Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, XBox One
Steam rating: 94% positive
It seems like the majority of early access games on Steam are some variation on the sandbox-survival theme. The Long Dark sets itself apart by eschewing any kind of supernatural elements – you only need to worry about hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and the relentless cold. If that sounds dull, you should also know that, even on the lowest difficulty, it’s punishingly difficult.
Playing it for the first time in several months, I was overwhelmed by the amount of progress that’s been made – story mode is still unreleased, but they’ve added challenge modes to the basic sandbox mode, for folks that prefer a little bit more direction. Despite the lengthy period that The Long Dark has been available as an early access title, it’s not languishing – the team working on it is growing and constantly making improvements.
Playing on pensive, I still almost died from the cold on my very first day, trying to find a safe space to bunk down for the night and gather every precious candy bar I could find. You start out with no specialized survival skills, and no tools. You will need to explore and scavenge and possibly even get lucky if you want to make it.
The Long Dark is fairly slow paced, and you should expect to have to figure out pretty much everything yourself – yet another small thing that feels very authentic to me. Although I don’t want to dive too deep in until the promised Story Mode is released, the sandbox mode feels very solid and is absolutely worth playing now. At the very least, if a realistic survival simulator appeals, keep an eye on this one.