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The Longing: A game about loneliness in an underground world
So, things have not been good lately. With several countries going on lockdown thanks to covid, I find myself flocking to games that sort help cope with this experience. And no game hits closer to home than The Longing, a small indie title that got released in March last year by Studio Seufz.
This is possibly the longest-running game I have ever played, part exploration puzzle game, part idle game, it takes several days of real-time for you to see the ending. And time still passes even when you aren´t playing. Which can make for an interesting mechanic.
The story is based on a german legend about an Underground King. You play as a Shade the King´s subject, and you are expected to wait 400 days in the underworld until he wakes up. The is only one rule: you are forbidden to go outside to the surface (which again getting too close to home).
Other than that you are free to roam around and find ways to pass the time. There really is not much of an objective and there are no enemies to fight or characters to interact, it´s just you and the darkness.
You can either decorate your lair, explore its secrets, or..... you can disobey the King and try to find a way to the surface. Starting the game and not open it up again until the timer runs out to see the ending is also an option. But where is the fun in that? I mean you would be missing out on some interesting sights.
When you start out, you are given a small cave that becomes your home base, the walls are pretty empty at the beginning, with only a few books, but it should fill up as you explore.
As you can see in this picture I have already started some decorating. I created a bunch of paintings with materials I´ve found, got a bunch of furniture and my bookshelf has started to fill up.
Speaking of books, you can actually read full public domain books such as Moby Dick. There´s also a journal that describes things the Shade wants to do if you´re at a loss on what to see next.
But if you´re not much of a bookworm you might be more interested in exploration.
There are a lot of places to explore and secrets to discover, but it is really easy to get lost in these big labyrinth-like stairs and corridors. Fortunately, the game allows you to register noteworthy places should you ever need to revisit them, and believe me you will have to do it often.
You control the shade with only the mouse, and the walking speed is really slow, but that okay, you can ask him to go to an area, turn off the game, and come back.
As I previously mentioned, this game does have a real-time mechanic. Some places are blocked by certain obstacles that require you to wait. This can go from a couple of days to a whole month, such as this water pit:
I have to wait until it fills up with water in order to get to the order side. I´m still waiting as of the time of this writing. But it´s fine, I got time. This game was made to be played sparingly and at your own pace after all.
That being said the game does reward you for your patience and exploration. It can either come in the form of items you can decorate or cool locations such as this crystal fountain:
This cool glowing mushroom cave:
A cool treasure room behind indestructible glass, where I broke my pickaxe when I hit it ( I really shouldn´t have done that).
But the one that stood out was the Halls of Eternity, just one long corridor that never seems to end.
Only a fool dares to try to reach the end of eternity so says the journal, and that fool is me. And while it seems like an impossible task, it is filled with treasures for me to bring home, this where I got my curtains, carpets, and a horse head. There was also more drawing paper for my sketches. There are rewards for those brave enough to traverse it.
That being said it does get very lonely at times without so much as seeing a soul, except for this face in the wall:
If you speak to it and offer it items, it will give out some hints. One of which is the best to get to the surface. You learn it is a very dangerous journey, that involves traveling in complete darkness. I´m actually curious to see what would happen if I did it.
That being said I enjoyed some of the 2d visuals, the sketch-like graphics makes this game look like an art piece. The music has this atmospheric but dreary sound in the form of dungeon synth music that is a constant reminder of how alone my character is.
This is a very interesting experimental game. It allows the player to form their own path, do you simply wait? Do you try to escape this world? Or are you a full explorer? This little gem offers a unique experience from the typical fast-paced games that we´ve been accustomed to. This is the kind of game that makes people reflect on their feelings of solitude, longing, and a sense of purpose.
And I think we all need something like that. These current events have forced me to spend more time at home, what it´s like to bide my time, dealing with isolation, and figure out what to do with myself until things improve. And in playing this I managed to find a healthy outlet to explore those emotions.
The Longing might not be for everyone due to its slow pace, but for the more casual player looking for a relaxing game, this is a must-play.