The Long Dark

Even the best games can have elements that, when taken on their own, can be a bit tiresome. These nagging elements might stand in stark contrast to an otherwise brilliant game. Maybe it’s something as simple as less-than-conventional button mapping, or even requiring the player to hold a button to interact with a game feature when a traditional button press has always sufficed.

These quirks, irks, and jerks can build up to inflate their peevish impact on a game, no matter how great the game itself might be.

Even though it is one of my favorite and most-played games of all time, The Long Dark is not innocent of these charges. Having recently gone back to play another round or four — pitting my wits and constitution against the brutal Canadian wilderness — there are a couple little annoyances that can no longer go untouched upon.

So here’s my little rant about two things that irritate me in The Long Dark.

I should preface this by stating I mostly play on consoles, so mods are off the table. Keep that in mind before flooding the comments with “There’s a mod for that” statements.

Forced Item Identification

The Long Dark - Firewood

Oftentimes, the key to success in The Long Dark is grabbing everything that’s not nailed down and sorting through the haul once you find that first suitable base of operations. It can be even more pertinent to do this as quickly as possible, especially if you are freezing, wet, and in a race against the rapidly setting sun, miles away from warmth and safety.

In fact, it is probably the habit of most players to simply pick up loose sticks along the path between point A and Point B, so that you have a steady supply of fire fuel and sticks in case you need to construct a torch. Anyone who has played The Long Dark is probably well aware of the annoying little feature of an item identification screen that pops up whenever you pick up anything, which halts the game and requires an additional button press to tell the game you do indeed want said item.

Picked up a stick? here’s the same item identification screen as the last two thousand times you picked up a stick, in case you still need the game to tell you what a stick is. Are you sure you want to pick it up? Then you have to press the X button (or left click if you’re on PC) a second time in order to add the item to your inventory and continue with the game.

I’m sorry, but what is the point of this? I can see it popping up the first time you pick up a item — that makes perfect sense. But after my 300th can of peaches, I know what the hell a can of peaches is. And of course I want to add it to my inventory; that’s why I clicked on it in the first place.

Now, I can see someone arguing that it gives you the option to deny adding it to your inventory if you don’t need it. Maybe it was an item you weren’t familiar with. Maybe you just wanted to know what it was but don’t actually need it. Fine. But that scenario is probably far less likely to occur than picking up something that you did indeed want — especially if you’ve sunk hundreds of hours into this game (which I have). Why punish the majority?

Besides, if I don’t want the tree stump remover, I can simply drop it from my inventory after the fact while I’m managing my inventory.

Please either remove this feature or give me a menu option to toggle it off. It’s especially annoying when harvesting cattails, because they give you two items instead of one: the fluffy part, which acts as kindling, and the stalk, which is a food item. So not only does the game pause and go into that little info pane every time you pick one, you then have to click “Take it” to keep both items before moving on.

This is maddening and must be stopped!

Different Ways of Lighting Things on Fire

Say you want to light an isolated match to help illuminate a dark room or cave. You simply select the match from the menu wheel, and, as the screen helpfully tells you, hold R2 to light it. Simple.

But if you want to light a torch, you first choose the torch, and when prompted to press R2 to light it, it brings up a menu of all of the sources of fire you can use, which is typically any number of individual matches you might have on hand, various books or boxes. However, you must press X in order to decide which match to use. Except… it isn’t just pressing X and then pressing R2, as you have previously been instructed. Now you have to hold X once you have decided which match to use until the torch is lit.

Why? Why are there two different ways to interact with matches?

There is no difference between which match you choose. If I have five books of matches in my inventory and three boxes of matches, just let me light the torch. Why do I have to decide which collection of matches to draw from? This serves no purpose. It’s already maddening enough that the game insists on keeping matches separate instead of combing them into one single collection. Boxed or wooden matches and those from a smaller book are practically identical, aside from an arbitrary weight difference and the fact that wooden or boxed matches have a miniscule 5% increase to your chances of successfully starting a fire. I mean, why even offer two different options to begin with? Just go with one or the other.

Good lord, Is anyone else’s blood pressure starting to spike? I’d better wrap this up.


The Long Dark

As you can see, despite my incessant need to harp on how great The Long Dark is, the game is not without it’s flaws and minor issues. Over time, these little annoyances can snowball into a borderline aneurysm, so I think it worth mentioning them if for no other reason than to simply vent and hope for changes in an eventual patch. Considering how much support Hinterland Games has given to this incredible game, that might not be too far out of the realm of possibility.

With all that said, I’ll now be heading back to the tundra to learn about what sticks are.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x