8 things you should know before playing The Long Dark

The Long Dark is easily one of the toughest survival games out there. Hunger, thirst, the cold or even an unfriendly bear can quickly and easily put an end to an unprepared survivor.

To ensure you don’t suffer through the same hardships I did during my first game, I’ve put together this quick beginner’s guide to surviving in The Long Dark.

Want more survival goodness? Check out our curated list of the 10 best wilderness survival games available in 2018!

1. Blizzards are absolutely deadly

In The Long Dark, Mother Nature is the true enemy, and the Canadian blizzard is its champion.

They freeze you, they slow you, they’ll block your ability to start fires, but most deadly of all, they block your vision. You can barely see a few meters in front of you in a blizzard, making it impossible to see protective caves or houses or oncoming wildlife unless you are right in front of them.

Too many of my own games ended with a desperate struggle through the snow and wind, only for me to freeze to death just a few feet from a cabin.


Even if you are starving, it may be better to wait out a blizzard inside. It’s better to take the health damage than to risk being stuck outside with no way to find your way home. After all, there’s no minimap in The Long Dark…

2. Wind is a massive pain in the arse

Even without an accompanying blizzard, wind is a significant barrier to exploration and your survival.

Wind doesn’t just make you colder, it will also slow you down if you are walking into it, stop you from starting fires, even damage your clothing.

If the wind is howling and blowing in the opposite direction to where you want to go, it may be better to head elsewhere or wait for it to die down.

You can overcome these obstacles by walking in cover, such as by cliffs or in caves. You’ll also be able to start fires in these protected zones—but only as long as the wind keeps blowing in the same direction.


If the wind is howling and blowing in the opposite direction to where you want to go, it may be better to head elsewhere or wait for it to die down.

3. The wildlife will not hesitate to kill you

To echo the warning of the game developers, wolves are generally not aggressive in real life. In the Long Dark, however, they absolutely are. They will chase you, hunt you and will not hesitate to seriously injure or even kill you.

Bears are even worse, and an encounter with a bear can put an end to a game very quickly—even to well-equipped survivors.

Every violent encounter with a predator will leave you with torn clothes, possibly bleeding, maybe even with an infected wound.


In general, you should try to avoid anything and everything that has teeth or snarls. Wolves give you a bit of chance by barking when they see you and only walking slowly towards you.

Ward them off with fire—flares or torches work well, but don’t rely on them to protect you.

Walk away slowly, running will encourage them to chase.

If you do get into a pursuit, try to duck into interiors where they can’t follow, and simply wait them out.

4. Find a base early and only carry what you need

There are plenty of options for shelter in The Long Dark. Cosy nooks are good, caves are better, but houses and cabins are best.

These serve both as protection from the wind, cold and wildlife, but also as crafting stations and, perhaps most importantly, storage sheds.

Unless you are dragging some loot back to base, try to travel light.

Carrying too much equipment will hamper your movement and reduce the amount of equipment you can loot on your excursions. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to find a place to hunker down early—even if only temporarily—simply so you have somewhere to store your additional equipment and food.

Some items will only cure in the warm and dry interior, such as hides, gut and maple branches too.


Unless you are dragging some loot back to base, try to travel light. You will be faster, use less energy, and be able to carry more useful items as you go.

This does, however, mean that you don’t need to pick up every single little item you find. Nobody needs 80 matches, or 3 hatchets, or a pair of storm lanterns. Leave these back at the base, or make note of where they are so you can pick them up on a looting run.

Lastly, if you are going out to hunt, bring a bow or a gun and a knife. If you are chopping wood, bring a hatcher. If you off to go looting, bring a crowbar. Not all of them at once!

5. You need to plan your excursions carefully

Unlike many other survival games, The Long Dark is extremely reliant on realism, and a big part of real wilderness survival is about being prepared.

If you just pick a direction and start wandering until you need to rest, you’ll often find yourself cold, hungry, thirsty, and potentially chased by wildlife.


Take your time scouting around your initial base—find an area that has something you want, like food, equipment, wood, etc, then take your time looting. Don’t just go running off, because you’ll quickly get lost and may find it difficult to get back to your base where all your stuff is.

6. It’s just as much an exploration game as it is survival

In The Long Dark, taking it slowly can be beneficial. You’ll use less energy by walking instead of running around, and you’ll be less likely to attract wildlife too. More than a few of my games have been hampered by rushing around too much, wasting a bunch of energy and being chased by wolves that I accidentally stumbled upon.

Items are hiding everywhere in The Long Dark.

Even more importantly, if you rush around looting everything as quickly as possible, you’ll miss out on a few secret hiding places. Under beds, behind stairs, between cupboards—items are hiding everywhere in The Long Dark.


By walking, instead of running, you get an opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous art style, the wonderful landscapes, and discover the untold stories of this darker, quieter world through the remnants left behind.

And you’ll be less likely to come face-to-face with a bear as well.

7. Don’t get confident because you have weapons

There are a number of ways to defend yourself in The Long Dark; knives, hatchets, bows, rifles, even a flare gun. But it’s important to never really feel confident, no matter how skill you might be with them. This is not a combat game; you will end up dying if you go all Duke Nukem on the local wolf pack.

Combat weapons are really more useful as tools, and if you think you can take on a bear with a knife, then I’ve got bad news for you.


Keep a flare-gun or hunting rifle on hand in case of animal attack, but generally only intentionally kill beasties if you are trying to get food, gut or hide. And make sure you only take one on at a time—trying to Rambo a pack of wolves won’t end well.

8. Always have torches

The Long Dark earns its name—you’ll find that the days are a lot shorter than you’d think, and there are plenty of darkened caves and cabins to explore. Without the help of a storm lantern or a set of torches, you’ll spend most of your time squinting about and missing items while you’re exploring.

Torches are a Long Dark survivor’s best friend.

Torches are a Long Dark survivor’s best friend. They scare off wildlife, they extend your looting time by a significant margin, and they aren’t too difficult to craft.


Always have a light source on hand. Torches are the easiest to make or find, but flares are also highly useful, as is a storm lantern, or a flashlight (though this only works intermittently).

Same goes for fires—if you’re stuck outside at night, build a fire ASAP to keep away the cold and the wolves. You can also pick up temporary torches from fires as well.

What are some of the things you wish you knew about The Long Dark before starting your game? Let me know in the comments below!


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