Review: The Long Dark (PS4)

Survival.  No zombies.  No jump scares.  You against Mother Nature.  Nothing more, nothing less.  That’s not to say The Long Dark won’t scare the bejeezus out of you.  You’re slowly plodding through the Canadian wilderness trying to figure out where that cabin you’ve been holing up in was, alone, cold, hungry and miserably lost, when suddenly you spot two wolves walking in front of you.  You are encumbered, injured from a fall and too tired to mount a decent escape; you have no weapon…the wolves see you!  It was nice knowing you.

The Long Dark

The Long Dark was in alpha status through Steam Early Access starting in 2014.  For non-gamer parents, that means it was still being developed, but they released it to the public to test for bugs and areas that needed improvement.  Finally, Hinterland Studios released an official version on August 1, 2017.  It’s undergone some changes along the way, including the addition of a story mode.  For those that played early on in the alpha, the core sandbox game is the same, but with improvements.

The Long Dark General Information

Mommy and Ninja Rating
Available PlatformsLinux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Available FormatsDigital
Platform Reviewed onPS4
GenreSurvival
DeveloperHinterland Studio
PublisherHinterland Studio
Release Date(s)Steam Early Access: Sept 2014
Xbox One (Alpha): June 2015
Official Release (all platforms): August 1, 2017
RatingsESRB: T
PEGI: 16
USK: 12
ACB: M

Parent’s Information

If you are a parent here looking for whether or not your child should play this game, here’s the place to look.  Not taking into account the quality of the actual game, here’s what you need to know.

Here in the US, the ESRB rated this T for Teen for the following reasons:  Violence, Blood and Language.  Click here for details.

In Europe, PEGI rated this as appropriate for 16 and older.  They stated the following:  It contains: Realistic looking violence.

In Germany, USK rated this for 12 and older only.  In Australia, the ACB rated this M, which means 15 and older for: Violence and Coarse Language.

Would I let my child play this?  Not really.  The depiction of violence in the game doesn’t really strike me as too much for him to handle, but he’s only 5.  He can’t read well, which would make this difficult game that much more difficult for him.  If William could read, I honestly wouldn’t stop him from playing it.

This is not an easy game.  If your child is easily frustrated, this may not be the game for them.  The violence and blood that they are referring to is when you attack wildlife (deer, rabbits, moose and bears) or are attacked by them.  After the kill, you can harvest their hide, guts and meat.  You do not kill other humans as you are quite literally the only survivor of the apocalypse; you do, however, find the occasional frozen corpse in the wilderness or inside of buildings.  There is no sex, simulated or implied.  There are no drug/alcohol/tobacco references.

Teen is certainly an appropriate rating here.  E10+ might even have been a good choice.  The game is about survival, not killing.  Though, your survival will eventually mean killing wolves, deer and doing some fishing.  The violence depicted is far less graphic than most offerings in the shooter genre.

***Click here to get more on what the ESRB ratings mean.***

Dialogue and Voice Acting in The Long Dark

The voice actors for sandbox survivors are Jennifer Hale and David Hayter.  Jennifer Hale’s voice may sound familiar to those who played a wide variety of games or watched cartoons since 1993.  She has a filmography that is quite long.  Her recent game industry work includes For Honor and World of Final Fantasy; her recent cartoon voice work includes Star Wars Rebels, Rick and Morty and the new DuckTales.  David Hayter will be a familiar voice for Metal Gear fans.  More recently he was the voice of the Mudokons in Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!, which is kind of interesting.

They are a little irritating after the few few hours of same the same handful of phrases over and over, ad nauseum.  They are, however, well spoken lines.  The voice acting is quite good.  If I ever hear someone say “I hope nobody needs this anymore” after opening a cabinet in some random cabin in the Canadian Wilderness, I might shoot them…if I’ve found a rifle.

Controls/Overall Functionality and Gameplay

We’ll start with the not so great:  I’ve had several CTD (crash to dashboard) incidents since I started playing.  I’ve logged probably 75 or so hours up to this point.  Beyond that, I’ve seen no glitches or exploits.

As far as the controls go, once you figure out what everything does, you’re golden.  They are pretty simple.  The game has absolutely NO tutorial.  There won’t be a pop-up window telling you how to shoot your rifle (if you find one) or how to jump.  You actually cannot jump.  It took me a while to admit that there was no jump button.  I thought it was maybe a combination of buttons that I just hadn’t tried yet at first, but finally I was able to admit that you cannot jump.  I won’t tell you how to shoot the rifle because finding the right buttons is part of the adventure in The Long Dark.

When you’re first starting out this game is hard.  It’s supposed to be hard.  It gets easier as you grow accustomed to the controls and your surroundings and grow a little stockpile of supplies.  But, those supplies won’t last forever.  Hopefully you’re luckier than I am and get a rifle early on (or at all).  In my current playthrough, I have about 15 rifle rounds and no rifle.  I also have a simple arrow, but no bow.  Once you run out of scavengable supplies, which you will as they do not respawn, you will have to live off the land.  You’re going to have to kill deer, wolves, rabbits, moose and bears for their meat.  You can also fish for your food.

The harder the difficulty you choose, the harder your game will be.  That goes without saying, right?  Not really, but that’s an argument for another day.  Pilgrim difficulty is quite easy.  Wolves won’t even attack you.  It’s way too easy and actually pretty boring.  If it were me, I would start on Voyageur and work your way up to Stalker or Interloper.  Voyageur is a good difficulty to start at for those that are new to the genre or the game and still want a bit of a challenge.  I believe that one of the most beautiful things about The Long Dark, is the sense of impending doom because of lack of survival skills needed to proceed.  Voyageur will give you that.  When you stop feeling that sense of impending doom, it’s time to move onto Stalker.

Being ill and dying in The Long Dark

Becoming ill in The Long Dark is very easy, but also very avoidable.  Don’t stay outside in the cold too long.  Treat your wounds from wolf/bear/moose attacks.  Don’t eat uncooked meat.  These are all good tips to maintaining your overall health if you don’t want to freeze to death, die of infection or get food poisoning.  If you insist that you are invincible and don’t listen, you could very possibly die unless you come to your senses.

When you die in The Long Dark, it’s over.  There is no respawn.  Death is permanent, final.  You can die from a handful of things, but most are avoidable and you have ample time to get to safety and correct the situation, barring a double (or triple) wolf attack or inadvertently scaring a bear.  If you are freezing to death, you should have time to get to safety, unless Mother Nature decides she hates you.  When you die, you are shown your stats and are returned to the main menu where you will have to start a fresh game.  You could reload your last save, but in this game that almost seems scummy.

Graphics and Performance

The Long Dark doesn’t push the limits of the PS4 graphically, but I don’t think it should.  This is a “feel” game, not a “see” game…if that makes any sense.  The game is gorgeous even though it’s not graphically up to par with some of the AAA fare out there.  It’s not about the graphics (which are still more than adequate), it’s about how the game makes you feel.  Not mushy sentimentality, it makes you feel cold, it makes you feel lost in the woods.  Sometimes, games don’t have to push the limits of a graphics card to be freaking awesome.

The game’s performance has been good thus far.  I have not experienced any noticeable frame rate drops.  Aside from the CTD’s, I’ve had no issues at all.  The load times are decent.  It sometimes gets annoying when you are trying to leave the house for the day and realize there is a bear waiting for you, so you turn around and now you have another load.  This is a minor annoyance.  The game saves upon entry to an internal location, so every time you enter a building, your game will save your progress.

Final Thoughts

The Long Dark is a beautiful game that truly makes you feel like you’re wandering the Canadian wilderness after a freak geothermal event caused an apocalypse.  It’s a rewarding experience, but you will have to earn each and every one of those experiences.  And that’s a good thing.  If you’re into survival games, you have to try this game.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Comment below and let me know what you think.  Can you survive the Canadian wilderness?

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The Long Dark Review

 

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