After years of development, Hinterland studio finally released the first and second episode of The Long Dark on August 1. Fans, including myself, have been waiting with great anticipation for Wintermute, the title of The Long Dark’s story mode.
The game follows the story of a Canadian bush pilot, Will Mackenzie, whose plane is brought down after the strange lights appear in the sky. The appearance of the lights causes all technology to cease working. Mackenzie wakes up from the crash, badly injured and surrounded by the flaming wreckage of his plane. Around him is the frozen wilds of Canada, and the icy weather only gets worse as the story continues. The passenger he had with him has gone missing, and Mackenzie sets off on a journey to find her.
The game initially was available only in sandbox mode, giving players the chance to explore the world of the game without getting any of the story. The only objective in this mode is to survive for as long as possible.
Gameplay, even in Wintermute, revolves around survival. Mackenzie can’t get too cold, or he’ll develop hypothermia, so gathering materials to build fires is important. He can search nearby cabins for food and supplies or risk hunting the wildlife. While the land is filled with deer, there are also murderous wolves and bears that will gladly attack the second they smell or see you.
I loved sandbox mode of The Long Dark, and I wanted to love Wintermute even more. However, it seems that despite all the time Hinterland Studio spent on these episodes, Wintermute fails to impress. There are a lot of things that I love about The Long Dark. The music is beautiful and doesn’t distract from the gameplay. The environment is so well crafted that as soon as I see the snow covered trees and hear the howling wind, I feel a shiver down my spine. Every moment that I see or hear a wolf in the distant (distance?) is one filled with actual terror.
Wintermute fails to add anything to that, unfortunately. The writing is mediocre at best. The first character we meet in Wintermute is a blind elderly woman, Grey Mother, who basically speaks in riddles and does little to add to the story. When Mackenzie asks her if she knows where the missing passenger went, she answers by asking him to go fetch something for her. After fulfilling that quest and coming back, she does the same thing again. I spent three hours going through her mundane quests, only to find out that she didn’t really know where my passenger went after all. In episode two, this trend of fetch quests begins again with another character who also has bland dialogue.They also added another way to unlock
They also added another way to unlock snippets of story for the players. Every character has a level of Trust, which begins at zero. In order to gain trust with them, the player can give gifts to the characters. As a concept, this sounds like it should work, but in game, it becomes ridiculous pretty quickly.
In order to get Grey Mother to tell you something, you raise her trust to 100, which can be done by giving her a whopping 100 sticks. Another character requires their trust to be raised to 200. No matter what situation you’re in, giving a person 200 sticks feels just plain weird. Characters start to feel like slot machines that you pour in supplies just to get the plot moving. I’m fairly certain they created this system just so they could advertise that they have fifteen hours of gameplay in the first two episodes.
My final and biggest complaint with Wintermute is the glitches. Within the first four days that Wintermute had been released, four patches came out fixing the dozens of bugs within the game. Not only that, but there are hundreds of players that are still reporting bugs that are actually making the game impossible to finish. Glitches such as missing inventory items, falling through the world, and poorly design enemy AI are flooding the discussion boards for the game. I, myself, can’t actually complete episode two because of a bug that hasn’t been fixed for over a week now.
For a supposedly complete game that costs $34.99, this is unacceptable. While I might attempt to finish the game once it’s been fixed, I don’t think I can recommend it. Even with the glitches taken care of, I really don’t think the first episodes show the promise they need to make it worth the cost. However, if you are interested in seeing the game for yourself, it’s available on Steam here: http://bit.ly/2qw1TXM.