The long dark is a quietly brutal and hellish game of survival. Abandoned towns, sparse farmland, and the withering trees of an unending winter dot the landscape. The ever-present danger of the wolves and bears of a harsh Canadian frostbite never really relinquish, and you’re continuously forced to scavenge for stale food and toilet water, wood for fires, medicine for treating wounds and illnesses, weapons to fend off the creatures of the land, and any other items that could increase your chances of survival in a town long-since abandoned.
What I really wanted to talk about, though, is the games music. While the soundtrack complements the games empty, yet engaging atmosphere, featuring the occasional lone electric guitar as you trudge across the barren white desert alongside occasional ominous strings indicating nearby danger, there’s another music artist in particular that would go really well with the game’s atmosphere.
Dan Caine writes music from the most inward depths of our emotional conscious. The music may be simplistic and lonely in nature, but the ambiance and gradual growth to each song creates the atmosphere to develop a slower, more mindful approach to thinking about one’s worldview. It’s like sitting by a river and putting your feet in the water. Just as the river changes constantly by its flow, your feet feel different as the water courses through your toes and adjusts to the water’s cold touch.
In this sense, Dan Caine’s album Solace and Hinterland’s The Long Dark are perfect companions to each other. The Long Dark is a lonely game, and complemented by Solace, The Long Dark plays like a game of thoughtful introspection. Everything you do, from gathering supplies to surviving the trek across the mountains to see a new in-game region requires careful planning and the aid of luck from nature herself. And we begin to think of thoughts of our own humanity as we might imagine what it would be like to be on the verge of death in a harsh wasteland of the desolate sounds of snapping branches, snow, and the fear of falling through thin, frozen ice on a giant lake bed.
And there’s so much more than that. If you’re going through a rough time in your life, play this game. The Long Dark functions as a companion to those with depression and existential isolation. When I purchased this game last year, I shortly after began to see the struggles in my own mind reflected in the game itself. A bear attack was a grudge I held against someone. A wolf attack was mental damage inflicted upon me by someone else. Acquiring frostbite was the long-term sting of my expectations for myself and the inaction and results I had received at that point in time.
Additionally, playing the retrospective instrumental music of Dan Caine exaggerated my own lonely feelings while playing the game. Last year in November, I developed severe apathy and emptiness. It was the culmination of many years, but November hit extremely hard in particular. But because of the guitar of a cascading mountain, I survived, although I am still fighting apathy.
This constant flow of the game’s river, where the state of your survival depends on your willingness to plan when to move, where to move, and how to move, rotates alongside the post-rock ambiance of Dan Caine, where the music flows like a river alongside the game, and, barring the occasional music nuance or wolf encounter, your mind can wander into the deepest, darkest depths, of which, when given enough time, you can become a conduit for your own introspection.