Is The Long Dark Single Player Campaign Worth The Wait?

For The Most Part, Yes
The Long Dark still has a ways to go before it ditches its Early Access label but the new survival game from Hinterland Studio is already showing tons of promise.
The Long Dark still has a ways to go before it ditches its Early Access label but the new survival game from Hinterland Studio is already showing tons of promise. International Digital Times

The Long Dark is a grounded, meditative, yet punishingly difficult survival game. You can read my thoughts on it here . While the game has been in Steam Early Access since 2014, it finally received a proper release Aug. 1. The newest edition is the long promised single-player campaign, called Wintermute. The campaign will be released episodically, with the first two chapters available upon launch.

The single-player campaign had a difficult challenge of introducing new players to the mechanics of the game, while balancing that against the loyal fans who have played for years and aren’t interested in a lengthy tutorial. I think The Long Dark’s Wintermute walked that line quite well.

You begin at the site of a plane crash on a small plateau. Over the course of a few in-game days, you are introduced to each of the main gameplay mechanics: warmth, energy, water, and food. After learning those basics, you are able to leave the plateau and venture into the wider world.

The main plotline involves tracking your ex-wife, who was also on the plane with you. It is interesting, after all this time playing in sandbox mode, to have an explicit destination and reason to keep moving. It offers a nice change of pace to the hunker down mentality of sandbox mode. The early areas in the singleplayer are far more linear than anything in sandbox, generally there is one or two paths that lead to the same area. But as you progress, the world starts to open up to wider expanses.

In general, food and supplies are far more plentiful in single-player than in Sandbox. It isn’t hard to stay well stocked with food, water, wood and medicine. The wolves, however, don’t seem to be toned down. They are plentiful and seemingly spawned at crossroads and choke points, so expect to be dealing with more than a few wolf attacks in the early part of the game.

All in all, the campaign serves as a way to ease players into the world and mechanics of The Long Dark, though a quick look at a beginner’s guide serves that same purpose. The biggest problem I’ve had with the campaign so far are the cutscenes. The scripted dialogue feels like it’s a grab bag of movie cliches strung together and the slow pace as well as the seeming inability to skip them will drive your fun to a halt every twenty minutes. In a game that enables you to craft such amazing narratives for yourself, It’s too bad the one provided by the developers fall so short.

Most of the cutscenes serve as flashbacks, but they don’t really offer any vitally interesting information, especially when your main concerns are how can you find shelter from this blizzard and find antibiotics for your wolf-bites. We will have to wait until more chapters are released to see if the story picks up at all. In the meantime, I hope Hinterland adds an option to skip them. In some ways, it is a mark in the game’s favor that the game’s world and mechanics are so wonderful that I’m infuriated when pulled away, but nevertheless the interruptions remain.

For those of you who haven’t played The Long Dark, the campaign is a great place to ease into surviving in the tundra. For experienced players, the early part of the campaign offers a more linear version of the game, but I’d recommend it just for the change of pace of having a place to go. You can check out The Long Dark on Steam or PS4.

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