- Developer: Studio Seufz
- Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg
- Time played: about 11 days in real time (about 32 games in game time).
- Weblink – https://store.steampowered.com/app/893850/THE_LONGING/
So, I haven’t played many computer games since college (you know, back when I had some killer 16-bit games on my 386 gaming tower)… But, over the past few months, I have started to get back into the realm of computer games. While the focus of the Opinionated Gamers will always be physical board games, from time to time we may still write about books, computer games, puzzles or whatever else catches our fancy. Last month, I reviewed Luna the Shadow Dust, and this game comes from the same publishing house.
The Longing is the most unique computer game I’ve ever played. Though I’ve been at it for almost two weeks – continuously – In fact, the window on my PC hasn’t closed since I started playing it…, The Longing has been an intriguing balance of exploration, napping, lounging, reading, and simply waiting. In this new era of social distancing, I find that I have a lot of extra free time at home, and this game has been perfect for that. It is the sort of game that can keep me busy for an hour at one time, or maybe just 4 to 5 minutes in another session. Unlike many computer games, I find that I am looking for an excuse to get back to the computer to check on how things are going.
The story – from the designer:
Play as a lonely Shade, the last servant of a king who once ruled an underground kingdom. The king’s powers have faded and he falls asleep for 400 days to regain his might. It is your duty to stay in the earthen palace until he awakens. As soon as you start, the game inevitably counts down the 400 days – even when you stop playing and exit the game. It is now up to you to decide what to do with your solitary existence beneath the soil. Don’t stress yourself, you have plenty of time.
Start the game and simply come back after 400 days to see how it ends. You actually don’t have to play the game at all. But the Shade will be even more lonely without you. Or explore the caves and collect items for your comfortable underground living room. Just send the Shade to take a stroll – the walking speed is slow, but luckily there is no need to hurry.
And, that’s pretty much all you get when you start. There is a short movie to tell you that the king is asleep, and then the next thing you know, you’re alone in your bedroom in the cave and the time starts its inexorable countdown. What is the goal? Well, other than letting the timer count down, I don’t know if there is anything else.
I spent the first week of so stumbling around the cave. Your character, The shade, runs into a lot of things that you might need and you can pick them up to use later. The controls are unbelievably simplistic. You can point at a place and click to walk there. If you are near a thing that you can pick up or use, when you walk near it, a dialog box will pop up and if you click on it, the action will happen. That’s pretty much it. If your mouse dies, you can always use just your spacebar and CTRL keys.
As you explore, you do have a little area where you can save up to 16 destinations. This can be handy because with a single click, you can have your Shade walk from wherever he is now to that particular location in the cave. The little guy only walks one speed, and it can take some time (maybe ten minutes or more) to walk between locations. But, that’s ok. You can maybe pick up some things as you walk. Or simply start him towards his destination, go do something else, and then when you come back, he’ll be at the chosen spot, awaiting for your next command.
While there isn’t a stated goal, there are some of the usual adventure game puzzles to solve. Interestingly, a few of them take time to solve. As in weeks or months. I’m currently awaiting something to change in the game, and it has told me that it might be a month or more. So, I’ve saved the location, and every few days, I walk back to see if enough time has passed. I have been able to see changes in the situation, so I know something is happening… but I’m not quite there yet.
There are also a number of mini quests where you have a problem and then you have to go explore around to find the thing that you need to fix said problem. But, the interesting thing is, there’s no rush to do it. You can come and go as you like, and play the game in fits and starts. It doesn’t matter – the timer keeps counting down all the time, even when you’re logged out of the game!
There is a beautiful haunting soundtrack that plays in the background, which changes as you explore different areas of the cave, and I have found it to be a fairly soothing experience. It changes based on the location, and I have been known to sit my guy down in the mushroom farm as I really like the music there. I often have it playing in the background while I’m working.
My shade does spend a lot of time in his “home”. I have found a number of things to make it cozier, and as I have improved the situation there, it does seem that time passes faster when he’s at home, and even faster yet when he gets a fire going in the fireplace.
So, I know that it sounds like there isn’t much going on. But, this “idle game” is exactly my speed. I play when I want, for as long as I want, and know that I’m always moving towards the end goal. It is surprisingly captivating, and I often find that I’m thinking about what I want to do or which location I want to re-visit when I get back to my computer at home. I know that this may not be the sort of thing for everyone, as it is admittedly action-light (or at least it has been so far), but for me, it’s perfect.
Don’t believe me? Here is the FOUR HOUR LONG trailer. There may be some mild spoilerage, but it is only 1/2400th of the game! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uykyih3xW7w&vl=en
You should get a good feel for the game. And you get to watch the little dude sleep a lot. That’s what I do… (you could of course use the time bar to move around quickly. There are a few passages of action interspersed amongst the naps).
Due to the pandemic, I’m not allowed to get physically near anyone else. But my shade and I can sit together and read. He likes to read the Iliad, and I’m reading something on my Kobo. Maybe we’ll light a fire in the fireplace and as it crackles away, we’ll watch time slip away just a bit faster as we wait for the next adventure together.
I’m actually super curious to know what happens when I wake up the king in 400 game days. I’m about ten percent of the way through the game so far, though I’m hoping that time will move yet quicker as I solve more of the puzzles in the game. Maybe I’ll have a 400-day recap at the end? For now, it’s helping me while away my mandated social isolation, and I’m making a new friend in the process. This is a game that I am fairly certain that I would not have considered from reading the ad copy for it, but one that I am enjoying immensely, and one that is helping keep me away from everyone else as I keep returning to my office to spend some time with my Shade friend.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor