Like many people who enjoy this game, I have been playing (and reviewing) The Long Dark since it first debuted back in 2015 as one of the first open world survival titles, which were much less common back then. Unfortunately, Hinterland Studio is becoming infamous among developers for missing deadlines. For example, the five Wintermute story missions were supposed to be released soon after launch, yet it’s 2023, eight years later, and there are only four episodes. Despite all that, many players have stuck with them, myself included.
And then earlier this year, Hinterland announced that it was breaking out the open world survival part of their game from the story missions, justifying it by saying that they had to do that in order to make a profit. That’s certainly understandable, but one can’t help wondering if that move will delay the fifth and final Wintermute story episode even further. That concern seems true now, because in a recent developer post on the Steam forums, the head of the studio once again apologized for delays, and said that the final episode of Wintermute would not release this year at all, presumably because the team is busy working on the survival updates instead.
I would prefer it if they buckled down and simply finished the campaign’s story that we have been waiting on for over eight years. Then their developer teams would be free to spend their time adding whatever new food items, outfits, tools and maps that they want to the survival mode part of the game. Yes, that is just a personal preference, but I’d imagine that a lot of people who invested in the title back in 2015 did so because of Wintermute, and I would argue that Hinterland has a responsibility to finish that first, before taking on a bunch of new survival tasks.
Now, with that bit of recent history out of the way, I will say that I did very much enjoy the first content update to come out as part of the new survival mode, which earned 4 out of 5 GiN Gems in its review. The new Forsaken Airfield map is a great new zone to explore and has a good mix of interior buildings surrounding the airfield complex as well as other cool places to find like a mountain cabin and a fishing cottage. Both of those sit high up on the landscape and have great views. The fishing cottage is especially cool because players have easy access to a frozen lake and a shack for ice fishing, which you can get to by means of a really unique tunnel cut through the rock. It makes for a great base of operations to hang out at for a while because it has access to plenty of available resources. And, the survival mode is currently selling for less than $20 on Steam and other platforms, making it a good value too.
In May, Hinterland released the first DLC for the survival mode part of the game. Called Signal Void, it uses all of the existing maps from the main title (including the new Forsaken Airport where the DLC tale begins). In terms of what it does, it adds a new scavenger hunt mode that will have survivors following radio signals to find hidden caches of loot as well as three new, elaborate bunkers hidden across the entire world of The Long Dark. It also adds a few new items to the game including a tactical balaclava hat and a weapon sheath that lowers the weight of whatever rifle is placed inside. The new balaclava can be found in the new caches you will be hunting, while the sheath is the ultimate reward given when you find the final, bonus bunker to complete the tale.
Before you can start your scavenger hunting, you need to find a note and a portable shortwave radio sitting conveniently at the top of the control tower of Forsaken Airport, so you can’t really miss it. The note will explain that the radio tracking system is currently offline due to wear and tear on the transmitters, and how to repair them. Also very conveniently, the first transmitter is located right outside the airport tower building.
Each of the transmitters is busted up, and survivors will need to add a new battery (any one from a car or truck will do), replace both the wiring and fuses (which are both new items added to the game) and then use scrap metal to fix some other metal junk inside the radio. Thankfully, the developers have placed everything you will need to fix the first transmitter scattered around within a few feet of it. I noticed that they also hid certain new supplies like batteries, which are incredibly heavy, near most of the transmitters if you look around for them a bit. This is helpful because transporting batteries long distances is challenging, and also, some players may have already harvested all of the existing batteries in a zone for their lead (to make ammo) before the start of Signal Void.
Once you have the transmitter fixed, you need to turn it on and then wait for an aurora borealis or one of those new daytime electrical fogs to power it up. Once that happens, your shortwave radio crackles to life and you can set it to look for either supply caches or one of the new bunkers, following the signals and the beeping as you zero in on them. Every zone now has hidden supply caches, but only three of them have the new bunkers. The note from the tower will tell you which ones. So, to find one of those new bunkers, you will need to first repair the tower in that zone and then wait for an aurora to go hunting for it.
My first experience with scavenger hunting did not go well. For one, it forces players to go out and wander during an aurora, which is normally both very cold and also has all the animals glowing and acting super aggressive. I did appreciate the fact that it forced players like me who like to turtle into elaborate bases to go out and wander the world, although I felt a little naked out there at night. Of course, I was attacked by aurora-enhanced wolves. I survived that attack and finally located my first supply cache, only to find two flares inside along with a few other low-value items that I could have easily picked up almost anywhere else. Not all of the hidden supply caches were so disappointing, but many of them were.
The bunkers were much more interesting, and featured better loot along with an interesting story about why they were there and what happened to the people who worked and lived in them. I don’t know if it was worth all the effort to uncover them, but at least it added some story elements to the otherwise bland survival mode, which I appreciated. And incidentally, if you did not purchase the paid survival mode part of the title, you still get access to some new items. Hinterland made a video to explain what both the paid players and those doing the free survival mode from the base game receive.
Signal Void is interesting if not amazing in terms of new content for The Long Dark. It sets a nice tone as to what to expect from future survival updates, the next of which is due out in late June. The updates are not nearly as big as a Wintermute episode, and if Signal Void is any indication, add about five or six hours of gameplay. Whether or not players enjoy the new tasks or think of them more like busy work is a matter of personal preference, but survival mode is otherwise empty of story elements, so they do really tend to stand out.
So, the second part of Tales From the Far Territory is not nearly as extensive as the first, which added three new maps to the game including the really stellar Forsaken Airport. But it does add some narrative to the survival part of The Long Dark which was severely lacking. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next installment, something that I am sure my fellow survival mode players are very much looking forward to experiencing.