A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Long Dark is a downloadable survival simulation game. It tasks players to scavenge a frozen postapocalyptic wasteland for the basic necessities of life, including warm clothing, shelter, fire, food, and means of protection. The protagonist (who can be either male or female, according to player preference) can and will die in a variety of ways, including exposure, hunger, exhaustion, and animal attacks -- which can be pretty intense when experienced from a first-person perspective. The gameplay acts as a cautionary tale about how much humanity has come to rely on modern luxuries such as electricity, communications, and readily available consumables and how easily those without survival training might perish in the true wild.
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What's it about?
How long could you live in the frozen wilderness without electricity or any hope of rescue? That's the question in THE LONG DARK, a survival simulation game set in the freezing wilds of northern Canada. A geomagnetic event has left the world without power. You take on the role of a bush pilot whose plane has crashed in rough country, trying to live as long as you can. And it's not easy. You'll start the game dumped into a snowy world with little more than the clothes on your back. You're cold and getting colder. Hungry and growing hungrier. Tired and quickly becoming exhausted. Ravenous wolves lurk in the trees and roam icy lakes. Any of these issues can prove fatal if not quickly and properly dealt with. So you become a scavenger, searching for cabins and huts that could contain matches and accelerant, beef jerky and energy bars, winter parkas and hats, perhaps even a rifle to fend off the salivating canines. Through experimentation you learn how to make fires and create clean water. If you're lucky, you may make it through the night or even a few days. But eventually your character will sprain an ankle, run out of supplies, or get trapped by wolves without a weapon -- and die. There's no happy ending, no return to civilization. It's simply a test to see how long you can survive. Currently, The Long Dark is in an "early access" phase where players can purchase and play in the sandbox mode, even though it's not yet finished. A story mode that expands upon the calamity that destroyed civilization and features additional characters will be available once the game is complete.
Is it any good?
The Long Dark isn't the sort of game for players looking for a tidy, guaranteed resolution. It wants to give you an idea of what it feels like to be cold and alone and left to fend for yourself. You can't literally feel the cold, of course, but you can see it in the puffs of icy breath released each time your protagonist exhales and hear it in the wind whistling through frozen trees. The loneliness is absolute. All you find in your exploration of the game's open world are the remnants of humanity, relics left from a recently passed age of luxury and comfort. It's dark and a bit depressing and likely will end with your character's death within minutes the first few times you play.
It's also a fascinating experiment. With virtually no instructions, you'll need to figure out how to do things. How will you get warm? Do you know how to start a fire? How will you get into the can of peaches you just found? What's your best defense against starving wild animals? There are some occasionally frustrating contrivances -- your health and warmth decrease rapidly in real time, and tools that should have longevity tend to break much too quickly with use -- but it's otherwise an effective simulation of what life would be like if you were forced to suddenly fend for yourself in a chilly, lonely forest. It's not the sort of experience most players will soon forget.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in games. Is the impact of killing animals reduced because it's necessary to survive in The Long Dark?
Have you considered what it would be like to live in a time or place in which your survival depended on your ability to harvest what you need -- food, shelter, clothing -- from your environment? How do you think you would do?
- Platforms: Mac, Windows
- Subjects: Science: ecosystems, weather
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, decision-making, deduction, problem solving
Creativity: combining knowledge, developing novel solutions, innovation
Self-Direction: set objectives, time management, work to achieve goals
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Hinterland Studios
- Release date: September 23, 2014
- Genre: Simulation
- Topics: Adventures, Science and Nature
- ESRB rating: NR
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.