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Video Game / The Long Dark

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How will you face this quiet apocalypse?

What are you to do when you experience the end of the the end of the world? (Or at least a very remote part of it.)

The Long Dark is an immersive first-person Survival Sandbox and the debut title from Canadian independent developer Hinterland. The game contains certain elements of survival horror stemming from the atmospheric nature of the game and the natural dangers that the player faces. The game is more grounded in reality than most other games in the genre. The game's Steam page emphasizes the fact that there are no zombies, only you vs. the wilderness.

The player must survive in the wilds of northern Canada in the depths of winter after they fall victim to a plane crash. There are several species of wildlife currently implemented, including the hostile wolves and bears which pose a threat to the player. The game features other challenges in the form of hunger, thirst, and, of course, the bitter cold.

The Early Access build of the game focused on the sandbox survival mode with no win conditions, plus a number of challenge modes with various win conditions. The full release version of the game also features a 5-episode story mode campaign. The map is pre-made rather than being procedurally generated, but the placement of items is random.

The four difficulty levels alter the challenge in significant ways. In Pilgrim (Easy), you are more of an explorer with no wolves attacking you. Just you having the world to explore without danger. Voyageur (Medium) is more balanced where you are part hunter, part survivor and face a reasonable challenge in the game. Stalker (Hard) is where nearly everything is trying to kill you around every corner. Interloper (Hardest) is an extreme challenge where only a small amount of supplies are available on the entire map.

The Long Dark was released in alpha form for Steam Early Access on September 22, 2014. It was finally released in full on August 1, 2017, with the first 2 episodes of the story campaign unlocked on release, Episode three was released October 22, 2019 with the remaining episodes to be released at a later date.

The story itself focuses on two characters, Will McKenzie and Astrid Greenwood, a pilot and a doctor, respectively, who were once married and have since gone their separate ways....until one cold, snowy night when Astrid suddenly shows up at Will's front door with a locked hardcase and a request to be flown to Great Bear, a remote, nearly uninhabited region of the Canadian Wilderness. The two take flight in Will's plane against a worsening storm...but while en route a bright green aurora flares up from the north and knocks them from the sky. Now stranded and lost, the two now must reunite while battling everything mother nature has to throw at them, from frigid cold, to hungry wolves and bears, to the strange cosmic phenomenon that has knocked out anything and everything electric, while also unraveling the mystery of what happened to the world around them...and why they are here in the first place. At the end of the day, however, before the sun slips below the horizon and heralds forth freezing temperatures and fierce predators that they hope their fire can keep at bay through the night, only two real choices remain: Survive, or fade into The Long Dark...

You can check the website here, and the wiki official here.

This game contains examples of:

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     General Game Tropes 
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Loading screen tips and lore documents mention 'The Collapse' in the early 21st century that made Great Bear Island even more socially and economically isolated from mainland Canada. Some of them also reference the proliferation of electric cars and rural gas stations are outfitted with charging stations. All of the vehicles in the game have gas caps and look to be no younger than the 90's, however, and the computers are all pretty chunky with not a smartphone or tablet to be seen. With the Milton Credit Union closing in 2012 and Grey Mother stating that Milton needed help "10 years ago," this sets the game roughly in 2022.
  • Abandoned Area: In Sandbox mode, there is no other living human to be found in any of the locations. Plenty of dead ones, though. The story mode, however, features other living humans.
  • Abandoned Mine: Coal mines are present in Coastal Highway and Desolation Point, connecting the two regions as well as Pleasant Valley. They were abandoned after earthquakes made them unstable and many have suffered cave-ins that make navigation tricky in the dark. They are a valuable source of coal for forging and in Coastal Highway, one mine contains an elevator, powered during the aurora, to a section filled with high level loot. Try not to get trapped in there when the aurora ends.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: There are several concessions to what someone would actually do in a survival situation for the sake of gameplay.
    • Warmth is simplified as below 0°C means you're getting too cold, while above it means you'll be heating up - despite how having an actual person's body temperature falling below 35°C means hypothermia will start setting in. As well, you never have to worry about getting too warm and having to bother to take off clothing, and any "indoor" area with a loading screen will always have a constant temperature regardless of outside temperature and the lack of interior heating (not to mention the necessity of it is why indoor heating exists).
    • You might have to gather a starter, tinder and fuel for a campfire, but the rocks surrounding one are never a problem for you to deal with, nor do you have to actually gather sufficient fuel for the campfire in the first place - one stick will be fine until you gather some a short distance away and add more if you really have to.
    • Cooking is just done by leaving it on cooking spots until they're done, so you can go do something else while it's cooking instead of, you know, actually having to turn over your steaks while they're cooking.
    • You can just leave food out. Actually, outright leaving it outside will have the lowest rate of condition reduction and it won't despawn when ruined, unlike in a container. Have no worries about some creature messing with it or the ickiness of snow pouring on your rabbit meat for days, what you're doing is literally the best thing you can be doing!
    • Given how much of a Game-Breaker it would be to have an infinite water source, you can't gather non-potable water from ice-fishing holes or waterfalls, requiring you to expend firewood and time to melt snow.
    • You can't make a spear or even wave your arms and shout (the recommended way in real life) to deter predators, forcing you to expend some precious resource to avoid a confrontation (flares and torches, time and energy) or win a fight (bullets, health, weapon and clothing condition).
  • Angrish: When being attacked by an animal, your character will explode into an outburst of barely-intelligible words as you stab it to death.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The developers simplified the wolf combat in an update. Previously, fighting wolves had been particularly difficult as the in-game tips on how to actually do it only showed up in an actual fight — and if you took your attention away from the wolf to read, you'd get killed.
    • If you need less calories than the food source has, at least on the easiest difficulty, you will only eat until you are full, and the rest remains in your inventory. The weight will also decrease proportionally.
  • Apocalypse How: The geomagnetic disaster that wiped out all electronics' functionality seemed to affect all humanity, so it is likely a Planetary destruction. However, it's difficult to determine the severity due to the game's remote location — it could range from Societal Disruption to Societal Collapse, depending on which part of the world is in question.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The player has the option of keeping one.
  • Autosave: The player's game is saved when resting, passing time, or entering a building. However, the game cannot be saved from the pause menu, and does not auto-save when quitting, either.
  • Armor of Invincibility: The wolfskin coat was previously this. While it didn't quite make you invincible, it was the warmest possible clothing and also the most durable, and also has a possibility to scare away wolves. Eventually it received a nerf, receiving a drop in warmth and increase in weight making it inferior to other available clothing. Now this position is held by the bearskin coat, which offers a higher warmth value than any other clothing and has a higher chance of scaring away wolves than the wolfskin coat, at the cost of being incredibly heavy.
  • Badass Longcoat: Wolfskin coats. The description says:
    Handcrafted outerlayer. Warm, tough, and tells Wolves — and everyone else — you are not to be trifled with.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • Black Bears roam the map and boy, are they mean. You won't die from their mauling, but if you're not quick with getting to shelter or don't carry medical supplies, chances are you're still gonna die rather quickly after the mauling.
    • The Old Bear in the Hunted mode immediately attacks the player when the mode starts, and will continuously chase down and attempt to kill the player anytime they are outside.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Interiors are generally more spacious than buildings' exterior dimensions would suggest.
  • Boom, Headshot!: A rifle round to the head is guaranteed to kill any creature. Except the Old Bear.
  • Border Patrol: In Coastal Highway and Desolation Point, wandering too far out onto the open ice results in falling through and possibly drowning.
  • Breakable Weapons: Tools like the hunting knife, hatchet, and hunting rifle will wear down as they are used. Originally it was worse, as the rifle would break after 20 shots, but since then the degrade rate has been decreased to more realistic levels. You can repair weapons, but this uses up finite resources such as scrap metal or whetstones.
  • Braving the Blizzard: Players might be having to do this if they're missing out on some need while being caught out without shelter. Your odds are better running through a blizzard to somewhere safe from the wind than just staying put in the open...
  • Bulletproof Vest: The Ballistic Vest is the heaviest accessory/ clothing item in the game but offers a whopping 50% protection bonus (30% higher than the next most protective item, the Moose-Hide Cloak, which only offers a 20% protection bonus), effectively halving the damage taken from any wildlife attacks. It's not blocking bullets anytime soon, but combining this vest with the right gear can make a player nigh invulnerable to bears, wolves, and moose. note  A single vest spawns in each survival game and can only be collected by making the dangerous trek to Blackrock Prison.
  • Cabin Fever: An affliction that prevents survivors from Sleeping, Reading, or otherwise Passing Time while indoors. It's caused by spending more than an average of 18 hours a per day indoors and first presents as a "Cabin Fever Risk" (which can be mitigated by spending time outside) before progressing to full blown "Cabin Fever." The effects last for 24 hours before expiring. Survivors can still sleep in semi-protected "outdoor" spaces like cars, caves without loading screens, and snow shelters, but in the face of frequent extreme weather events and hostile wildlife this is still a dangerous prospect.
    You've been indoors so long you feel like the walls are closing in. You will be unable to sleep indoors for 24 hours.
  • Canada, Eh?: The game is set in Canada, so characters speak with Canadian accents and several buildings have the Canadian flag waving outside. The Winter's Embrace update that was released on June 29th, 2020, further amplified it by adding in maple syrup and ketchup chips as food items. An event whose duration was a month from that update had a "Canadian Feast" badge which required players eat 25 of each of the two foods to unlock it.
  • Crate Expectations: There are small crates in most houses that can be broken apart to get one piece of reclaimed wood. They sometimes contain small items such as cans of soda or chocolate bars. Larger crates offer more wood and may have more precious items inside.
    • The cargo containers in Timberwolf Mountain contain large amounts of loot, but require a hacksaw to access.
  • Creepy Crows: Flocks of them mark corpses by circling overhead and cawing loudly, which may seem creepy at first. The trope is subverted in that they are definitely not bad news. Crows point out the corpses of people and animals, who may contain useful tools, food, or both.
    • However played straight with bears, as their grunting and shuffling is also accompanied by the sound of crows cawingnote 
  • Critical Annoyance: The character starts to complain when the cold/tired/hunger/stamina bar gets very low. While it definitely adds to the atmosphere of the game as it conveys the character's frustration to the player, it can also become annoying. For example, if you are getting cold but are near the shelter, your character saying "I need to find some place to escape this cold" feels rather dumb.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted — the equivalent of HP in this game is Condition, and is damaged over time by coldness, exhaustion, starvation, dehydration and bleeding from untreated wounds. These stack additively, in case you are unfortunate enough to be all five at once, you won't last long. The character will begin to wince and moan about pain, cold and hunger and slow to a crawl, powerless to do anything until they fade into the Long Dark. Your character has a natural Healing Factor that comes into play when they are not under duress - if you are badly hurt, getting a door between you and the howling wind, a nice fire, some food and perhaps some herbal tea before a good night's sleep will all do you a world of good.
  • Curtain Clothing: Downplayed — household items like curtains, towels, and some upholstered chairs can be broken down to get "cloth", which is an essential resource for repairing standard articles of clothing. "Cloth" can also be used to create the "Improvised Head Wrap" and "Improvised Hand Wrap" items (which have terrible stats compared to every other item available for the "Head" and "Hand" slots, but at the very least will reduce the risk of frostbite by covering up exposed skin).
  • Cut and Paste Environments: The outside world is pre-rendered and very unique, but many of the interior homes are carbon copies of each other, right down to item placement.
  • Die, Chair, Die!: You can scavenge furniture for resources (mostly firewood). Smaller ones (crates, chairs) can be taken apart by hand, while larger ones (tables, shelves etc.) require a hatchet.
  • Dog Food Diet: Dog food is one of the available food items you can find. It notably has a higher chance of giving you food poisoning than other processed foods.
  • Driven to Suicide: Implied; sometimes, a corpse will have a bottle of painkillers next to it. And of course, if things have gone badly, badly wrong, the player can always decide to put an end to their character's suffering and their own frustration by jumping off a cliff or marching towards a wolf and not fighting back.
  • Dying Alone: You can occasionally find the frozen bodies of others who failed to survive in the harsh Canadian winters. One of the more harrowing examples of this is in the coal mine that leads to Desolation Point, where some guy's body is lying, trying to reach through some grating with the tunnel behind him caved in. Given that the sandbox mode only ends with Character Death, it's also how the game ends.
  • Early Game Hell: When you start a new game, you will spawn in the frozen Canadian wilderness with minimal clothing and supplies. This is even worse in Interloper, where you will initially spawn with no matches and only a few articles of clothing that will fail to keep you warm even in most interior locations. This makes the first day a race against the cold to find fire starting supplies or enough warm clothing to avoid freezing.
  • EMP: The geomagnetic storm that has occurred renders electronics useless and implicitly devastated civilizations around the world. Inverted Trope for auroras which randomly appear in the sky and cause electronics to work again temporarily.
  • Endless Game: Sandbox mode doesn't end, unless you die. There are achievements for surviving for certain lengths of time. That said, it's only theoretically endless, as many resources are finite and don't respawn. But with careful usage of the few renewable resources it is possible to survive indefinitely, with the current record being over 10,000 days.
  • Everything Fades: Once interacted with, carcasses despawn without a trace after a few days. Ruined food and medicine kept in containers also despawn.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Sure, you are Made of Iron and survive a crashed plane, but that was the easy part. There is the wildlife: wolves, bears, and Moose. Sure you can hunt rabbits and deer, but the corpses attract the wolves. Eat the wrong food? You can get parasites and food poisoning. One misstep and then you are at the bottom of a ravine, or fall through the ice. That's if you don't go hungry. Or don't have enough potable water and die of thirst. If you can't light a fire, then there's freezing to death.
  • Fission Mailed: Upon arriving at The Old Bear's cave at the end of The Hunted Part 2, he will charge (while ignoring bullets) and maul you. Instead of dying immediately or regaining conscious and getting back up, you are instead dragged away by the bear into its cave. The challenge ends with a "To be Continued..." screen.
  • Flare Gun: A rare weapon found only at the top of Timberwolf Mountain or sometimes in The Ravine and the Carter Hydro Dam and the ruined lighthouse in Bleak Inlet. Ammunition is very rare, but its the only way to scare away a charging bear.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: Eating low-condition items and raw meat can give the player character the "Food Poisoning" affliction. The affliction steadily reduces condition and fatigue if not treated, but will go away on its own after a full in-game day.
    "Something you ate has made you very sick. You will weaken until you treat it, it passes, or you die."
    In-game description
  • Full-Frontal Assault: While injuries can be treated easily, clothing damage is a serious concern given the time and resources needed to repair them, as well as their necessity to keeping yourself warm. If a fight with a predator is unavoidable or even desired, it's a choice between the clothing's protection stat to reduce condition loss or stripping down to avoid damaging clothing entirely.
  • Genre Shift: While The Long Dark is an arctic wilderness survival game where the threats and dangers are mundane (and usually from the environment), Escape the Darkwalker is a pure Survival Horror experience that takes cues from the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
  • Ghost Town:
    • The entire map is abandoned, but the most traditional version is the Coastal Town on the Coastal Highway map. The only things there are crows and wolves.
    • Milton is this in the story; already struggling financially due to economic collapse, the inhabitants of the town all but abandoned it once the power went out. The sole exception is Grey Mother, a blind but crotchety old woman who is too frail to leave her house and watches over it with a rifle to ward off looters.
  • Goodies in the Toilets: Subverted. There are no goodies per se — just precious, precious clean water, likely drawn from the tank.
  • Guide Dang It!: Previously, if you tried to read the instructions on how to fight a wolf, which only appeared while you were fighting a wolf, you would die. However, this has since been amended; see Anti-Frustration Features above. There is also no tutorial on how to play — the player is dropped right into the game, and then good luck!
  • Hanging Our Clothes to Dry: Played for Drama - the player's clothing will get wet from being out when it's snowing, and then proceed to freeze on a cold enough day. This will ruin the clothing's warmth benefit (and increase its weight) to progressively cause hypothermia and then frostbite to the player, so when clothing gets wet, it should be taken somewhere dry or hot to warm it up. Taking clothing off and leaving them somewhere dry/hot is faster than keeping them on, so clothing should be removed and placed by a fire if you wish to be there's not going to be any other people around to make stripping down embarrassing anyway.
  • Healing Factor: The player has a small healing factor that steadily heals the player over time (it is, of course, far lower than the loss of condition a player receives for having needs emptied). Cups of herbal tea can heal the player more if they sleep, while birch bark tea improves this natural healing rate.
  • Healing Herb: Rosehip, reishi mushroom, and old man's beard lichen are substitutes to painkillers, antibiotics, and antiseptics, respectively. The former two have to be "prepared" and then brewed to make tea, which makes them heavier to carry than the tablet form of their counterparts, although the teas do have the benefit of providing 100 calories. Old man's beard lichen, however, has negligible mass compared to antiseptics which comes in liquid form. Birch bark can also be prepared into a tea that will steadily heal the player.
  • Hit Points: The player's health is represented by a percentage called Condition. Extreme coldness, starvation, exhaustion, dehydration and maulings all lower it over time, sometimes very fast. The damage also stacks so that the player will die a lot faster if they are freezing, starving, dehydrated and exhausted; although they would probably die before all four assets are depleted.
    • Certain afflictions are capable of taking a chunk of condition away at once — lacerations from a wolf's teeth, for example, will take 10% of condition straight off. Falls can take around 15% or 25%, if they don't kill you.
    • Condition replenishes, also over time, when the player character is not under duress (i.e., averting the aforementioned situations) and is not currently in need of first aid that can affect Condition, such as food poisoning. The stacking also works the other way, so if the player's warm, well fed and hydrated, a good night's sleep will have an almost Trauma Inn effect.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Averted. Nights in this game are pitch dark, even with a storm lantern equipped you can't see more than a couple feet in front of you if you are located inside a cave or building. Depending on weather conditions, it may be easier (if it is full moon or a clear night) or even harder (overcast or snowing) to see in front of you.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The sandbox mode has four available difficulty settings, the easiest being 'Pilgrim' (more resources, wolves are scared of the player), the regular one is called 'Voyager' and hard is 'Stalker' (much more and also more aggressive wolves, resources are more scarce). The hardest difficulty is 'Interloper' (No rifle spawns, less starting supplies, no knife/hatchet spawns, extremely small amount of loot, extremely aggressive wolves). There is also Custom mode where the player can adjust difficulty parameters to their liking, though these games will not record progress towards Feats.
  • Impairment Shot: The game is played in first person point of view. When a player character is injured or suffering from certain afflictions, the display and controls will distort to reflect their poor health:
    • When player condition drops below 10% (either from taking damage in wildlife struggles or not keeping warmth, fatigue, thirst, and hunger meters above zero), the display becomes blurred and sounds grow muffled as a heartbeat sound begins to grow louder. The display also sways back and forth as if the player character was dizzy or disoriented, making movement difficult. The effects become more pronounced if condition does not improve.
    • The "Headache" and "Pain" conditions result in a blurry corona around the edges of the screen.
    • "Suffocation" causes the display to grow progressively more blurry and muffles sounds.
  • Insurmountable Waist-High Fence: Anything that requires lifting your feet even slightly off the ground either requires you to find a spot where you can shuffle up, or is impassible. While it makes sense with significant climbs, not being able to climb a rock because it requires you to lift your foot to ankle height is silly.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: You can carry up to 30 kg without slowing down. If you get tired, this amount decreases, but can be increased by going 3 days without starving, creating a Moose Hide Satchel, or finding the Technical Backpack in Ash Canyon (all of those gives 5 kg each). However, it is generally a good idea to travel light as you burn more calories if you carry more even if it is below the limit. On the other hand, if you leave something behind you have to come back for it once you need it, so it's another one of the tradeoffs you have to consider in this game.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: When no predators are near, birds will chirp in the trees. So if the area you're in suddenly becomes very, very quiet, you'd better get out your gun.
  • Level-Map Display: There's an optionalnote  in-game map of the area you're in. It keeps track of the points of interest you have already visited, but it doesn't show your current position so you'll have to rely on landmarks to orient yourself. The game also doesn't provide a compass, but considering that there's a geomagnetic disaster going on, it wouldn't do too much good anyway.
  • Lighthouse Point: Desolation Point has a very "maritime" theme, with a lighthouse, an abandoned whaling facility, and an old ship trapped in the ice. The lighthouse is a good first stop as it has all the necessaries to work as a decent player base and also gives a pretty commanding view of the area.
  • Made of Iron: The Old Bear in the Hunted challenge modes starts off with two arrows already lodged in its back. Shooting the bear with the flaregun will merely cause it to retreat, while a shot is fatal for all other animals. In Hunted part 2, the player must repeatedly shoot the beast with the hunting rifle while chasing it to it's den.
  • Maximum HP Reduction: Having exposed skin or wearing frozen clothes while outside leads to a risk of contracting frostbite, which permenantly reduces your character's maximum Condition by 10% each time.
  • Metal Slime: Moose are very rare, with only a few possible spawn points around the map and a low chance of actually spawning. They are as tough as a bear, are the only animal immune to bleeding, and will either run away or charge you if attacked. But if you do manage to kill one, you'll be rewarded with around 40kg of high-calorie parasite-free meat and moose skin, which can be used to craft the moose-hide satchel for a +5kg carrying boost or the moose-hide cloak for a high defensive bonus.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: Despite the breathtaking environments and serene atmosphere, the Great Bear Island wilderness is a brutal place for survival. The killer cold is a constant concern, the weather can turn inclement at the drop of a hat, and with the Aurora, predatory animals are far more aggressive than you'd normally expect.
  • Nemean Skinning: The player can skin several animals in the game to make clothes out of them. Rabbitskin hat or mittens, Deerskin boots and pants, a Wolfskin coat or a Bearskin coat and finally a Mooseskin cloak or backpack. For an added bonus, the Bearskins can also be made into an actual sleeping bag. However, each pelt skinned must be dried indoors for days before it can be used and the end result is heavier than more common alternatives.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: For a given value of "nice", at least. In the daytime you have full vision of your surroundings and with a few basic clothing items, the cold can be bearable. The night is far more lethal: not only does the darkness switch the visibility game in the favor of wolves and bears that will eagerly munch on your flesh, the cold intensifies radically, to the point where even if you have all-animal hide gear and top tier inner layers underneath, if you don't hunker down by a fire in a place sheltered from the wind, you're likely to be a frozen body by dawn. To make it worse, the Aurora only occurs at night, and it boosts predators with total fearlessness of fire and other things that would normally spook them away – only bright electric lights activated by the Aurora such as streetlamps, floodlights and the ultra-powerful alternate mode of the Flashlight can ward them off. And if that wasn't enough, the aurora also powers loose wires, that shock you for an obscene amount of damage if you touch them.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Mentioned at the beginning of the game rather than the end, and the developers mention that they do not condone unprovoked attacks on wildlife. See Our Lawyers Advised This Trope below.
  • No Can Opener: There are canned food and can openers. You can use any tool to open a can, at the cost of durability. Opening a can without a tool is also possible, but some of the food inside spills out and gets ruined, denying you precious, precious calories.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Timberwolf Mountain does not contain any timberwolves. They are only present in Bleak Inlet, Blackrock, and in the story, Pleasant Valley.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The industrial dam house of Mystery Lake's Carter Dam is fairly creepy: it is silent, dark, spacious, and lends mundane sound effects an especially unnerving echo that can come as a stark contrast after all of the primarily wooden cottages and cabins. Players are bound to expect something to jump out — but, of course, all the buildings in the game have been uninhabited so far...note  Also, when birds stop singing, you know there's predators nearby; see It's Quiet… Too Quiet above.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: The game's opening screen warns that despite the game's dedication to realism, it should absolutely not be taken as a substitute for real-life wilderness survival training. It also states that the animals in the game are abnormally aggressive due to the geomagnetic event; in real life, predators are not murderous human-hating kill-beasts and the development team does not condone the unprovoked wanton killing of wildlife.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Darkwalker from the horror-themed Escape the Darkwalker challenge is an invisible, intangible and indestructible entity that stalks the player across all regions, and will kill them if it catches them. All wildlife flee from the Darkwalker's presence, and it spreads a toxic fog through every zone that forces the player to move on. Painting glyphs in green paint can temporarily lure or ward the creature away, and it can only be defeated by painting a glyph in a prepared banishing circle (unlocked after finding all ten pages of an Apocalyptic Log scattered across the world). The Darkwalker becomes visible if it catches the player, and it resembles a vaguely humanoid mass of black smoke and green light, with three wolf skulls forming a "head". It's very much a Shout-Out to several monsters from the works of H. P. Lovecraft - which also feature esoteric journal writings, incomprehensible and malevolent monsters, and magical glyphs.
  • Pelts of the Barbarian: You initially start out with a set of conventional clothing, but as you kill animals you can craft your own fur clothing, which includes deer skin pants and boots, wolf skin coat, and bear skin coat and bedroll. These are warmer but heavier than conventional clothing. There is even a Steam achievement called Wrapped in Furs for using all of them at once.
  • Permadeath: Once the character dies, that's it. The save file may no longer be accessed.
  • The Precarious Ledge: When you exit the hydro dam at the back, the only way back in is to cross the dam on a thin ledge.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: The only difference between the male and female character is the character's voice and the portrait on the "clothing" screen. Averted in the story, where Will and Astrid are separate, independent characters with their own backstories and motivations.
  • Rainbow Pimp Gear: May occur due to the player equipping clothing based on warmth values and availability, rather than aesthetic appeal. Lampshaded by the lead developer.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: To be expected, considering it's a Wide-Open Sandbox. You need to manage resources such as food, water, firewood, and medicine while dealing with tools that wear out over time. There is also a finite amount of food, matches, medicine, and bullets on the map, so eventually, the player will run out and lose. The game is also set up so that gathering any given resource costs you another resource (i.e. gathering firewood burns calories, while melting snow into water requires starting a fire which uses up firewood, tinder, and matches.) so for every action you need to weigh your gains against your costs.
  • Robbing the Dead: There are quite a few dead bodies that the player can loot and use for a small bit of storage.
  • Savage Wolves: This is either played straight, averted, or possibly defied depending on the difficulty setting:
    • In general, the wolves will chase the player down if they see them. You can try to outrun them by consistently breaking line of sight, but you would need to do that fast.
    • The wolves also seem to have lost their pack behavior from the disaster, but a lone wolf is still a wolf.
    • In the Stalker difficulty setting, the wolves will hunt you down, and most of the time you wouldn't see them coming until they are in your face.
    • The player can use flares and brandish torches to scare the wolves away, though they sometimes come back for a second round. Campfires will also ward the wolves off; though you'd better make sure they don't go out at the wrong moment...
    • If the player is well equipped, they could just walk confidently towards a wolf, looking for a fight; it will still try to maul you of course, but the player could deal enough damage to send the wolf fleeing, possibly without being costly hurt themselves.
    • On the Pilgrim setting, wolves will just run away from you when you get too close.
    • Keeping this trope in place is possibly the reason for the omission of (despite being able to fashion an improvised knife, a bow or even a bearskin coat) making and using a spear which would probably allow players to keep wolves at bay a lot easier with a remotely realistic implementation.
    • Timberwolves take this up to eleven. Not only are they far more aggressive than regular wolves, but attack in packs and are not deterred by regular flares.
  • Scaling the Summit: Timberwolf Mountain — while not '''the''' highest accessible in-game location, the mountain dominates the region of the same name. Summitting the peak is a dangerous endeavor that pits players against volatile wildlife like bears, moose, and wolves; challenges stamina with multiple rope climbs; and sees players racing against the clock to find shelter before the region's next blizzard rolls in. The rewards at the peak can be great, as the wreckage of an airplane crash at the summit holds cargo containers with a rich bounty of high-quality loot. The wreckage is also likely to contain a Distress Pistol (whose flare shells can stop a charging bear) or a rare Firestriker (which can start fires more reliably than matches).
  • Scavenger World: Comes naturally with the genre. You have to live off of what the previous inhabitants and Mother Nature left there for you. You have to repair your tools with scrap metal (e.g. from dismantling other tools) and repair your clothes from cloth harvested from furniture (or other clothes).
  • Scenery Porn: While the great outdoors is trying to kill you in any number of ways, it is also absolutely beautiful. Players have been known to get themselves killed by paying more attention to a particularly lovely vista (and trying to line up a screenshot just so) than where they're going/the weather/impending wolf attack.
  • Secret Level: The bottom of the Cinder Hills coal mine is a Brutal Bonus Level which is only accessible via an elevator, and said elevator will only be powered up during auroras. In there, the player will discover a partially flooded mine which is full of electrified cables, meaning they will risk a High-Voltage Death if they aren't careful. However, it is relatively rich in loot, notably in guns. Don't take too much time exploring because if the aurora stops, the elevator will be powered down and you will be stuck there until the next aurora!
  • Shout-Out: The item "Stacy's grape soda" is named after Stacy Plays. The Bear Spear is used by having the bear impale itself onto it, just like The Edge.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Performing actions like lighting fires and mending will increase experience in and level up their respective skills up to level five, conferring perks and bonuses with each level but do not carry over multiple characters. Feats, unlocked over multiple save games for things like reading a lot of books or sprinting several kilometers, confer small passive bonuses which are equipped at the beginning of each new game, like raising your "feels like" temperature by two degrees or losing less speed when walking into the wind.
  • Smashing Survival: Completely played straight after the 0.256(1 August) update, in which the player needs to smash the left mouse button to dissuade the wolves from killing the player character. This used to be more harsh and complicated, to the point where first time players are doomed to die from a wolf struggle, as no one could have read the instructions fast enough to save their lives, semi-literally.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted. Firing the rifle while indoors will temporarily deafen the player.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence:
    • Averted. Wolves will always run away from bears, and occasionally from the player if they are brandishing a brand/torch/flare or are wearing a wolfskin/bearskin coat.
    • The player themselves might play this tropes straight; see Yet Another Stupid Death below.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Averted. The wolves will chase you for a distance, but if you can manage to outrun them and/or break line of sight, they'll give up eventually.
    • Of course, you might be too weak at the time to run fast enough or long enough.
    • Played straight by The Old Bear in The Hunted challenge part 1, which will continuously chase down and hunt the player whenever they are outside in any area that is not a transition area. In part 2, the player takes on this role instead, and has to chase the old bear around the entirety of Mystery Lake.
  • Supreme Chef: Gaining more experience with cooking allows you to gain more calories from cooked meals, smash open cans without losing anything inside, cook faster and have more time before the food burns, and even eat ruined cooked food without getting food poisoning!
  • Survival Horror: While not necessarily a horror game, it has certain elements that make it an adrenaline-pumping experience — the looming threats of death by exposure and violent wolf attack included. The fact that certain houses have wolves spawn right outside the front door is enough to inspire paranoia when heading outside.
  • Survival Sandbox: The goal of the game is to live off the land for as long as possible. The alpha consisted entirely of this, but an additional Story Mode has since been added.
  • Title Drop: The death screen when the player dies of hypothermia.
    Text: You faded into the Long Dark.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: Fire barrels are a fairly common fireplace. You will have to start them yourself.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Frequently:
    • Fighting a wolf in hand-to-hand combat without a weapon will almost always result in extreme injury, if not outright death, for the player character. It's impossible to fight back at all against a bear that has you pinned down.
    • Falling from a great height will likely cause a sprained ankle at best, death at worst.
    • Eating uncooked meat will likely get you food poisoning, and drinking non-potable water will result in dysentery.
    • Leaving injuries untreated can cause an infection, which in turn may result in death.
    • The cold is a constant threat and can kill extremely quickly. Hypothermia cannot be cured instantly, either — it requires several hours of rest and keeping your body temperature above a certain level.
    • Using a lantern won't light up a whole room or large area. At best, it will light a few feet in front of you.
    • Stepping in fire will result in a burn that slightly cripples your character without treatment.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: All we know about the reason of the apocalypse is that electricity ceased to function due to some electromagnetic storm.
  • Video Game Vista: The "Forsaken Airfield" region (introduced in the "Tales from the Far Territory" DLC published in 2022) originally had a single point of entry requiring players to hike in on a crumbling road carved into the cliffs that ring the map. The first glimpse of the airfield proper comes as players reach the hairpin bend at Whealy's Turn — after navigating a treacherous section of collapsed asphalt, the cliffs penning in the road give way to an elevated view of the wide plain and river basin of the airfield region. The quality of the vista can vary depending on the in-game weather, but on a clear day players can see all the way to Shoulder Lake. On nights when the aurora is active the airfield is illuminated with hundreds of blinking lights. note 
  • Wintry Auroral Sky: Frigid winter is the only season in a game set in the Canadian wilderness, punctuated by occasional auroras that light up the night sky.
  • A Wizard Did It: In reality, wolves are not as hostile as they are in the game, but their antagonism makes the game more interesting. The loading screen notes this, and blames their behavior on the geomagnetic disaster.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: You must regularly eat and drink to maintain your hunger and thirst, otherwise you will slowly take damage. Having an empty stomach also causes you to move slower and get tired more quickly.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Since no individual event is likely to kill you (even bear attacks are routinely survivable at full health), it takes a combination to do you in. This is usually because you pushed your chances too far: waited too long before seeking food, went exploring before a blizzard or too early in the morning or too close to dark, shrugged off a wolf attack without stopping to heal, etc. Hindsight is vicious.
    • One, usually avoidable, way to die instantly is falling off a cliff. Sometimes you have to cross narrow ledges to reach certain areas, which look dangerous, but with some care you can avoid falling to your death. If you still fall, then this trope usually applies.
    • Another way to do yourself in is to overestimate how much you can gather from a fresh kill. Depending on the kill, gathering can take anywhere from a few minutes to two or three hours, which is more than enough to wear down your warmth and kill you via hypothermia, especially when hunting at night or if a windstorm blows in.

     Story Campaign Tropes 
  • Arc Words: "Wintermute." It's the title of the campaign, and near the end of Episode 2, Jeremiah asks Will to deliver an important message consisting of this single word.
  • Braving the Blizzard: For some reason, Astrid says she needs to take a plane to Great Bear Island and make it to a sick person, No Questions Asked. The blizzard itself might not have even stopped Will and Astrid if the Aurora didn't short out the plane's electrical systems.
  • Does Not Like Men: Molly, who's now a Serial Killer that's been murdering the escaped convicts in Pleasant Valley, apparently because of this. Doing this seems to have been sparked by her now-deceased abusive husband, though she'll at least ask Astrid and grant the possibility of Mackenzie being "one of the good ones" while telling her that she hopes to not meet him if that's the case. She's not portrayed especially sympathetically and Astrid is obviously disturbed by her, but Astrid isn't confrontational about her habits.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Just like in the Challenge Mode, the relentless Old Bear can be found in Episode 2. He's Jeremiah's nemesis, not Will's, but he'll go after Will in a pinch; after all it is a maneater.
    • Introduced offscreen in Episode 4 is Donner, the son of Mathis, who is described as a 'psychopath' who would make life a living hell for anyone he'd come across. He's locked up in solitary confinement, and Mathis wants to find a way to release him by any means necessary. Your two associates in the episodes speak of how bad it would be if he were to get out.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Probably not intended, but it remains true that stripping down entirely is a good way to "leave" Forlorn Muskeg after you've got the transponder parts to give to Jeremiah and get ambushed by the Old Bear who drags you off - within the Bear's den, you'll be immune to any needs including the cold but struggling with the bear will still damage your clothing. The 50% condition you'll have inside the den will be enough to kill the Old Bear unless you don't click fast enough and let the bear inflict more than one condition on you per struggle.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Methuselah and the eco-terrorists seem to think that the geomagnetical disaster is one of this.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Thomas tends to the wounded in Pleasant Valley.
  • Grief-Induced Split: It's implied in the early game that Will and Astrid had a child that died young, which caused their divorce. Astrid's made more of an effort to move on from the tragedy, while Will's developed something of a drinking habit.
  • Hero of Another Story: While Will was stuck in the ravine, Astrid was trekking across the wilderness in search of shelter. When you finally get out of the ravine, you spend the game following in her tracks trying to catch up to her.
  • Just Before the End: Several of the flashbacks in Chapter 1 take place hours, if not minutes before the end, concluding with Will's plane being caught in the air by the geomagnetic storm, with Astrid on board.
  • Justified Tutorial: The Ravine/Crash site section of Chapter 1 focuses on basic survival, finishing with Will slipping off a rock face and requiring a natural anti-inflammatory to make it out of the ravine.
  • Leap of Faith: When Mackenzie & Jace are cornered by an angry Mathis in the power plant (in Episode 4), Mackenzie ends up throwing himself and Jace off of the platform they're on into one of the streams flowing underneath, in order to escape. They manage to get out of the water from some distance from the prison (still in eyeshot of it), but Jace is clearly suffering symptoms of hypothermia. Also, you'll even get an achievement named this at this part!
  • Loners Are Freaks: Molly saves Astrid, but also freely admits to calling Astrid after she left because Molly's a bit lonely and it's nice to have someone to talk to. Also, Molly's been killing the escaped convicts in Pleasant Valley for misandry reasons.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: What the Aurora is isn't precisely clear. Nor precisely how it affects the wolves, who take on an unearthly green glow and are scared of electric lights. Also, during the aurora, electric systems work in a fashion.
    • The Old Bear, who's got a few arrows stuck in him and isn't stopped by rifle rounds, as Jeremiah attests. Apparently, there's also a story 150-years ago about a (at least similar) bear that was understandably called the Demon Bear due to also refusing to die to bullets, and only a man's large "Bear Spear" he fashioned for the purpose of fighting it seemed to do anything to it, which also turns out to be the only way Will can kill it. It also tracks Will with very suspiciously-good timing, appearing right as he reaches the last two shortwave towers and right as he's about to leave Forlorn Muskeg.
    • The Ghostly Stag for the Tall Tales side mission in Chapter 3, which promptly fades away after Astrid sees it.
    • Methuselah. Is he some supernatural entity, a figment of Mackenzie's addled imagination, or just a strange Cloudcuckoolander with strange insights into things? It's never explained how he knew of the fate of Hobbs, the murderous convict and he refuses to answer Mackenzie when confronted about it.
  • Mundanger: The story so far seems to show that economic stagnation and the abandonment of "flyover country" by the coastal city-dwelling elect are actually just as devastating as, if not even more so, than a global-scale energy pulse that shuts down electric appliances. In fact the "quiet apocalypse" tagline of the game refers as much to slow economic abandonment as it does to the sudden shutdown of electricity.
  • Murder by Inaction: Molly's abusive husband was killed by a pack of wolves, and she stood and watched it happen while she was armed with a rifle.
  • No-Gear Level:
    • Episode 2, Mission 4, "What One Man Can Do": After being stalked across Mystery Lake, Forlorn Muskeg, and Broken Railroad by the Old Bear, Will is knocked unconscious and dragged to the beast's cave to be eaten later. He wakes up with no gear (aside from basic clothing) and no weapons with which to defend himself with. Players needs to sneak through the cave to avoid the bear, find first aid items to treat their wounds, and locate the bear spear to fight off the Old Bear.
    • Episode 4, Mission 5, "Donner": The prisoners at Blackrock confiscate all of Will's non-starting gear whenever he returns from a fetch quest. The fifth mission begins with Will in this position, having to navigate the crumbling, smoke-filled prison and trigger-happy prisoners without any protective gear.
  • One-Time Dungeon: The Old Bear's cave in Chapter 2 — it can only be explored after Will is knocked out and dragged there by the bear, and for all intents and purposes it disappears once he kills the bear and triggers the post-bear-fight-escape cutscene. If players scrimp on exploring the cave during their playthrough, they might miss the “Torn Paper” note hidden on a frozen corpse.
  • Plot Tunnel: In Chapter 2 when Will is attacked an knocked out by the Old Bear, he winds up dragged into the bear's cave. He is unable to escape the cave, and players are unable to explore the world map or access most of the items in their inventory until they recover the bear spear from the middle of the cave and kill the bear. Even then, the "escape" from the cave is a cutscene that teleports Will back to Jeremiah's cabin.
  • The Reveal: The closing cutscene of Episode 4 shows that Astrid bundled up in a canoe and took it in the water to make it to Perseverance Mills, and the hardcase Will's been struggling for contains a cure to some sort of infectious disease that has caused a quarantine in Perseverance Mills.
  • Rule of Three: The Old Bear attacks Will after he's got the Bear Spear three times, the first two times as he's reaching the last two shortwave towers and finally ambushing him and dragging him off as he tries to leave Forlorn Muskeg to give the transponder parts to Jeremiah. Will will also have to struggle with the bear three times before actually scaring it off/killing it.
  • Sanctuary of Solitude: In the first episode one can find an abandoned church and take a rest there, warm up, spend as much time as necessary and make preparations for survival further on.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Donner, the son of Mathis, who is somehow even worse than Mathis already is, is trapped within solitary confinement in Blackrock Prison.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Molly has been murdering all of the escaped convicts scattered around the Pleasant Valley, apparently because they are men.
    • It's strongly implied that Donner, in Episode 4, was one before he was locked up and trapped in Blackrock Prison's solitary confinement.
  • Schmuck Bait: During day 4 of Chapter 1, Will notes that a rock face looks climbable, but trying to climb it causes him to slip and sprain his ankle due to still being weakened and injured from the plane crash.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Will starts the game trapped in a ravine and is stuck there for several days while he recovers from his injuries. By the time he gets out, the "quiet apocalypse" caused by the worldwide power outage has had some time to get rolling. In fact, there are clues that the region was already in bad straits due to economic stagnation and other factors, even before the geomagnetic pulse, which is why the area is so abandoned and run down even though it's been less than a week since the end of the world.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Bear Spear, needed for Will to fight the Old Bear. He even has to repair its spearhead.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: Aside from the low-grade stick torches taken from fires, Will can find an old flashlight. Like everything electric, it's dead. It only works during the Aurorae. The regular mode is a way downplayed example, consuming power very slowly and efficiently, while right-clicking kicks the beam to Absurdly Bright Light levels, enough to scare away glowing wolves but draining power in seconds; when it's off, the power gauge for the flashlight slowly recharges. It's a nice alternative to the flare pistol and the storm lantern if you're low on supplies.
  • Tragic Bigot: Molly's husband was in some way abusive. After he was killed by wolves (a death aided by her just watching it happen), she's obviously still got some kind of hang-ups with men such that she's been murdering the escaped convicts in Pleasant Valley because they're male. Astrid, understandly, clearly finds Molly a tad unsettling even after she's explained herself.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Near the end of Episode 2, you'll encounter Methuselah outside of the dam, where he'll speak about a reckoning that's coming for the world and that the Auroras are just a sign of its beginning.
  • Vulnerable Convoy: The "Crashed Prison Transport Bus" in Milton was ferrying convicts to the Blackrock Federal Penitentiary when the First Flare occurred. The vehicle crashed into a collapsed tunnel on the sole roadway that leads out of town and all thirteen prisoners who were being transported escaped. Hobbs and several others took the residents of Milton hostage in the schoolhouse, resulting in their death when the building caught fire. Mathis was able to make his way to Blackrock and take control of the facility with a gang of fellow inmates, then to the Carter Hydro Dam where he ambushes Will at the end of Episode 2.
  • Worst Aid: Right off the bat when you start. Will has a giant metal shard stuck in his hand before the game even begins. The player cannot do anything until they remove the shard. It is also worth adding that this shard is also used for gutting a deer a few days later, without any kind of cleaning and only a cloth around one end to act as a handle.