As an admitted fan-boy of The Long Dark, I enjoyed the first two episodes of story mode, Wintermute and Luminance Fugue, simply because Hinterland gave me new content. I certainly saw the flaws in it, one of which was how easy the story mode was for experienced players. Anyone who has been on a long Stalker or Interloper run would breeze right through the story without every being challenged, but all that is about to change with the introduction of story mode difficulty levels.
Story Mode Difficulty Levels
It didn’t much bother me in the first hour of The Long Dark story mode when the game was teaching me about fire, water, warmth, and the other basic concepts that you need to survive. It makes sense that the opening bit of the story mode would teach new players the essentials. The problem I had is that, as time went on, I was still finding the story too easy.
Take the loot for example. I’m someone who likes to pick up every item I find and take it back to my base. In Wintermute and Luminance Fugue, that’s just not possible. You find too much to reasonably haul with you. You even find too much of the “essential loot” to bring with you, and I found that I was constantly carrying too much.
Regarding the December update, Raphael van Lierop, creator of The Long Dark, had this to say about story mode difficulty levels:
A common piece of feedback we received after launching WINTERMUTE was that the first two episodes were far too easy for our experienced Survival Mode players. This made the introductory segments feel slow-paced and too “tutorial-y”, and yet these same parts could be quite punishing for players who didn’t know anything about the game. It was challenging to balance Episode One for brand new players, and also players who had put 1000s of hours into the Sandbox, and we were reluctant to add the notion of “difficulty modes” for the Story experience, because we wanted everyone to share that experience the same way. Also, having multiple “difficulties” would create a ton of additional tuning and bug-fixing overhead for us while we were trying to finalize our first two Episodes, and we were nervous about taking that on in addition to all the other finaling tasks on our plates.
However, we really want everyone who plays WINTERMUTE — new or veteran — to have a great experience with this narrative mode, and we were sad to hear so many veteran survivors just didn’t enjoy Episode One as much due to the level of challenge, so in December we’ll be rolling out three new Experience Modes, specifically for WINTERMUTE. These loosely map to “difficulty”, and are similar to how we tune our Survival Mode Experiences, but to be clear, these are specifically tuned for WINTERMUTE (i.e. they are different from the Survival Mode experiences of Pilgrim, Voyageur, etc.).
While adding story mode difficulty levels to The Long Dark is a big win, I think the mode has a long way to go before its in a good place. If there’s one thing that Hinterland is known for, though, it’s working diligently until they get it right.