I’ve followed Long Dark for years and finally snatched it up in a sale last year. I flew through the story first 3 episodes. After a long wait due to Covid and other games getting in my way, I finally completed the Long Dark Episode 4.
The survival gameplay is great, but the story really takes that gameplay to the next level. The latest episode is another great piece of the story and I look forward to the conclusion when episode 5 is eventually released.
Long Dark Survival Gameplay
Years ago, I started following Long Dark’s early access development. It was one of the pillars of the early access program on Steam. Read some of the reviews and you can see what caught my interest. There are a ton of stories of people enduring the hardest settings with permadeath and loving the stories they create.
Back then, there were hints of a story, but it was mostly those emergent stories created by the players in their misadventures. It was amazing the various ways those players died by wolf attack, starvation, food poisoning, thirst, frost bite, injuries from falling, bears and more.
I realize there are parts of the world where those are real threats and not a game, but I think survival games itch that instinctive itch to survive. All of the satisfaction of surviving minus the real danger of actually dying.
Creating a Game out of Survival
The game captures this feeling through the survival gameplay. Walking, running, climbing and other activities, increase hunger, thirst and fatigue. Get too tired and the player character passes out, which can be deadly in the bitter cold.
Starvation and dehydration are prevented by eating and drinking, but quality is important. Eat bad food or drink dirty water and the player character ends up ill. Left untreated, it’s a death sentence. Eating salty food increases thirst, so yeah it’s like that.
The main issue to track in the Long Dark is temperature. Wearing warm layers of clothes helps, but shelter and fire are the best to combat the cold. Blizzards, nighttime and strong winds force a rush to find shelter or fire. There’s a definite primal joy in starting a fire in time to avoid hypothermia.
Fire is a whole other set of challenges. Starting one requires a fire starter (like a match), tinder (sticks or paper) and fuel (branches, logs, coal, etc.). The better those ingredients, the higher chance the fire won’t fail to start. An optional accelerant speeds up the process and increases the chance of success.
All those things I mention above require foraging and looting whatever you can, wherever you can. That’s just part of the survival gameplay, so if the above interest you, then you should already own it. Beyond things I mentioned, there’s predators to deal with, crafting, clothes mending, weapons cleaning, drying wet clothes and more. There are so many layers.
The Long Dark Episode 4 Prison Escape
There’s no doubt the Long Dark nails the survival gameplay. What encouraged me to finally buy the game was the Wintermute single player story the developers added. At first, the art style of the graphics threw me off, but that definitely grew on me. It’s a very Dishonored-like art style.
The very first episode hooked me in. I’d never played the game before that, so the tutorial eased me into how great the survival gameplay is. I’ve now extended my adventure through all 4 of the released episodes. The whole story begins with the player character, Mackenzie, searching for his ex-wife, Astrid.
My Long Dark journey took me through surviving their plane crash and not freezing. That initial looting of the crash site, fixing wounds, struggling to start a fire really pulled me in. The additional episodes kept me hooked just the same.
Along the way, I helped people in a small, remote town and found out the power was out everywhere. Later, I had run ins with escaped prisoners, aggressive wolves, a legendary bear, power stations, prepper bunkers and more. A later episode even took me through Astrid’s side of the journey.
Her skills as a doctor came in handy taking care of jet liner crash victims at a church. Things really got interesting when I witnessed the northern lights for the first time and the new effect it had on everything. I won’t spoil what that is exactly.
Episode 4 Fury, then Silence
With the new episode, the escaped prisoners from earlier episodes captured my character and held him in the prison they controlled. That prison was the main hub for all the missions. It was interesting hiding weapons and equipment outside of the prison to avoid losing them to the prisoners in control. The game warned, me but I didn’t realize they’d even take some of my clothes.
I enjoyed a steam pressure puzzle mid episode in the power station. The levers to redirect pressure to thaw pipes was a nice change of pace. Actually escaping the prison later on was a nice bit of action in contrast with avoiding cold or wildlife.
The Long Dark 4 episodes were great journeys and I’m looking forward to finishing the story when episode 5 finally drops.