• Member Since 1st Apr, 2012
  • offline last seen Saturday

darf


pony-writer/pornographer looking for work. old stories undeleted. i'm sorry. Patreon here

More Blog Posts145

  • 2 weeks
    darfy new year

    henlo everypony

    around this time last year i emerged from the sightless goop of internet absenteeism and returned to my favorite website to write about ponies.

    how have things gone since then?

    well.

    Read More

    2 comments · 234 views
  • 14 weeks
    boo

    hello

    we are thinking about potentially taking on a small commission.

    please contact us if you are interested.

    thank you.

    <3

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  • 28 weeks
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    i don't feel like i have the energy to explain everything that's going on right now.

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    4 comments · 650 views
  • 31 weeks
    my b

    hey all

    sorry for reaching out for human contact and then, like... not responding to those offers for contact. truth be told i feel like a bit of a fraud/sham: i asked for people to be kind and contact us, and then got too scared to respond. partly i don't want to dump my problems on these poor innocent people. partly i am just stupid i guess.

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    2 comments · 299 views
  • 33 weeks
    darf makes friends

    (hopefully)

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    12 comments · 442 views
May
27th
2020

for real this time (thoughts on The Long Dark) · 11:25pm May 27th, 2020

hey we tried again here it is


Here are my actual thoughts about The Long Dark.

Playing it for the first time is a decidedly unique experience. It reminds a bit of the early stages of a Bethesda open-world RPG, being astounded by the appearance of every structure as though it's grown out of the ground in front of you, plundering and scavenging all available nooks and crannies until your inventory is full up with mouldy chocolate bars and torn-apart cotton toques. While scrounging for supplies is made more tedious thanks to the load-timers (this type of realism is, in our opinion, not what makes the game more engaging), there's still not much to compare with the thrill of finding a rare tool or item as you're wandering helplessly around the frozen wastes. The insides of buildings and the buildings themselves are always, unfortunately, more interesting than the outside, because of how much variety there is in things to do.

After the first several playthroughs, however, once you've started to grapple with the game's mechanics and systems in a hands-on way, the core gameplay loop begins to feel very chore-like. Many 'simulation' or 'survival' games can run into this problem, where your needs deplete at just such a rate that you can continue to keep them met only by doing the same thing over and over and over again ad nauseum. In The Long Dark, after you finish having fun wandering all over the place, you'll settle into a routine: leave house, get food, come back, prepare food, sleep. Do this as long as possible. It begins to feel more like you're being rewarded for filling in a spreadsheet than actually playing a game.

The Long Dark also suffers from many of what I've come to think of as 'under the hood' issues. While the difficulty options allow for fine-tuning of a large number of the game's metric experience sliders, there are many more numbers that are buried in mechanics and kept out of the player's hands. The raw amount of time it takes to do anything in The Long Dark, including simply moving around, is agonizing, draining at a level that succeeds at exhausting the player long before any of the in-game survival mechanics. Making something take a long time to do doesn't make it 'realistic', it just makes it monotonous.

Another review on Steam has said better than we could about how many scenarios in The Long Dark rankle because they're tuned only to the detriment of the player; things like cold weather dampening your clothes, but warm weather failing to dry them, and etcetera. The problem with a game being founded on any premise of 'realism' is that the further away the experience becomes from the genuinely 'real', the more dissonance is created between the player and the illusion of immersion. Not being able to jump is a pretty big one. It wasn't excusable in a 3D game ten years ago and it's not excusable now. Human beings can jump. If you make me play a game where I'm a human being and I can't jump, things are going to feel weird.

It gets hard to keep our thoughts collected as they spread out over the experience of playing the game. There are so many individual nitpicks and wrinkles that they all kind of blur together after a while. Here's our attempt at a list.

  • The sheer lack of variety in flora and fauna makes the game feel less alive. We remember when the moose was added over a year ago, and since then there have been no new animals or plants to speak of. The monotonous AI all the animals possess makes them feel artificial and uninteresting, more like roaming packs of resources or threatening hitboxes than actual creatures. Even a variation on the normal animal types would add a lot of playability, but we still just have wolf, deer, rabbit, bear, and moose.
  • All of the trees look the same.
  • Torches don't do anything when you drop them onto your bed indoors.
  • Walking up a one-inch incline is often enough to shatter both your ankles.
  • You can shoot a dog point-blank in the face three times and still have to chase it over a mile before it dies.
  • The necessity of a forge to craft the majority of the survival tools makes regular crafting seem underpowered and unappealing. There's a scarcity of things to craft in general, and once you make one of everything there's no real purpose to animal hides other than repairing your gear.
  • Not being able to sleep outside without a bedroll is stupid.
  • There's no way to leave or mark a trail in game other than manually dropping objects or wasting a superfluous amount of spray-paint.
  • The map should really have an indicator marking where you are, and/or allow you to draw or place marks on it manually.
  • The locations in general feel spread out and empty with not much to do once you've explored all the interior locales. This is significantly affected by how goddamn long it takes to go anywhere because you walk so goddamn slow. Holy shit you walk slowly.
  • Custom difficulties not allowing for feats progression is stupid.
  • The way the equipment degradation loop is designed so that all your equipment eventually breaks makes it feel like the game is just setting up an eventual punishment and forcing you to go to a forge. Maybe this is what the developers are intending, but it seems to greatly reduce the variety of the experience if the end-game forces every player to go do the same location.
  • I really, really can't believe I need a forge to make arrows. I was so excited to use my bow. This sucks.
  • There's nothing to do during the night/dark most of the time, unless you wanna waste lantern oil or juggle torches—which, as far as I can figure, are A) overpowered, and B) impossible to gather efficiently from a fire. You have to select 'take torch', extinguish the torch by holding down left-mouse, then press H to put the torch away. Every single time, one by one.
  • While we're at 'one-by-one', is there a reason I can't just select 'eat until I'm full' or 'repair until 100%'? Why do I have to manually select every single cat-tail head? Is this just to punish me for using a piece of the gameplay loop that's designed to circumvent hunting and tool-degradation? If so, is time-use implemented into the game as a way to punish the player, by directly wasting their time? If so, fuck you!
  • Fire-arms are hugely overpowered (as you'd expect them to be, theoretically, but I really can't craft a bow or sling or spear or LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE) and way too necessary for late-game progression. Good luck killing a wolf with rocks (we tried, and sometimes they run away, but we're pretty sure you can't kill them).
  • Weight/inventory management is mind-numbing and exhausting as such a large facet of gameplay. I get that it's a tenet of survival games, and anything with a crafting system in general by this point, but making the carry-weight of everything so punishing highly diminishes from the feeling of joy you get when you find something cool because you can't even carry it back to your base without dropping a bunch of firewood every ten feet so you can sprint—at a pace barely faster than walking, and with a heavy risk of ankle sprains.
  • Ankle-breaking wolf-chase simulator. Someone else said it, we're saying it.
  • Cabin fever is a stupid mechanic in general. Let players stay inside if they want.
  • Why are there so many non-interactable objects around? The layer of interactivity in the world feels less real and more like a playground with props in it every time I see something I could realistically interact with (like a pot or a can or piece of paper) and the game doesn't let me. Every time I see what turns out to be a bar of soap or something that looks exactly like a whetstone it feels like a tiny chisel is being driven into my scrote. That's right, it's 2020. Time to start saying 'scrote'... again.
  • The struggles with wolves are boring and barely interactive. Give us some way beyond just choosing our implement to interact with the wildlife.
  • The throwing mechanic sucks. It feels like RNG.
  • I think we're done.

Okay. We have a lot more saved up but that's the majority of what we think. Here's our last bit:

Right now, in The Long Dark, we're hanging out in Mystery Lake. We wound up there after a long crawl through some coal-filled tunnels, during which we walked slowly and clung fearfully to our last fragment of barely-lit torch. As we gathered supplies, mostly fire-fuel for our journey, we stopped every once in a while to dump a gigantic pile of coal and cedar firewood onto the cave floor, then kept moving only to repeat the process along the next section of cave interior. We'd gone out looking for an escape from our monotonous rabbit-trapping loop, and after two perilous mountain-rope climbs, accidentally found our way outside the boundaries of our starting map and spawn location. Seeing 'Mystery Lake' come up on the screen was a relief—somewhere simple. Somewhere we'd been before. We were excited to go ice fishing.

The location immediately adjacent the cave was a modest cabin on a snowy hill. It turned out to be the named locale 'Trapper's Homestead', complete with a revolver, indoor workbench, and almost as many shinies as we'd left back at home, minus the giant collection of reclaimed wood and 1-liter water bottles. We poked around inside everywhere we could, then wandered off in search of the eponymous lake and the oily creatures swimming underneath the ice. After we found a set of power-lines, we followed it along a road, mapping every once in a while along the way. We were intent on keeping a complete and clear illustration of our passage, so that we could one day find our way back to the Trapper's Homestead—we'd already needed to abandon a significant chunk of cool gear there due to weight concerns.

Eventually, we came upon the lodge at Mystery Lake, as well as the many ice huts and nearby rental cabins. Plundered around, getting stuck with firewood weighing us down more than once. Gave a wolf the business with our revolver when the aurora made him antsy. And did a lot of fishing. Apparently you can catch some really big fish. We got one that was 3.75kg (kilograms). We're not sure how big that actually is, but it sounds big.

In conclusion, eat me.

No, wait.

In real conclusion, The Long Dark is a nice and interesting experience if you want a way to wander around a cold, semi-desolate landscape by yourself, conversing with nature through occasional flirtations with pesky wildlife or leisurely trips to gather plants by the river-side. But it has a lot of problems. A lot of issues that could be fixed, and an overall sense of slog. We have too many problems with it to recommend it, as you could get a very similar and potentially far more rewarding experience playing Minecraft instead, or even another 3D survival game without such an obsession on lengthy task-completion times and time-loss = difficulty philosophy. There are many more complex ecosystems, many more systems of interactivity. Collecting alchemy ingredients in Skyrim feels much more playful and rewarding. Surviving feels much more fun when your bullet's chance to hit doesn't seem determined by a dice roll.

Anyway. We did it. Bleh.

Comments ( 5 )

wow that sounds like a really awful gameplay experience.

Nice review.
Helpful, I think.
Entertaining to read, too.

This sounds like something you play with friends after everyone has had a pot brownie, and everyone can’t stop laughing because of how BS it is, which is not at all what me and my friends are gonna do later, nope not at all

I remember giving this game a go a long time ago. TL; DR: I wasted calories running around without a clue, got excited when I discovered a cabin and a rifle(!), encountered a wolf, missed my shot and got eaten.

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