The Longing, Image Studio Seufz, Application Systems Heidelberg

‘The Longing’: The Game You’ve Been Waiting… And Waiting… And Waiting For

Entertainment Video Games
The Longing, Image Studio Seufz, Application Systems Heidelberg
The Longing, Image Studio Seufz, Application Systems Heidelberg

What Is The Longing?

The Longing is an indie video game about waiting. It is also the most addictive video game I have played in years. In The Longing, you play as A Shade, created by The King with one task: to awaken him in 400 days. As the timer counts down those 400 days—in real-time—you can explore your underground kingdom or simply sit and wait. It’s up to you.

Age Rating

There are no official age ratings as yet, but from experience, the gameplay I have seen so far will be suitable for any child able to cope with the tedium. The game is published by the same team behind LUNA The Shadow Dust.

Available Formats

The Longing is available on Steam for PC/Mac/Linux.

System Specifications (PC Games Only)

The minimum PC system requirements are:

  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1024MB VRAM
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 5 GB available space

And for Mac:

  • OS: Mac OS X 10.9+
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1024MB VRAM
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 5 GB available space

The Longing Trailer

Gameplay

The Longing opens on a single word: WAIT. It’s the perfect introduction to a game where waiting is quite literally the only thing you absolutely have to do.

The game opens with a short cutscene that explains exactly what is going on. Based on the German Kyffhäuser legend, where a King under a mountain is waiting for the right time to awaken, the king of The Longing creates you—A Shade—to be his servant during his 400-day sleep before beginning to snooze, leaving you alone in his vast underground kingdom. The King does at least provide you with a room to call your own, but to begin with, it is rather sparse, to say the least.

Your Home in The Longing, Screencap Sophie Brown
Your Home in The Longing, Screencap Sophie Brown

It’s at this point that you can begin to make choices. With virtually no learning curve beyond basic movement, you’ll be able to get started playing the game pretty much instantly. You could, if you really wanted, simply switch the game off at this point, return 400 days later, and see what happens, but I’d suggest that this isn’t the most interesting way to play. Instead, you can choose to explore the kingdom, as I did.

If you can figure out the location of, and how to read, a map early in the game, it will save you endless frustration as the days pass. There is no fast-travel option here—if you want to get to somewhere you always need to get there in real-time and A Shade is no sprinter. One helpful feature does allow you to remember up to 15 locations, and, once saved, you can click on these to have A Shade walk there by themself. The kingdom is made up of dozens of corridors and rooms, many of which will not be accessible at the beginning of the game. Time is a key component of gameplay here and you will need to wait in real-time for hours, days, and even weeks to pass before you will find new paths opened by, for example, a stalactite falling or a hole filling with water.

Waiting for Moss to Grow, Screencap Sophie Brown
Waiting for Moss to Grow, Screencap Sophie Brown

That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at the beginning though. On my first day of play, I found some flint (to make a fire in my home), red and white colored stones to draw with, paper to draw on, and some pieces of a musical instrument. I also read Moby Dick in its entirety (your home comes with a small supply of literary classics which A Shade can read slowly by themself, or you can turn the pages manually and read along with them), found the door to the library (annoyingly blocked from the other side), and discovered that I have a diary of sorts that can be used as a sort of guide to A Shade’s goals. This diary gave me a few hints for things to do during the game, albeit often in a cryptic manner. A Shade will also occasionally make a comment at the end of reading a book, again giving the odd clue.

While time is endlessly ticking away your 400 days waiting period, there are things you can do to affect its passing. The more comfortable you make your home, the faster the time will pass there. As of today, a little into six weeks playing the game, I have acquired enough creature comforts to make time pass at a rate of 12 seconds per second while at home—enough to rapidly increase how fast the timer is counting down. This time rate increase only affects A Shade while they are at home, however, and when out exploring in the kingdom, time passes at real-time speed except in certain circumstances. In one room I found on day two, time stops moving altogether… Don’t think you can rush forward by adjusting your computer’s clock either. The Longing requires an internet connection to play and tracks time through that so no sneakily skipping forward to the end.

Reading Moby Dick, Screenshot Sophie Brown
Reading Moby Dick, Screenshot Sophie Brown

The Longing has multiple endings depending on how you play—although I’m yet to discover any of them. These endings are triggered by your choices throughout the game. The creators have said in interviews that they hope people don’t play The Longing multiple times, instead seeing it as a story to be experienced only once, although as with everything else, it’s really up to you how you choose to spend your time with The Longing.

Expansions and In-Game Purchases

There are no expansions or in-app purchases for The Longing.

The Longing: Verdict

The Longing has easily been my favorite game of the year so far and is probably in my top five games of all time. With over 700 hours clocked up on Steam since my copy arrived in January (admittedly, many of those hours idle)—it is absolutely one that has invaded my mind and kept me distracted from my work as I wander around the endless hallways of the kingdom in search of new places and items.

Loneliness is a Key Theme in The Longing, Screencap Sophie Brown
Loneliness is a Key Theme in The Longing, Screencap Sophie Brown

A Shade has also quickly become one of my all-time favorite video game characters. With their huge glowing yellow eyes, they manage to be rather cute in a Dobby the House Elf sort of way as they wander slowly around the kingdom. A Shade’s occasional narration will push you into exploring in order to help them overcome their understandable loneliness, and there’s even a little sarcasm now and then. With no other characters really present in The Longing, I found that I quickly formed a bond with A Shade, wanting them to be as happy as possible during their period of waiting.

As I write this review on The Longing‘s release day, my timer shows a little over 188 days remaining, which means I am yet to see any of the game’s supposedly many endings. While I’m excited to see what happens, I will also miss my explorations with A Shade, and I really hope I can solve some of the final mysteries I’m yet to figure out before the clock runs out and the king reawakens. I’m really looking forward to watching some playthrough videos to see the ways other players have tackled the game and what they have uncovered that I may have missed.

I Discovered a Glowing Mushroom, Screencap Sophie Brown
I Discovered a Glowing Mushroom, Screencap Sophie Brown

Playing The Longing is slow but never dull. There is always some new theory I’m looking to test out or place I’m still trying to figure out how to access. The thrill of finally working out how to access a new space is amplified hugely when you’ve been thinking about it for literal weeks—as I discovered just the other day when a sudden thought allowed me to get into an area I’d been struggling with since my third day of playing.

Even if you’re not usually a fan of video games, I highly recommend giving The Longing a try because its unusual style will likely appeal to many and even my ten-year-old son, who normally loves games that involve running, jumping, and racing about as fast as possible, has become oddly enamored with watching A Shade slowly wander around the kingdom.

Simply put, I can not recommend The Longing highly enough.

GeekMom received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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