The Long Dark Review

The Long Dark Review
by Pauly Hart
Where Truth Matters.

I teach a survival simulation course to children and adults.

I work at a camp where we have a variety of programs that we offer to grade-schoolers who come and take field trips at our site. Among the fun ones like "Log-cabin Building" and "Pioneer Cooking" is "Survival Simulation". What does that look like? Very similar to this game. We are open in the spring and the fall and are in the northern United States and often find ourselves doing this in the snow. As a matter of fact, on first looking at it, I was convinced that some items had been taken from my manual. But that was silly. Smart survivalists all say the same basic things.

Before I take the children out, I give them a quick lesson on all the things they will experience in the simulation. How to find water, how to find or create tinder, kindling and fuel for a fire, what a fire needs to live, what we need to live, how to build a lean-to, how to find what direction the wind is coming from, how to build an S.O.S. signal and how to create a splint, stop blood loss and treat shock. Pretty rushed though, but that's OK because we are going outside and going to practice everything that I just showed them.

So, at our camp, we have "The plane crash" in a wilderness area (no houses around sorry) and the burning wreckage is going so hot and heavy that the survivors only have time to grab five items out of a long list of things that was on the plane. We are looking basically for them to chose: Matches, Knife, Metal bucket, Rope, Tarp and not choose things like: Flashlight, Popcorn, Toilet paper, and the like. They only have a few minutes before the plane catches all the way, and then sinks into the bog.

The main good news during my Survival Sim is that there are no wolves. Not real ones at least. The pretend ones come later. We do, however, put them to the test. There are around ten children usually and they are given fifty "Life Points" per group, each child accounting for five of those points. I will give them twenty minutes to find water, get a fire going and bring their water to a boil. Fire accounts for: Light, Heat, Ability to melt and boil water, Ability to cook food, Safety, Ability to dry wet clothes, and most importantly: Hope.

If they fail at the first task the rest are ultimately harder. And I take away half of their Life Points. Then I have them search for food, erect a shelter, someone "has an accident" and breaks their leg and bleeds everywhere and goes into shock, and then I have them build and S.O.S. and get into the shelter before the wolves come.

Usually around half of the children die. But we go inside out of the snow and discuss what happened and they write down the things they did that were successful and the things that were not.
All of that prepared me for The Long Dark. In the game, I found myself learning new and inventive strategies that I did not know I was able to invent. I felt as if I were a child and the game makers were myself, being patient and ever so helpful. Wait. No. There was no help. Only the savage fangs of the wolves. And the snow. The long dark? The long snow-blind, wolf-infested, frozen-soul dark. Dark and dirty... And damn cold.

My first experience with this game was my wife screaming from the other room. "Oh my gosh honey! This is totally you!" she went on and on. She was so happy to have found something that looked like I would play it over and over. That was two weeks ago. It was to be my Christmas present... Heh. I've been enjoying it a little early.

Enjoying it? Obsessing over it? Living it? I caught myself looking up dog-food prices the other day. On the top of my review, it shows how many hours I have played of this game. Does it really reflect the thirty hours I've spent scouring maps and watching youtube videos? No. You niggardly hour-counter. How dare you scoff at my lack of total commitment! I love this game and have recently purchased it for my brother and one of my closest friends.

Do I recommend this game? Yes. Only if you want to live.