At E3 2015, Microsoft announced its Xbox Game Preview program, which runs in a similar format to Steam’s Early Access, in that it allows developers to market their “in development” titles to the consumer. One of those titles in the first launch line-up is survival title The Long Dark.

Unlike titles such as DayZ and Rust, the game does not feel hostile from the off, as you’re the only threat to yourself at the beginning in this Canadian landscape. The game is only in alpha, but features the basics of survival, from eating through to keeping warm.

The Long Dark cabin
A cabin in the woods.

Your energy is monitored via Calories, which decrease as you do actions throughout the day and night. That can include basic tasks like running through a snow-filled woodland to fishing in a frozen water hole. The tasks you do throughout the day have to be carefully managed with how much food you eat. After a hard some effort of labour you might want to replenish your energy with some food you found from an abandoned shack earlier.

The game has you collecting items from the off and it’s probably worthwhile keeping most things. You definitely want to keep guns and ammo to defend yourself, but also try to keep a stockade of food and drink to keep you alive while you’re not battling a pack of wolves. There’s also a day and night cycle, with night serving as the most punishing time of day. Not only do you find it hard to see, but there’s also a sense of something coming out to get you. The atmosphere really picks up and adds a lot of tension during night time and you feel vulnerable.

There’s no base building in the game, but what you do is set up camp for the night somewhere then move on. For instance, it got dark one night so I set up in an old wooden shack, before heading out the next day to the derelict dam, which was filled with a delightful amount of goodies. It will also take a long time to explore all 20 kilometers of the map, which feels massive when you’re within it.

The Long Dark home.
Wonderfully furnished!

I love the variation of landscape offered in the game and the visuals are simple, yet beautiful. The way the snow falls to the ground through to the lighting given off by your lantern. Okay, it’s not always perfect, as the flames from a lit torch look kind of dodgy, but it has charm, which is what I’m trying to get at.

There are two modes offered with the alpha offering a sandbox mode, while the story mode won’t be available until late 2015. Who knows what that will entail, probably some sort of objective to meet.

My only critic with the game would be inventory management, which seemed a little bit too overbearing at times. You might pick up a shotgun for example, but t takes a good few seconds to even locate it before you can equip it. The cluster of items isn’t really sorted into any order and when you’re in a hurry it doesn’t serve much good.

Generally, The Long Dark makes you question your actions. Do you stay in the farm house for extra warmth or progress to the next building across the frozen pond? You have to make these types of decisions all the time and sometimes you will face dire consequences from them, but that’s what survival is about. If you want a break from a DayZ style of experience, then this is definitely worth a try – which you can do with Xbox Game Preview, as they also let you play for one hour for free.

Complete Xbox recommended game.

Pros

  • A visually beautiful game
  • Nice to play something that has you surviving nature rather than players
  • Plenty to explore and collect

Cons

  • Navigating the inventory is difficult
  • Some sort of camp building would have been nice

 

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