Hullo from Wales!

Nervous Pete

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Hullo there!

I'd been umming and ahhing about buying The Long Dark for a little while, tempted by the art style but unsure as to whether it would be my cup of tea. The closest I'd ever come to a perma-death survival game before was Sunless Sea, and even that had some mechanics to carry an inheritance over to new characters. Plus Sunless Sea had a lot of story packed away in its innards, so I was unsure as to how interesting I'd ultimately find a narrative free sandbox survival simulation.

Last night I dreamt about the cold grey before the long dark.

Yep, Steam Winter Sale does it again. I fired up the game and created my first character, Luce Harlow, stranded in the winter wastes of Mystery Lake. My first reaction was as to how beautiful the game is. Screenshots really don't do it justice. It's an art style I really dig and it brings to mind a sort of woodcut art style brought to life. At the same time there's no mistaking it's a modern world you're in, and the style and the setting work together to create quite an intense personal fable. Topping that off is some truly excellent sound design. The sharp indrawn breaths. The scrunch of snow underfoot. The sparse dialogue. Yep, I really appreciate how rarely you talk, and when you do it feels significant - be it a special mundane little treasure you've found, or about the cold gripping you. It captures that 'talking to oneself' feel very well, though I might add a few extra words at certain points, such as in finding your first body. Simply a muttered, "Jesus!" upon stumbling across that first poor frozen figure in the snow would really get the internal story telling cogs turning.

Poor Luce Harlow wasn't long for the world, of course. She lasted two days before being eaten by a wolf on Mystery Lake. Turns out she wasn't quite the rifle shot she had anticipated being and that a charging wolf is by no means an easy kill. But those two days were something quite special. Now I'm Johann Lorre, and I've just started my fourth day with some nourishing fish in my belly. If I could be sure that my fishing line would last forever I'd be content to stooge around the lake-shore indefinitely. But I know that malaise is a fatal thing in The Long Dark. I guess subconsciously I'm just trying to put off visiting the interior of that dam as I found it - frankly - unspeakably terrifying inside, and I hadn't even gone further than the first two rooms. Anyway, I'm very much enjoying this game, especially with a glass of fine whisky to hand. And may I say that I also find the ability to keep a personal journal inspired? It really elevates the game, and in the absence of narrative you find yourself writing a compelling personal story. And man, those aurora borealis and the dead radio have really got me thinking.

I'm very excited to see where this game goes next. If I were to make any changes off the top of my head I'd add a custom difficulty setting - or at least an additional one - where wolves are wary and aggressive if close, but not quite as horrifyingly eager to pursue as at Voyageur. But I understand where you're coming from with the crazed magnetically-addled animals line and find it very compelling too, so don't sacrifice what you've got already for any reason. The first time I ran for a cabin and slammed a door shut on a wolf snarling down my neck was an incredible experience.

The other thing I'd add down the line is the ability to retrieve other gamer's journals from dead bodies. This could happen only once in a while. After death the gamer is presented with the option of uploading their journal. This named journal can then spawn in-game on a body. You'd only come across one or two journals per game but I feel it would really create a sense of connection with someone else out there, and really get our creative story-telling juices flowing. Of course, I guess there'd have to be some sort of vetting thing going on, but I think it's a cool idea.

Oh, and the option to bury bodies. Please. You never know, I might get a visitor one day to play whist in my lonely cabin and it'll be somewhat socially awkward with Mr Frosty sat there grimacing in the corner. The ability to bury to a body, which would take half a day at least, would add a real sense of involvement for me. Just have a little makeshift cairn of stones and a cross appear a little way from the cabin, or something.

Anyway, once again I'd like to thank you for this very thoughtful and atmospheric game. It really is like living another life, some place else, and provides a great - if sometimes terrifying - escape. Think I'll hit the local library soon and see if I can dig out any great survival novels, although I hope I can resist throwing the borrowed books straight on the fire!



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