

In addition, in Survival Mode you can also make progress towards Feats, long-term, game-based objectives that can boost your chances for survival in the Quiet Apocalypse.

I didn’t die as easily as the first time round, I now had an idea to what was expected of me thanks to playing Wintermute. Before long I was building the fires I needed and foraging for food as well as drinking copious amounts of distilled water. You need to know how to do all of this when one of the trophy achievements is to survive for 500 hours.

One other mode of gameplay to give a little added fun is that of challenge modes. Five of them in total. Each being an extension and variation of what you will experience in Wintermute


FINAL REVIEW

 

The Long Dark is a fresh take on a survival game and it won’t be for everyone, but if you are looking for a challenge, then give it a chance. The 2 new parts of Wintermute will easily give 20 hours of gaming. The game is played in realtime as well, so it is very easy to clock up time played. That coupled with full trophy support will give the trophy hunters out there a great challenge.

I started off wanting to hate the game, but that was my own fault and found that after really getting to grips with it, it was one of the most addictive games I have had the pleasure to play for quite some time.

I applaud Hinterland Studio on making this game, and seriously hope there will be more to come from Wintermute in the form of extra episodes. I am still to finish off the first 2 episodes, but I am off to play more when I have ended this review.

This is a very select game and as I have stated, it wont be for everyone. I didn’t think I would be a huge fan of it, but that soon changed and I was pleased to say that I really got into it. I’m excited to learn of the recent news as well of the game being converted to a movie before long as well. That will be a film I will be watching.

The Long Dark will throw you into the wilderness and turn you into Bear Grylls before you know it.

Review Score: 7/10

For me, a 7/10 is easily achieved. I would be happy if the graphics were a little sharper, but it doesn’t take away from the game at all.

The Long Dark is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Steam.


Review code kindly supplied by Hinterland Studios for review purposes

 

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