Start Out Slow
The Long Dark is by no means a simple game and easily one of the best ways to understand its complexities is to lower the game’s stakes. The Long Dark sports three different levels of difficulty: the easy exploration mode, Pilgrim, the medium balanced mode, Voyager, and the painfully serious hardcore mode, Stalker. If you choose to jump right into Stalker, chances are you aren’t going to last very long at all due to the scarce resources and ferocious wildlife.
Because of how much there is to learn in the game, from item usage to crafting to mapping environments, the best way to become familiar with it all is to start the game on a lower difficulty setting. Starting out on Pilgrim mode will allow you to become comfortable with the various items and materials in the game as well as the complicated menus where they are used. Enduring The Long Dark is very much a battle of attrition and learning everything you can before engaging with higher difficulties will significantly increase your chances survival.
Use Environmental Context Clues
There is no map in The Long Dark and as such the ability to read your surroundings is key when searching for tools and materials that will aid you in outlasting the harsh environment. Surviving for long periods of time will require you as a player to create a sort of mental map of the area, but luckily there are a few tricks that will help you develop one.
A lot of real life survival advice tends to translate very well to The Long Dark. When searching for shelter and abandoned base camps, you’ll want to follow any rivers, power lines, roads, or train tracks you might happen upon. Also, crows will circle above dead animals and humans, which tends to lead to useful supplies. Always look for bones in front of any caves you find, as bones tend to indicate animals living inside which will almost always be hostile. Listen for the howling of wolves and if your unlucky enough to hear them then find shelter immediately. Finally, each area you discover will have a name which you can write down or mentally note in order to keep track of your location. In a serious playthrough, drawing a rough map of your area can be extremely helpful in keeping track of your location and important landmarks.
Setting goals in The Long Dark is very important, however it’s also important that you don’t focus too hard on just one thing. This is a game of multitasking and failure to do that will leave you short on materials and scrounging for fire-starting supplies or food at the last possible second. To avoid this, set sub-goals for yourself and make sure to get as much use out of each of your actions and items as possible.
If your out exploring, pick up some firewood or take a moment to search for some useful plants. If you have a fire built for heat be sure to cook some food or melt some snow for water. Make sure to setup animal traps before wandering off to explore for the day and you might end up with a little extra food when returning home. If you can’t make it back to home base, start collecting materials that will help you make it through the night in case you can’t find shelter. More often than not, if your doing one thing, you could easily be doing multiple and those that master this ability will greatly increase their length of survival.
Plan Your Meals
Calories and thirst are two of your primary needs and as such need to be maintained as well as possible. Not only is it important to ensure that you carry food and drinks on you at all times, but the order and state they are consumed in is very important as well. Calories stored in your inventory just serve to weigh you down and as such the heaviest calories are the ones that should be consumed first. This applies to water as well which tends to be heavy and as such should be consumed whenever possible and/or needed. Be sure to cook any meat and boil any water as contaminated stuff will make you ill.
Coffee, tea, and soda will count toward both your thirst and calories which means you’ll want to drink these first, then eat, and finally top it off with water in order to maximize efficiency. Hot drinks will also raise your body temperature in addition to the other benefits, which can be the difference between surviving and freezing to death. Some drinks will also grant extra effects, such as coffee decreasing your fatigue or reishi and rose hip teas which act as antibiotics and painkillers respectively. Before venturing out on an exploration, be sure to pack a variety of food and drinks in order to plan for any mishap that might occur.
Do Not Oversleep
Time of day is a very important factor in The Long Dark. Due to this, it’s vital that you maintain a good time schedule that will allow you to milk as much daylight as possible, because at night things can get very perilous. Sleep acts as a system for both reducing your fatigue and passing time, however just like in real life, it is possible to sleep too much and throw off your time cycles. This can leave you with significantly less time in the day and if you find yourself sleeping for large lengths of time in the wild, you can leave yourself vulnerable to poor weather conditions and hostile wildlife.
It isn’t overly important to ensure your fatigue stays way down and in many cases, allowing it to build up will lead to a better situation than resting in unsafe areas. If you must rest in the wild, then do so only for shorter periods of time. This is also a great way to return to a better time cycle. It is far better to spend an entire day slightly tired than to sacrifice 3-4 hours. Sleeping for a full 8 hours will completely refresh you, just be sure that your doing so in enclosed shelter and with proper preparedness.
Lockdown Your Day One
By far, the most important period of time in a single playthrough is day one of an adventure. Day one will be a huge factor in dictating your status for the rest of the game and a good setup will certainly ensure future survival. There are a few key goals to accomplish on any first day: max out your calories/thirst, find enclosed shelter, and build up a stash of materials and tools.
As soon as you spawn into the game, search through your inventory and become familiar with what you have. You can generally expect a blizzard at some point in your first day and as such you’ll need to find some shelter immediately so that you don’t die from hypothermia. Pick up sticks and try to find some tinder in case you aren’t able to find enclosed shelter and have to settle with building a fire. Always have a backup plan. Make sure to loot everything and anything. You’ll never know just what you may find. Eat or drink whatever you find if you require it. There is absolutely nothing to gain by letting these resources sit in your inventory. If you happen upon a hunting knife and/or a hatchet, then congratulations, you have to hit some really horrible luck or really try to fail in order to die.
Setup a Base Camp
If everything has been going well, then you’ve lasted a few days and have mentally mapped a decent amount of your surroundings. Now it’s time setup your official base of operations. Picking a base camp is a very essential part of surviving for many, many days. There are quite a few things that makes a base camp great. As obvious as it seems, you’ll want your base camp to be a sturdy enclosed shelter located somewhere toward the center of the map. Preferably, the camp will be comprised of multiple shelters gathered in a single area.
Having a ton of storage is very important for a base camp, especially later in the game. You’ll want to stock up as much as possible this way you won’t be running out of food or drinks for a long while. Being located near forestry is also fantastic, as hunting the wildlife and picking up firewood nearby will allow much safer scavenging and hunting. Having access to a work bench will also enable you to craft useful tools like clothes, a bow, and arrows. While not a necessity, a usable bed and multiple exits out of the compound will respectively allow for less usage on your bedroll and will provide escape routes in case of emergencies.
How have you been surviving The Long Dark? Leave a comment and let us know!