Developed and Published by Hinterland Studio, The Long Dark is a survival game that will pit you against the dangers of the Northern Canadian wilderness as you do everything you can to survive. Originally released on PC, The Long Dark’s port to the Switch has translated rather well and makes for quite an experience, should you be up to the challenge.
Unlike other survival titles, The Long Dark features a story mode of sorts called “Wintermute”. It focuses on Will and Astrid, whose plane crashes after a geomagnetic disaster causes the aircraft to lose power. The crash results in the two being separated and forced to survive what the wilderness has to throw at them so that they can reunite. It’s not the most original story or premise, but it’s a suitable narrative that is portrayed fairly well. The story takes place over several episodes and each one takes approximately 3-5 hours to complete. At the time of writing, there are 3 episodes available for players to enjoy, with 2 more planned to complete the Wintermute series.
Wintermute, while a mode on its own, also functions as an extended tutorial and is good preparation for the game’s other main mode, Survival. I did quite like that The Long Dark had a narrative in place in addition to just the Survival offering; playing through Will and Astrid’s story feels balanced and even if you just jump in for a little while, it always feels like you’re making progress since it’s fairly story-driven
As mentioned before, The Long Dark’s other main mode is Survival. This is essentially your main mode for experiencing the mechanics and gameplay. There’s no story here and the only way for it to end is by dying. It’s also very likely that this will happen now and then if you aren’t careful. There are a few gauges that represent your hunger, thirst, fatigue, and temperature. The latter is possibly more likely to kill you faster than anything else if the gauge ends up in the red zone though. Your main goal in this mode is to survive. There are a number of different difficulty levels and your experience will be based on the option you selected when starting. In addition to this, you are also able to select a map that you’d like to start on. No matter which option and map you do select though, you’ll be in for quite a challenge. Oh, did I mention that there are also predators? Yeah, there are predators. Did I also mention that they like how you look and want to give you the biggest of hugs? That happens too, maybe not the hug part though. Their aggression does depend on the selected difficulty, but it’s best to give them a wide berth to better your chances.
In terms of gameplay, The Long Dark controls rather well. It takes place from a first-person perspective and generally works like you would expect it to. There are some exceptions, however. For instance, there are times when you need a fair amount of accuracy when trying to pick up small items and this can be a bit of a challenge as you manoeuvre the thumbsticks in order to place the reticle in the right place. Thankfully, the game does make use of the Switch’s gyro functionality, but it takes a bit of getting used to. Another finicky aspect of the controls is the throwing of projectiles. There’s no reticle for aiming and instead shows the character’s hand, which you have to use as a guide. There’s a point in the first episode of the Wintermute campaign where you’re required to throw a stone at a rabbit to stun it so that you can move in for the kill. It’s likely to take a good dozen throws before you get it right because the aiming isn’t great and the trajectory is fairly hard to track.
The Long Dark also features a challenge mode, something that isn’t for the faint of heart. Each challenge presents you with a new set of goals with the odds not really being in your favour. Ranging from avoiding a bear to stockpiling food for an incoming storm, these are designed to test you and will require a fair amount of experience with the game before they can be tackled.
Visually, The Long Dark looks pretty great on the Switch. It doesn’t focus on incredibly realistic visuals, but instead has its own unique art style that works fairly well with the consoles level of power. It also runs fairly smoothly and doesn’t seem to suffer from any stuttering, regardless of what’s on-screen. Audio-wise, it’s very much on par with the game’s visuals. The sounds of the wind blowing or the snow crunching under your feet are great. Not to mention that the voice acting is excellent, resulting in an enjoyable storytelling experience.
The Long Dark is a great game. Its narrative isn’t the most original premise, but it’s told rather well. Where the game truly shines, however, is in the gameplay. Trying to survive in the wilderness with so many aspects to consider makes for an exciting and sometimes scary experience. Visually, it translates nicely onto the Switch both in terms of graphics and how it runs. Overall, The Long Dark is a fantastic survival experience and one that will have you hooked even after you’ve frozen to death a few times!
The Long Dark Was Reviewed on Nintendo Switch and can be purchased here for 26.99.
The Long Dark is also available on PS4. Xbox One and PC.
Enjoy the review? want to read more of our reviews? then click right here to be whisked away to the realm of our opinions.