The Long Dark (PC) Early Access Preview

This article contains coverage of a preview build of The Long Dark. The opinions expressed below pertain to a piece of software in Alpha (Version: 0.137 / Date: Oct 3rd […]

This article contains coverage of a preview build of The Long Dark. The opinions expressed below pertain to a piece of software in Alpha (Version: 0.137 / Date: Oct 3rd 2014) state, and may deal with features which are in an incomplete or prototype form. The coverage below is intended to provide a general impression of the game in its present state, and may or may not apply to the finished game.


There are no zombies.  There are noises in dark places but nothing supernatural.  In The Long Dark, the cold and famine are out to kill you.  As noted initially on this post, The Long Dark is still an Early Access title on Steam, however there is a substantial amount of ‘meat’ on the game already.  Most importantly, there is enough ‘game’ in The Long Dark to feel satisfied with buying the Early Access title.

Do bugs exist.  Sure do.  If you go to the end of my playthrough embedded on this page, you’ll see a game ending bug.

Now that I’ve got the disclaimer portion of the preview out of the way, let me tell you why I liked The Long Dark.

It’s one thing to expect, at the very least, a vertical slice of an Early Access title.  It’s another thing entirely to experience that shim of an experience with an abundance of little details and a full arc.  Little details like:

  • How the air and condensation operate in differing temperatures
  • A full compliment of sound effects:
    • Walking on ice and snow
    • Echos in tight hallways and cavernous empty rooms
  • It takes more energy walking up snowy hills than walking down.
    • Both in terms of calories consumed and if you’re encumbered
  • When in critical condition, different ailments affect you differently.
  • Items have their own condition and need to be taken care of via tools or creating surplus from other broken items.


When talking about big-picture mechanics there are some key stand out decisions.  When pressing tab, you get a ‘dashboard’ of sorts.  You get indications of hunger, thirst, cold and fatigue levels.  You can diagnose first-aid treatments, (helpfully when you need first-aid you’ll have an indicator on your screen as well as in your dashboard) make an emergency fire, take out a bed roll and forage for wood.  That last one is pretty interesting.  Many times, in general, games tend to accelerate certain aspects of play that could be considered tedious and in certain instances go to the extreme of this and open an array of containers all at once and just provide you with the loot discovered.  In The Long Dark, you have to open each and every individual container, which may be locked and can be opened with the aid of a prybar or can be a safe and you need the combination.  And furthermore, the items that you collect can be locked to a degree, such as canned food.  There are multiple ways to open, including without a can opener but you risk losing a portion of the foodstuff by smashing it open.


There is a methodical approach to gathering in The Long Dark. That’s why I’m surprised that when it’s time to collect wood or get water, essentially,  they flip the script and the process is practically automated.  Not that I really want to go and forage wood manually, especially when tools and such need to be cared for.  I’ll use this moment to segue into a part that I think is a bit too harsh, and that’s ‘hunger’.  I don’t really believe someone should be ‘starving’ after not having any food for a few hours.  It’s incredibly easy to get into a starving state in this game.  Even the act of sleeping one night on a full stomach will make it seem like you’ve been without food or water for 3 days.  However, the game isn’t finished yet and many things can still change.

Overall, I’m really digging The Long Dark.  Excellent presentation, clear direction and genuinely fun to play.  A survival game through and through.



About Phawx

Reviewer and Idea Man extraordinaire, Cary Golomb plays the role of jack-of-all-trades behind the scenes as a part of the Brain Trust and ownership of the site. At 11′ 7″, Cary is the tallest man ever to win the Boston Marathon. He is a large, predatory reptile known to attack livestock and drink their blood. Witnesses of his handiwork claim he is able to drain a cow of all of its blood and most of its internal organs in less than 30 seconds. His name literally translates to “The Goat Sucker.”