Dear diary… that feels appropriate as I’ve begun my stint in The Longing, out now on the Switch. This game is such a unique title in every way that it’s the first game that has an ‘ongoing’ review.
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The Longing, from Studio Seufz and Application Systems Heidelberg, in case you’re unfamiliar, puts you in control of the Shade. The King has seemingly created this enigmatic creature, and has tasked you with waking him up in 400 days where he’ll free the land and rid it of negativity. The condition? He wants you to stay for the entire term underground.
400 days isn’t that long, but once the clock begins and you look at the top of the screen to see a real-time countdown, it becomes very real. You mean I have to play this game for 400 days and complete a review then? Not necessarily. Apparently, some paths can fast-track the outcome, but I neither want to spoil it for myself or for whoever is reading this.
I’ve decided to remain for the duration (we’ll see how that pans out in due course). So, what do you do to kill time? The same kind of things you would do with any sentence, one would assume and read, learn a skill, work out, and explore Your surroundings if necessary. The Longing is fascinating, and though I’ve generally avoided reading any more about it, I’m getting the feeling this is a human experiment.
That’s not a tinfoil hat statement, but layered with lots of reasoning. Who would spend their hours starting at a creature, also staring aimlessly into space? There’s bound to be those out there clocking up 100s, if not 1000s of hours in games such as Fortnite and Call Of Duty. Why not commit the time here? Because it’s real-time.
It’s up to you how you spend your time, but it does not move faster when doing an activity despite the Shade’s quips. These long pauses, idle moments and the speed at which the Shade moves are excruciatingly long, and I’ve almost longed for a sprint button. But that’s the nature of the game, and considering I pride myself on my patience levels, I am a little bit embarrassed that I caved so early.
For starters, the first few hours in The Longing involved me reading some books in the Shade’s little den, drawing pictures of my hand, the moon and a spider, then aimlessly wandering the cavernous depths, collecting pieces of coal to light a fire. They make it clear that there’s no need to hurry anywhere, and they’re right.
Once I got into this mindset, I’d dawdle up and downstairs, collecting said coal and the occasional book to read later on. It almost felt like it was all a bit pointless in some respects, but do you know what? I’ve been enjoying it, in a strange voyeuristic way.
Quite often, I would leave it running while working, every once in a while to see where the Shade would go next. You can ask them to randomly walk about or set a path to return home. One of the latter’s advantages is you can go as far as you can handle, then when you’re spent, ask them to return home and turn off the Switch.
As it’s all real-time, the Shade exists when you leave them behind too. Interestingly, I’d leave the Switch on, looking back and forth as they descended the umpteenth set of stairs. It’s mildly therapeutic, but that’s my opinion – I’m a bit of a nutter for stuff like this and easily pleased.
I’m interested in how others will perceive The Longing gameplay. In just over seven days, not much has happened. I’m looking for some instruments so I can make music, and gradually adding to my library. Quite bizarrely, I drove my wife to the shops the other day (IRL) and waited in the car as I was going to read. Note that the reading was one of the books on the Shade’s shelves. That’s just mental, right?
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Still, there isn’t anybody I can think of that would even entertain The Longing. Despite its simplicity, I think it’s a very high concept and an experimental piece into how we perceive time, adapt and pursue our choices. I mean, I could bail and head to the surface, or leave the game running, then finish the review in 390+ days, but what’s the point in that? It needs to be experienced.
I missed out on Tamagotchis the first time around and was a little bit too cool for Pokèmon (sorry, peeps), so perhaps this is my moment? I’ll report in again for either an update or a new review when a bit more time has passed. Fascinating stuff.