The Long Dark review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PC, PS4
Publisher: Hinterland
Developer: Hinterland
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I’m having a really hard time figuring out what I thought of The Long Dark. On the one hand, I was atrociously bad at it. In my first half-hour or so playing the game, I’d conservatively estimate that I died about a dozen times. If memory serves me correctly, I froze to death, I died of exposure to the cold, I accidentally set myself on fire, I died from an blood loss, and I fell off a cliff — and, in some cases, I did those things on multiple occasions.

I’d like to say that I got better the more that I played, but that would be a lie. The only difference between me on Day 1 of the game and me in the following days was that I just found more inventive ways to die. I’m not what you’d call an outdoorsy person, so adhering to basic rules of survival like “boil water to get rid of bacteria” and “gather enough wood to keep your fire going all night” aren’t exactly second nature to me.

In other words, if I were to judge The Long Dark solely by my own experience, I’d probably be extraordinarily negative. However, doing that would also miss the point of the game entirely: it’s supposed to be an ultra-tough survival game. If it were easier to live in the wild and off the land, then a) more people would do it, and b) there wouldn’t be much to the game. Criticizing The Long Dark for succeeding at what it intends to do would just be silly.

Besides, after handing my controller off to a friend and letting him try his hand at it for a little while, I suddenly saw the game as it was intended to be played — slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully — and I could kind of see the appeal. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but at the very least I can see how others might like it.

For that matter, I can even admit that there are aspects to The Long Dark that I like. The graphics are gorgeous, showing off some of the prettiest wilderness scenes I’ve seen since Firewatch last year. The art style also lends itself to an air of mystery, which is just the right tone for this kind of game.

Obviously, I’m trying to view The Long Dark through the eyes of someone else — since, as I said, I was horrible at it. I may be overcompensating the other way a little too hard when I say that it seems like a perfect fit for anyone who likes their games to be challenging. At the same time, tough, given what I saw between very frequent deaths, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a great match for anyone who doesn’t mind dying a bunch.

Hinterland provided us with a The Long Dark Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B-