OPINION | GAME ON: ‘The Long Dark’ survival adventure deepens the chill with expansion pass

"Tales From the Far Territory" is a 12-month expansion pass that will give video game players access to new content for "The Long Dark" in free and paid streams. (Courtesy of Hinterland Studio Inc.)
"Tales From the Far Territory" is a 12-month expansion pass that will give video game players access to new content for "The Long Dark" in free and paid streams. (Courtesy of Hinterland Studio Inc.)

“The Long Dark: Tales From the Far Territory” Expansion Pass

Platform: PC (Steam, Epic)

Cost: $19.99

Rating: Teen for blood, language, moderate violence

Score: 9 out of 10

Cold, hungry, low on supplies, you sit huddled in an old shack with a fierce blizzard raging so hard outside it shakes the window panes. Eventually, the storm passes, and you step outside into a below-zero chill. You must press on, keep exploring, looking for firewood, more food, warmer clothing.

A wolf howls, answered by another, and then another.

How long could you survive trapped in the frozen wilderness of northern Canada? That's the question posed in "The Long Dark," a post-apocalyptic survival game set after geomagnetic extinction has left the world without other people or power, and you without hope of rescue.

This premise has been drawing players to the game for years, making it truly a one of a kind experience. The first product of a small team called Hinterland Studio, "The Long Dark" has been in constant development for most of the past decade, with the game being continually expanded upon. Now the first paid expansion for "The Long Dark" has been released, called "Tales From the Far Territory." The first part, a new region called Forsaken Airfield, came out earlier this month, and the full breadth of the expansion pass will be released over the next 12 months.

With its $20 price tag, "Tales From the Far Territory" is as costly as the base Survival Mode, but the developers also say it'll go up in price later. That said, it's probably best for players who are already fans of the original (which is totally worth checking out), but it also supports a very responsive, independent game studio, and that's worth something, too.

"The Long Dark" does go on sale, though, and Steam's winter sale is coming up soon.

The base game is also included with the PlayStation Plus Extra and Microsoft's Game Pass subscriptions. "The Long Dark" expansion is right now only out for PC, but it will be coming for XBox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch consoles in the near future.

The full extent of what players will get in this expansion pass is still yet to be known (although mountain lions are said to be coming), but with just this first release there are already hours of new content available.

"The Long Dark" started as a sandbox survival game, and eventually a full story mode, called Wintermute, was added, with four parts to the series currently out and a fifth installment coming soon. In Wintermute, unlike in the Survival Mode, there are still a few survivors on Great Bear Island (the site of where the main character's bush plane crashed).

The sandbox experience has always been the core of the game, however, and Hinterlands essentially decoupled the sandbox mode from the story mode so that they could push out updates faster and more easily, leading to the expansion, which essentially gives players more of the same icy aloneness they've always enjoyed, but with updated game-play, regions and tools.

This first content drop includes the Forsaken Airfield region, but it's no easy feat to even access this new area. Players can pick the region they want to spawn into (except on the highest difficulty), but they have to have discovered the area first, which requires a long, harrowing trek through mountain passes and railway tunnels, edging around broken mountains and finding ways across broken bridges. It's a journey of hours just to get to this new area, which is a vast plains area surrounded by mountains and populated by aggressive timberwolves.

In the new region, players can find unique gear — such as an improved bow and a special rifle, but also experience new game-play. "Long Dark" veterans will be familiar with the game's beautiful aurora borealis that sometimes lights up the night sky, causing a sort of haywire effect for all electronics (and the local wolf population, which becomes fearless and hyper-aggressive). Now players will also have to contend with Glimmer Fog, in which the fog is charged with electrostatic particles that bring electronic equipment to life, causing the ice and snow to crackle with electricity.

Spend too long in the fog and players will develop a new condition, insomnia.

"The Long Dark" is a contemplative game of quiet exploration. There's a lovely soundtrack (with more new music added with the "Far Territory" expansion), but also lots of moments where it's just snow crunching underneath your footsteps and expelling icy puffs of air.

With fully customizable difficulty levels, there's something for survival players of every skill level. There's no "winning" survival mode, just lasting until you don't, until you finally slip into the long dark, and then begin anew.

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