The Long Dark is an atmospheric, semi-realistic survival game developed by Canadian indie studio Hinterland. It’s available now in Early Access, and you can read the fascinating story behind its development in our studio profile.
Timberwolf Mountain is the most rugged, dangerous area in The Long Dark’s frozen Canadian wilderness. It’s a mountainous expanse of steep cliffs, treacherous ravines, and dark, maze-like caves—and it’s my home for the foreseeable future. My bush plane crashed here and now I’m stranded in this bleak, frigid landscape. But there’s a glimmer of hope glinting in the sun high above me: the wreckage of a cargo plane resting precariously at the peak of the region’s highest mountain.
I wake up in Echo Ravine, a winding corridor of rock that, mercifully, offers some protection from the freezing chill of the wind. I follow it until I reach a clearing where I notice one of the cargo plane’s engines half-buried in the snow. Surrounding it I see metal crates, presumably the scattered remains of whatever it was carrying. I try opening them, but they’re locked tight. Then I glimpse a man’s body with a hacksaw in his hand. It’s a grim sight, but I pry it from his icy grip and use it to open the crates. I find matches, lighter fluid, energy bars, bottled water, and warm clothes.
The clearing is a dead end, so I retrace my steps. I take a right turn out of the ravine and emerge into a vast, open space. I hike across the snow for a while until I see Crystal Lake, which is completely frozen solid. I skirt around the edge of the water avoiding a wolf, which I see killing a deer near a fishing hut. I’m heading for a cabin I spotted on the other side of the lake. There aren’t many hours of daylight left, and making the journey to the top of the mountain at night will definitely kill me.
It’s a mountaineer’s hut. It’s old and crumbling, with gaps in the ceiling, but much warmer than it is outside. There’s a fireplace with a stockpile of wood next to it, and I get the feeling someone’s been here recently. A journal left behind by a climber mentions a ‘deafening noise’ and a ‘fire on the mountain’, which must be the cargo plane. In his last entry he says he’s heading for the summit to investigate.
There are a few hours of daylight left, so I decide to gather wood for a fire and find something to eat. I head to the fishing hut and use a line and hook I found in the cabin to catch a smallmouth bass. I also harvest some venison from the deer the wolf killed earlier. I break a few cedar branches down into logs and head back to the cabin just as the sun begins to dip, which casts a beautiful orange glow over the lake. I light a fire and cook the fish and venison, washing it down with water from the plane. It’s warm and comfortable here, but I get the feeling tomorrow won’t be so cosy.
I get up just before sunrise and have breakfast: a can of peaches and another bottle of water. In the hazy, yellow light of the dawn I reluctantly leave the cabin behind and make my way up the frozen river that feeds the lake. A light snow is falling and it’s colder than yesterday, but the extra clothes I found in the crates is helping. I follow the river which snakes through a cave and out into a clearing. Here I see another of the plane’s engines in the snow, but there are no crates around this time. A curious wolf begins to circle me, but I light a flare and scare it away before it attacks. Then I spot the entrance to a cave and head inside to escape the wind.
It’s pitch black inside, but luckily I picked up a lantern in the mountaineer’s cabin. I light it and make my way slowly through the cave’s tunnels, making sure I don’t step off any hidden edges and break my legs. I jump a little when the warm glow of the lantern reveals the shape of a climber, long dead, curled up near the remains of a fire. Is this the same person who wrote the journal? I search his pack, but it’s empty. A sad way to die, but there’s nothing I can do for him. I continue onwards and, after a long, eerie trek through the darkness, see the sun pouring through an exit. I find myself in a beautiful snow-dusted valley with steep, rocky sides. It’s an impressive sight.
I hike through the valley, stopping occasionally to rest, warm myself up by a fire, or keep my energy up with food. Eventually I reach an area protected by a vast rock arch, and I see traces of a camp: the remains of a fire, a bedroll, and some canned food. But the owner is nowhere to be seen. The daylight is dwindling again, so I decide to stay here for the night. I use the few hours I have left to gather wood and start a fire, and I melt some snow for drinking water. A blizzard begins to rage outside, but the biting, sub-zero winds can’t get me in here. I throw a few logs on the fire and fall asleep.
Thankfully, the blizzard seems to have passed by the time I wake up. It’s a frigid, misty morning, but not bad enough to stop me continuing on my journey. I brew some coffee over the last embers of the fire and eat a tin of sardines, then I emerge from the arch into another snowfield dotted with trees. As I look for a way up the mountain I spot something red in the distance. It’s a climbing rope hanging from a steep cliff. It looks secure enough, so I grab hold of it and yank myself up. Maybe that body I found in the cave wasn’t the climber who wrote the journal after all.
After more hiking, and another rope ascent, I reach a picturesque area called Eric’s Falls. I don’t know who Eric is, but the cascading waterfall named after him is beautiful. Most of the waterfalls in this region are frozen, but this one is still going somehow. I follow a frozen lake at its base until I see another red climbing rope. It’s the longest one yet, and the prospect of climbing it—especially when all that’s keeping me awake is several cups of coffee—is daunting. But I’ve made it this far without incident, so I tentatively grab it and haul myself up. The climb seems to go on forever, and I can feel my stamina dwindling. A few metres from the top, I lose my grip and begin to fall. I close my eyes and await my fate.
Amazingly, I don’t die. I land on a small rocky ledge and although I’m dangerously tired now, I have enough strength to grab the rope again and ascend the last few metres. Finally, I’ve reached the peak of Timberwolf Mountain. I was expecting powerful winds and sub-zero temperatures, but it’s surprisingly pleasant up here. Then, as I make my way across the snow, I notice parts of the crashed plane. A landing gear, a wing, and then the tail section I spotted back at Echo Ravine. It’s teetering on the edge of the mountain, and looks like it could drop at any moment, but through a doorway I can see dozens of those metal crates from earlier. They’re bound to be full of life-saving supplies, so I step inside and crack them open with the hacksaw.
Among the detritus I spot an orange plastic case, and inside I find a flare gun and ammunition. I was hoping I’d find a radio or some other way to communicate with the outside world, but this is better than nothing. I step outside and fire a flare into the sky. It burns bright red against the twilight and falls slowly. Will anyone see it? I hope so, but I can’t imagine anyone else is alive in this lifeless, hyperborean wilderness. I build a fire under the wing of the plane and brace myself for the long dark.