Review – The Long Dark


Developer Hinterland
Publisher Hinterland
Genre Survival
Platforms Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, MAC, Linux, PC (reviewed)
Release Date September 22, 2014

The Long Dark is a realistic survival game set against the backdrop of the fictional island of Great Bear Island, a remote island off the coast of mainland Canada. It was developed and published by Hinterland Studios. This review is limited to the base version of the game. While there is a story-based version of the game, it functions as DLC.

Content Guide

Violence: The game seeks to emulate real-life situations you might encounter in real-world survival. The primary example is hunting, where the player has to snap a rabbit’s neck to kill it. This can be upsetting because you must look at it in the face when you pick it up. When hunting timber wolves and bears, the player can use a revolver or hunting rifle. The player can also use melee weapons, and there are instances of animal gore, such as partially eaten carcasses left by wolves. There are also corpses scattered about occasionally; however, the ones encountered were all frozen due to the extreme cold, and none seemed to have any blood or gore. Combat is avoidable, as is hunting; the player can scavenge for food and use flares to keep aggressive animals back. Additionally, when certain types of damage are taken, there are splashes of blood on the screen.

Language: The game contains instances of the player character saying things like d***n, a**, and Godd***n. These are usually only heard when the player takes damage.

Drug/Alcohol: The game does have usable medicines; however, it only encourages the player to use them for their intended purpose, such as antibiotics for infection or pain medication to help with pain. Alcohol is also in the game, but only for medicinal use.

Other Negative Content: The player often loots various houses and abandoned vehicles around the area. There are no people present on the island besides a few dead bodies, so it is unclear if everyone died or just abandoned their houses and vehicles. If they are living, the player is stealing; however, the player character will state that they hope no one needs the supplies.

Positive Content: The game teaches some helpful methods for real-world survival; however, as the developers stated, not all depicted methods are recommended and can result in actual death. Basic principles about surviving in low-temperature areas are taught, and there is an emphasis on having proper clothing, boiling water to prevent diseases, and ensuring one is consuming enough calories to keep functioning.

The Long Dark has an ESRB rating of T for Teens and a PEGI rating of 16.


The Long Dark is often considered one of the most realistic survival games on the market. The game gained this reputation from the base mechanics and the fact that it features permadeath. There is no respawning or your character returning; you must make a new character once they die. The game, much like real life, does not hold a player’s hand, and it is up to the player to learn how mechanics work so that they can successfully survive.

There are various mechanics for players to master, such as adequately layering clothing, keeping clothing in good condition, and staying dry. Wearable gear in The Long Dark can be repaired and improved with sewing kits. However, the player could mess up and waste valuable time. It should also be noted that some tasks can only be done with adequate light. Another aspect of gear care in the game is maintaining guns, which can be oiled and cleaned to keep them functioning and prevent weapons from jamming. Jamming can be mitigated by using a bow; however, bows are slower and less powerful than guns, so with each decision, the player has to consider the positives and negatives of their choices.

The final crafting-related element of the game is cooking. The most essential cooking element in The Long Dark is having a fire. Fires are not always guaranteed to light and thus can be a significant struggle if you need to prevent hypothermia or want to keep wildlife back from your camp. Cooking can be used to heat canned goods or boil water to prevent disease. Meat acquired through hunting can also be cooked. Cooked food tends to have higher benefits than most uncooked food. Firewood can also be used as charcoal for mapping locations or in a forge to open up new options for refining.

Outside of the basic crafting and scavenging, the player also has the options of trapping, fishing, and hunting. These are ways to get more substantial food, but they require more effort, time, and luck. One of the elements of the game is randomized item dispersal, which, while giving a new and refreshing experience each time, does not always make fishing and hunting viable if you cannot find a fishing rod or ranged weapon. The gunplay in the game is sufficient for its purpose as often you only need to worry about shooting quickly in combat. Usually, the game gives players a decent amount of time to aim down sights and time their shots.

Graphically, The Long Dark excels at a beautiful style of graphics that feels like being inside a Van Gogh or a Bob Ross painting. The style makes the game feel more open and airy since the player is the only person residing on the island. While this emptiness in most games would feel uncomfortable, the art style helps the game feel more reflective or meditative rather than hollow. The art style could be considered a detraction from the realism the game strives to accomplish. However, ultimately, it did not influence the game’s realism; instead, it allowed for less gruesome sights, such as dead islanders and partially eaten carcasses.

The music of The Long Dark aids in the empty and barren feel the world presents. Most of the soundtrack in survival mode has elements of math rock, classical music, and indie folk music. While the soundtrack comprises multiple genres, they all mesh well and feel well utilized. The one disappointment is that, much like Minecraft, it only plays occasionally, which can be disappointing. The sound design in The Long Dark was well done; whether the sound of interacting with doors or food items, all of the sounds feel lifelike. A notable sound design that adds to realism is that when walking, the player can hear the items in their backpack moving around, so if the player has a lot of canned food, cans will be rattling while they trek across the island. Gunfire sounds were not comparable to many shooters but were decent.

Overall, The Long Dark was a challenging yet enjoyable experience. The survival mechanics were well done. The accessibility of having a difficulty option and the map indicating which starting points best suited each level of experience was also a nice touch. There were no technical issues, such as glitches or crashes. However, concerns over how the developers used the DLC should be noted. Many players had concerns over the developers abandoning their current campaign in favor of finishing it in a separate paid DLC, which meant players had to buy the second story DLC if they wanted to finish the original experience they paid for. Besides the questionable DLC practices, the game overall has no issues and is worthwhile for survival game fans to experience themselves.

The Bottom Line


A challenging, smooth, enjoyable experience.



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Logan Smiley

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