The Long Dark : a short impromptus

As always, I come back to this place only when I can rest a little bit and I’m able to slow down my life.

For the last three months I’ve been working full time on a Android App that features 360 virtual tours in VR with Google Cardboard.
It’s an interesting job, and my first job ever as a developer (but I’d like to underline that I DON’T feel to be a dev) and designer in the mobile world.
VR, Google Cardboard –> Sounds like super-fun.
And yet.. I cannot hide one thing: my roots lie in the graphics world.
I love coding and analytical thinking, but sometimes my eyes just ask me to be amazed and thrilled by something new.
If I’m not able to create it by myself, then I just sit and search for this kind of beauty around the web.
This zetetic spirit usually brings me to the works of great contemporary visual artists like Joanie Lemercier or Quayola, but, given the festive mood, this time I actually landed on Steam.
As every gamer should know, Steam + Festive mood = Steam Sales.
The Steam Sales always warm your wallet with unnecessary games that you probably do not need and will regret buying, but in the years I’ve become quite trained in resisting to this kind of temptation and only taking into serious consideration the games that can really inspire me in some ways. For this reason I’ve got a veeeery short wishlist that I continuously update and recheck every time I approach Steam (“Do I really need it?”).
So, when one of my wishlisted games gets at a good discount, as you can imagine, I have almost no hesitation before buying it.
That was the case for “The Long Dark” (and this unnecessary long intro finally goes to an end).

The Long Dark : a short impromptus

thelongdark_screenshot_01

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Look at those two images.. what’s not good about them?
A torch in the night lights up a mysterious snowy landscape, the carcass of a dead deer gets in our way with some dropped ammos around the ground.
This is exactly the core of the Long Dark: the mood.
I know precisely the feeling of being out there after the sunset with a small torch warming your hand.
Somehow, the devs know this too.

“I’m Canadian. This game is Canadian. Deal with it.” (1)

My first attempt was miserable: I played as a Pilgrim and I survived only 1 day and 6 hours or so.
Hypothermia got me quite soon and man, I forgot I needed to drink!
The feeling of actually being there was so strong that when I ended my session I was relieved that on real life I didn’t have to pick up sticks for cooking meat.
But it’s not all about the feeling.
The game really gets you to think in a different way.
Yep: you’ve got to think! In a game!
You cannot just shoot everything that moves and pretend to survive.
Actually, you’ll find very soon that you cannot should anything at all, because you don’t have the technology and the means to do it.
Every single feather dropped by a crow will remind you of this: you should start from scratch, from a bow and some arrows.
For this reason, let me tell one thing: this is a great game for children to play with their parents, because it teaches them to think about resources, and how to preserve them.
How to not waste your time, because it is so damn precious: daylight won’t be there forever.
You must think what to do in that time, and how to achieve it.. doesn’t remind you of a bigger picture?
In my childhood there was Age of Empires, and I believe I earned most of my time management skills while playing it.
Since strategic games seem to be disappearing from our digital shelves, these sandboxed survivals can be a great way to play something and learn something without noticing it.

Apart from what I think is its didactic value, The Long Dark stands out for being a beautiful game with interesting dynamics, and really immersive visuals.

Snow storms will be at the order of the day

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A little fire inside a hut can warm the coldest hearts

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I’ve been playing it for just a weekend, so that’s why this is more an impromptus than a full featured review (and considering the fact that I’m not able to write reviews).
The art style is very good, but I think it could be pushed a little further in term of quality of the assets (or maybe I’m just influenced too much by the Firewatch gameplay?).
Also, there are some issues with the way the footprints are generated, creating intersections with other items.
But hey, it’s just an alpha, isn’t it? (and yet it sold 500 000 copies!)

The crafting is quite important, but not so advanced as we’ve seen in other games (Minecraft above all, since we’ve all become accustomed to its freedom).
In my opinion, the game revolves more about adapting to the surrounding than shaping it.
The exploration is a fundamental part, but the maps are not huge: you’ll soon get to remember pretty well the key buildings of the maps (and this will save you many from many hours of meaningless wandering around!).
The woods and their inhabitants feel alive, and every building, cave, trail or shelter will have its own story to tell you.
But that’s all about the narrative, for now.
The game lacks a real narrative mode, which is currently under development, and the creators plan to implement it in the next release.
Personally, I’m really looking forward to it, because while I love sandboxing I think that nothing will ever beat a good written story.
So, this is surely a must-get for everyone who thinks that games should be more than about killing sprees and nonsensical shooting.
See you in the hinterland,

Namastè.

The little dots are actually a wolf and a deer doing what they usually do

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Keeping loot organised: my job since Morrowind

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