- Developer: Studio Seufz
- Publisher: ASHGAMES
- Release date: 14/4/2021
- Price: £13.49/$14.99
- Review code provided by ASHGAMES
Introducing: The Longing Review
The Longing is a game about waiting. 400 days to be precise. It originally came out in April 2021, a stealth drop after the Indie World Showcase. You might be wondering why the delay in publishing our review, but honestly this is a game that takes a very very long time to complete, no matter how hard you try.
It feels like a pretty appropriate game to come out at a time when we were all waiting for something to happen, after 387 days of lockdown, in the UK at least. The more astute among you may be confused as to how 400 days could have passed since April this year. Obviously they haven’t, but thanks to the unique way in which The Longing plays out, I was able to distill this timescale down a little. Read on to find out how!
When Will Our King Awaken?
The story of The Longing is based on the a German myth – Kyffhӓuser. The legend talks of an ancient Emperor, buried in a cave beneath a mountain in central Germany. Legand has it that this emperor awaits Germany’s time of needs, when he will emerge. Given events in recent years affecting Germany (and indeed the rest of the world), and moreso in the 1930s and 40s, the emperor obviously has a very high bar for what qualifies as the hour of need!
The story of The Longing is loosely based on this myth with your character, a lonely Shade, awakening from a sleep in the palm of a giant stone King deep underground. The King asks the shade to wait for 400 days, never leaving the caves. He promises that when he awakens, he will end all fear and longing. I think we could all have done with this guy wakening up in the last year!
From there the game is fairly light on story, instead focusing on your little shade’s exploits as you work to keep yourself busy and entertained for 400 days.
The Longing plays unlike anything else I had experienced before. Inspired by the ‘idle clicker’ genre, the game has you exploring the caves where the King sleeps, looking for ways to pass the time. You don’t have to do this of course, you could simply sit your shade down on his little chair in his room and wait out the 400 days to see the ending. That wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun, but playing the game the ‘proper’ way is still something that many might find boring if you go in expecting a traditional 2D platformer or Metroidvania, which the game looks like at a glance.
As you explore the caves you come across lots of different points of interest, such as a drop off a ledge which the game advises would definitely kill you. Wandering further afield you may discover an impassable trench, with a slowly dripping stalactite above it. In order to pass these areas and explore deeper into the caves, The Longing merely asks that you wait. Wait until the moss at the bottom of the drop grows enough to absorb your fall. Wait until the trench fills with water until you can swim across. The interesting twist, is that these things can take a month or more.
This might sound a bit intimidating, but there are other instances where the game may take an hour to open a door, or minutes for a structure to crumble under your weight. These things can be made less painful, as the game counts the passage of time even when your Switch is turned of or you play another game. There is no option to save at any point, but the game simply continues seamlessly. When you return your shade will be sleeping happily where you left him until you rouse him.
Keeping yourself occupied
In order to aid the passage of time and speed up the process of wakening the King, you can decorate your shade’s room in various ways. You can also find and read books (including Moby Dick) or can even build a musical instrument. It’s true that time does pass quicker when you’re having fun!
Exploring the caves helps you find items to decorate your room and find the book you need and parts to make an instrument. Upon returning to your room time will then pass faster than real time, making the task of passing 400 days seem a little less drastic. You can read through books and each page will cut a certain amount of time off your clock. You can of course game this by clicking through the pages as fast as you can. You can also speed up the clock by lighting your fireplace and various other actions.
In time, you learn the best tricks to make the month for the trench to drip full of water fly by. In turn, this opens more areas to explore and find new ways to make the time pass more quickly. By the end of the game, every second of real life time was passing around 8 seconds of in-game time. Everything is wrapped up in a darkly humorous tone with the shade’s nihilistic internal monologue.
Patience Is a Virtue
Everything in The Longing takes a while to complete. This isn’t a game for those seeking a twitchy thrill ride. Instead, the satisfaction comes in slowly, but surely, opening more and more of the map and working towards finding out what mystery awaits you when the King awakens. This glacial pace even extends to the in-game movement, with your shade slowly plodding everywhere you go. The game is designed to be played with a mouse, but works with the Switch’s touchscreen in handheld, and does work with traditional controls. Despite this, the game handles quite strangely, as you coax your character through the winding caves. Everything feels quite indirect and more like controlling an RTS than a 2D platformer.
As you explore you can save a marker in the menu screen, which allows you to return to the cliff drop or the slowly filling trench without remembering the route through the winding labyrinth. When you want to return, you simply go into the menu, click your marker, and wait until your shade slowly trundles off to his next target.
It helps that the game looks gorgeous and is backed by a dreamy synth soundtrack, but there’s only so many times you will want to watch him shuffle for ten minutes. It helps that you can simply turn off the game and do something else while everything goes on in the background. It does feel like quite a unique feature, even though we’re used to real time events with things like Animal Crossing. The way it is employed in The Longing hits a little differently, and definitely adds to the game’s mystique.
50 Shades of Brown
The above heading might sound a bit of a dig, and yes, The Longing is very brown, but not in the way the sixth console gen was very brown. Being set in an underground cave, everything is very dark, earthy, and yes, brown. This serves to provide some real contrast when you stumble across twinkling crystal caves and some of the other more interesting points in the game.
The soundtrack is a swirling synthy masterpiece, which complements everything perfectly. There are no punchy melodies here, but rather droning soundscapes which heightened the sense of mystery and reminded me of the soundtracks of some of the films of my favourite German filmmaker (and perhaps all-time favourite), Werner Herzog. If you’ve ever seen his masterpiece Aguirre, the Wrath of God, you’ll know what I mean!
The visuals and soundtrack combine especially well with the unusual premise of The Longing to tie everything into its own surreal and thought provoking package. The simple visuals ensure the game ticks along smoothly, helping to keep you immersed in this dark and intriguing tale.
The Longing is a unique game, if you can even call it that. It’s more like a plaything which you dip in and out of. It felt like an interesting metaphor for the longing we are all going through as we wait for something to lift us out of the crazy era of COVID. It won’t be for everyone, as some will be put of by the slow pace and the lack of action. Those that have the patience will find something unique and thought provoking. I can’t think of any other games that don’t even let you play it again after completion. There are multiple endings, which require deleting your save or playing with another Switch profile to access. If you fancy something a bit different and have the patience to see out 400 days (or maybe a little less if you put the work in), then you’ll be rewarded with a unique and memorable experience.
- Feels unlike anything else I’ve played
- Hypnotic, swirling soundtrack
- Though provoking
- Controls are odd if not using touch screen
- Some won’t have the patience for a game like this