The Longing

What differentiates video games from any other media is interactivity. This is what always draws me towards such projects, as many cannot be recreated in book or movie forms due to how they were made to require a player’s input. However, this also leads to some controversies with genres like visual novels and walking simulators that merely have you turning the pages or holding in a button. Yet, while I find them barebones, The Longing dares to challenge such mindset by taking you on a slow, but interesting journey. 


Being your own friend

The old king who once ruled the underground world has his powers fading away, leading him to fall asleep for 400 days in order to regain his strength. You as his last servant and a scrummy creature known as Shade must make sure to wake him up after his rest or who knows what will happen. Throughout this adventure, you are free to do what you want and explore these ancient caverns until your master is back to his mighty self.

It is here where The Longing showcases how atmosphere can carry a story. Since you are basically all alone, the protagonist is often talking to himself about what is on his mind such as thoughts on the environment or his own feelings, all with a dark tone to them. This makes it easy to relate to his emotions and how he embraces his loneliness wherever he goes. Be it his happiness for finding chalk to paint the moon he will never see with or how he just wants to stop for a moment to think, all of these simple lines of monologues create a big picture of how this isolation is treating him.

Furthermore, the areas are intriguing as well due to them visually and subtly telling what kind of society was once here, giving you tons of lore. Seeing places dedicated to mining, libraries with a couple of books left or unrecognizable structures that need more research, add to give this universe its own tales that are captivating to examine. Not everything is given a thorough answer, which I do love as you have to put the pieces together, making for remarkable worldbuilding that relies on your observations.

Story Score: 10/10


Patience is a virtue

Walking simulator is one of the hardest genres I find to make engaging because of its general lack of interactivity, but The Longing takes this concept in a fascinating direction. By having 400 days counted down in real-time, you are basically taking this journey however you would like to as the little creature. While you can choose to be completely passive, you are encouraged to stroll through the hallways and take any road you want in order to explore these empty halls and see if you can discover anything.

This is a slow ride and the game fully acknowledges this. Your character slogs through every corner, forcing you to be patient as you hold the analogue stick towards where you wish to go to. I question the lack of D-pad support, but it is not a dealbreaker and being persistent can lead to rewards. You might find materials to make your home cosier or even reveal new areas of interest. Yet, multiple locations require more time in order to be accessible, such as making you wait a week for a stalactite to fall down or a month for water to rise.

Luckily, this project is not without some leniency. Despite that you do not have a map at first, you can remember places in a separate menu for automatic backtracking and even make Shade walk around in order to discover new sites to visit. Onwards, locating items like a pickaxe or moss can also lead to finding more engaging stuff that I do not dare to spoil. Should you be uncertain of what to do, you can always travel home and read your thoughts. In fact, you can even find books that are genuine works, such as The Iliad, The Raven, and Moby Dick!

It is legitimately sweet to see how much your home and knowledge blossom with each discovery, making it almost worthwhile to take notes to keep on track with what to do next. However, the biggest criticism The Longing has is also its strength; its uneventful pace. There are implementations to make this tolerable as stated, but every action takes ages and it does not help when this walking simulator barely needs any input from the player overall too, which can cause it to feel more like an app that you occasionally check in on.

This is basically a waiting game that does thrive on its core design, with every step being extremely small. It is a daring concept that I find this project to mostly succeed upon, but it is also one that can remove your involvement due to its automatic options. Despite that I do truly love how it forces you to tag along with this tiny protagonist and makes even a piece of paper an extraordinary treasure, this title both delivers on a fascinatingly unique premise and struggles as an interactive product. 

Gameplay Score: 6/10


Ominus and solace

By taking place underground, The Longing presents a mystical and gorgeous labyrinth to venture through, with every corner having been lusciously drawn by hand. The green library with destroyed layouts, foreboding hallways with vast backgrounds, and dark caverns with crumbling crystals, are just some of the amazing locations to witness. More imaginative and surreal sites are to be uncovered that I do not want to spoil due to their incredible architecture and colourful sceneries. I even admire how the rooms that convey a sense of deja vu, only do so to enhance this lengthy journey of yours with no friends nearby.

Probably the finest achievement of this title is its audio. Every effect, be it the simple water dripping, Shade’s footsteps or the nudges of a pickaxe, intensifies how alone you are in this subterranean world. It is magnificent how strong the immersion becomes, with sounds even getting louder the closer you are to their sources! The music further compliments this atmosphere, alongside the silent moments of environmental cues. While the composition relies on dark notes, it is still diverse with harsh pianos, echoed electro, and religious bells to emphasise each area’s distinct tone.

Presentation Score: 10/10


Hopefully, I do live one more year, but…

Consider this: how easy is it to return to a game that takes 400 days to finish for a second go? There is a ton to explore and see on the first run, which should have been the main aspect, but this expedition also has a couple of endings depending on what decisions you made. Some are more leisurely to find, but all take a long time to encounter due to The Longing‘s unconventional concept. My time with it was still a fascinating one, but even if it does not require your attention every day, giving it another playthrough is hard to recommend.

Extra Score: 3/10


Verdict

I adore how this project sets out to do its own unique thing and does so with plenty of intriguing design choices, with an atmosphere that I believe is unmatched by any other indie title thanks to its gorgeous presentation and slow journey. The interactivity is what I question the most, as it is rewarding and offers a great immersion, but can also be mundane and does not lend itself to revisits. Still, everything is done with such care and clever details, that I cannot help but have respect for it. A solace experience for those who have the patience for it.

75/100

Published by slionr

A guy who likes to talk about video games and loves tabletop gaming. Writer for corruptsavefile.com, you can always follow me on twitter @GSlionr if you ever want the latest article from me :)

3 thoughts on “The Longing

  1. This game really struck a chord with me. Making time the main mechanic forced me to concentrate on the protagonist and their situation and, while it was a a risky move by the developer, I found something special in it.

    Knowing I’d be unlikely to go through 400 days again to get the various endings, I went for what I guess could be considered the ‘good’ one. Watching the others on YouTube made me realise just how poignant they all were in their own way – particularly ‘that one’ (I won’t spoil it!). The Shade has since become one of my favourite characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am really happy to hear that, as it is such a unique experience that is truly mesmerizing! Certainly a risky move by the developer like you said, though it truly made for an unforgettable game.

      Honestly, I do understand that! I had multiple users with unique saves, which cut down my playtime with a couple of years, but one playthrough might be enough. And where is my Shade plushie?!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: