Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / The Long Dark

Go To

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 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 a 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, and the remaining 3 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.

    open/close all folders 

     General Game Tropes 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • An Axe to Grind: The hatchet can be used as an emergency weapon against wolves. The knife is more effective for the same purpose though, at the cost of a bit more damage to your character.
  • 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.
  • 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 usednote . You can repair them, but this uses up finite resources such as scrap metal or whetstones.
  • Canada, Eh?: The game is set in Canada, so characters speak with Canadian accents and several buildings have the Canadian flag waving outside.
  • Crate Expectations: There are small crates in most houses that can be broken apart to get one piece of reclaimed wood. They sometimes hide small items such as cans of soda or chocolate bars.
  • 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 — if the player's Condition is low, then the player character's ability to function will be affected.
  • 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. Chocolate bars are more common and more weight efficient though, and in the long term you'll have to rely on food you hunt or fish anyway.
  • 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 a stop to their character's sufferingnote  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.
  • Final Death: Similarly to Roguelike games, once the character dies, that's it. The save file may no longer be accessed.
  • 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. Ammunition is very rare, but its the only way to scare away a charging bear.
  • 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!
  • 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. Old man's beard lichen, however, has negligible mass compared to antiseptics which comes in liquid form.
  • 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.
  • Howling to the Night: Actually averted. While the wolves can howl at dawn or dusk, it's not for the express purpose of heralding the sun or moon — it means there is a pack nearby, and it is communicating. It is a good idea to take shelter when the player hears howling or barking wolves.
  • 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).
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: You can carry up to 30 kg without slowing down. If you get tired, this amount decreases. 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 geomagnetical 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.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: Despite the breathtaking environments and serene atmosphere, the Canadian wilderness is a brutal place for survival.
  • 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.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Mentioned in the beginning of the game rather than the end, and the developers mention that they do not condone of unprovoked attacks on wildlife. See Our Lawyers Advised This Trope below.
  • 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 killing of wildlife in real life.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: All we know about the reason of the apocalypse is that electricity ceased to function due to some electromagnetic storm.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Methuselah and the eco-terrorists seem to think that the geomagnetical disaster is one of this.
  • 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.
  • Late to the Party: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Example of: