I’ve talked about it in the past but I don’t like timers in games. At the time, I talked about how certain temporal mechanics put the player under pressure which can be a great thing to give the player a goal to work towards or an incentive to optimise their playstyle, find shortcuts, or make it possible to even get a collectable but still make it to the end of the level in time. Temporal mechanics, however, can also add a lot of unnecessary pressure to the player’s experience… but timers do not need to be bad necessary. Today’s title, The Longing, inverts the formula and creates an experience that gives you a timer but doesn’t add any pressure really. You have time. A lot of time. Here’s my review.
Developer: Studio Seufz Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg Genre: Point & Click, Idle Game, Adventure, Indie Release Date: March 5th, 2020 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, Switch Copy was provided by the publisher.
The Longing is a Point & Click Adventure game by a German Studio where you play as a little Shade in a dark place waiting for the return from its master’s slumber. The master is asleep for 400 days and wants you to wake him up when it’s time. The story itself is heavily inspired by the Kyffhäuser legend where a king under a mountain is waiting for the right time to awaken. The same goes for the graphics that are partially hinting at the real Kyffhäuser caves and a super tall Barbarossa statue there. Oh, and more importantly, when I said that the master is asleep for 400 days, I meant 400 real-time days. When I said that you have time, I meant it. You can play the game on and off if you want to. You can start it up and come back after 400 days. The timer keeps ticking even if you’re offline, making this an interesting title… but what exactly makes this game so great?
Well, it’s the way that the timer is used as an incentive for the player to do more. Sure, you can really just come back in a year and a half but I personally would feel bad for the Shade. So, I try to log in every now and then and explore the caverns and see what changed around it. There are a lot of things you can do like walking around at a rather slow pace or drawing a picture. You can even read a book in its entirety, ranging from Moby Dick to Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Some doors haven’t been opened in a long time and that, therefore, require you to come back in two hours… or you just wait. There is a passage where you can’t get through because the gap is too big to jump, so you’ll have to wait for a stalactite to grow out and fall down, giving you a way to traverse the gap, or you wait for moss to grow on the bottom of a deep drop-down which takes a long time but makes the fall soft.
There are also items to collect like paper, coal, and instrument parts. You can draw things and make your room more comfortable. You can play music and bring back things from all over the place. There are a lot of places to explore and potential new characters to find. You can set your Shade to walk to a random location and you somehow always walk somewhere new or familiar but find a new way to get there, which is interesting… The caverns are twisted and can be confusing but when you’re lost, you can always go back to your home and recollect your thoughts there. You can save points of interest and destinations in a list and have the Shade move there on its own but since the spots are limited, you’ll have to get rid of some to get new areas and sometimes even guess where you’re going.
It’s an interesting and unique concept and I never felt like I was under pressure… but I also don’t feel like my patience is being tested. Sure, this may not be the most exciting game. There isn’t a lot of “action” if any at all, and I have yet to get to the end of it. You may want to leave the Shade be or you may explore a bunch and try to find a way out. It’s an interesting journey, to say the least, and probably one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in games in a while now, which is why I would like to recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting experience but it certainly isn’t for everyone.
I mean, the soundtrack is ominous, yet beautiful… but then again, it’s inspired by dungeon synth music which is an obscure subgenre of dark ambient and black metal. The whole atmosphere is eery, yet amazing. The pacing is incredibly slow but rewarding. Once you get to places and make some progress, it feels great and maybe you’ll enjoy it, too… Maybe you, too, will have a longing for The Longing. I can assure you that it’s the good kind of craving that gets you to play it again, even if it’s just for a bit. It’s relaxing, nice and chill, even if you can feel the pressure in these dark caves building up at times and these contrasts in feelings is probably one of the best things about the game. But if you’re super impatient, you may not love it as much as I do.
Still, that’s a recommendation by me. I love this game to bits and I really enjoyed every single minute that I spend so far and while I may not play it non-stop, I don’t have to really. There is no pressure, no stress, no worries. It’s an Idle game, sort of, and hence it works quite well for me and tuning in every now and then is nice and lets me enjoy the changes in the world and the general feel of the game, at my own pace.
Hope you enjoyed this review. I’ve been meaning to write about this game for a few days now (as I mentioned in previous posts) but I had a hard time summarising why The Longing is great or why I personally love it so much. Objectively, you’d say that if a game takes “400 Days to Complete”, then it’s a bad game but with different endings and with the pacing and the base premise… The Longing isn’t about Completion, it’s actually about progress and enjoyment, I would say. What makes The Longing great is the way that its themes and topics make their way into the player’s hearts. The search for purpose, the idea of escaping somewhere, the feelings of solitude and loneliness, the question of whether or not we have a choice, and other themes really create an interesting enigma of a game, I would say,… but it’s also the player that makes the game great. It doesn’t matter whether or not you let the Shade be alone or if you try to take the dangerous and dark path to the top. It doesn’t matter whether or not you spend time with the game or just come back 400 days later. It doesn’t matter whether or not you actually read through Zarathustra (I personally liked the book btw) or if you made your room nice and cosy at all. The player holds the sceptre and the player is ultimately what makes the game great. It just is a different experience each time and every time a new player picks up the sceptre and plays the game, however they want, which is just lovely. You can tell that I really love this game, eh?
If you’re interested in hearing more about The Longing and temporal mechanics, I can highly recommend Adam Millard’s video on it. Check it out! It talks about Spelunky and Mass Effect and other games as well, which is very interesting!