It’s not every day you find a game that’s focused on patience and waiting. Most titles on the market are fast-paced and dwell on quick action and story-telling. While slowness isn’t as popular for games, that doesn’t mean it can’t be executed well. The Longing stands as a testament to this fact, delivering a distinct experience that is relatable to many of us.
The Longing: Overview
In The Longing, you are made to wait and remain patient. No matter what movement or action you perform, everything is intentionally slow by design. The idea is to make you long for progress with your sleeping King, making its arrival that much more rewarding as a result. If you’re not into slow-paced games, then The Longing is not something you’ll want to look into.
When we say wait, we really mean wait. The sleeping King you encounter for the first time only rises from his slumber after 400 real-world days — essentially, you have to wait for more than a year for this mysterious figure to rise.
Thankfully, The Longing doesn’t force you to clock in every day to count these 400 days. Time flows regardless of whether you play the game itself or not. You can thus reach the game’s climax simply by setting the game aside. You’re free to play other games, watch Netflix shows, or do whatever else you please in the meantime.
However, there would be no point in purchasing a game like this if you choose to walk down this path. Hence, you can choose to play as the Shade, exploring the breadth of the cave you’re trapped in. It’s in this exploration and waiting in isolation that you truly play the game.
The Longing: A Sleeping King and a Shade
Although The Longing is a little on the nose for a time like ours, it feels like a video game focused on self-isolation. Perhaps this is why it’s the perfect time to play given its coincidental release with the start of the worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns.
The Longing opens in a subterranean kingdom whose population is on the brink of extinction. However, all hope is not lost as the king of this world provides hope through The Shade. The Shade is a life form created from the King’s breath, acting as a steward of the remaining kingdom. It’s a small, scrawny figure with large, bright yellow eyes.
However, you and this Shade won’t go on exciting adventures with high-speed action sequences together. Instead, he acts as the custodian until the King wakes. Unfortunately, the king says only to wake him after 400 days. Like we previously mentioned, these days occur in real-time, and a timer sits at the top of your screen.
As the Shade, you’re forced to wait in isolation and occupy your time as these 400 days pass. You can choose to leave your current location and explore the premises within the cave. However, with a somewhat irritating yet impressive commitment to patience, the Shade also moves at a frustratingly slow pace.
Moving At Snail’s Pace
The Longing leaves you to wander a desolate cave-like kingdom with an unassuming Shade. Controlling the Shade itself is no easy task. That’s not because of difficult controls or tight platforming like you might expect on other games. No, the challenge is patience.
You can control the shade by holding the mouse button to a destination. You can also double-click on a spot where you want the shade to move. However, the Shade is in no rush to move or explore. It takes its time wandering the empty halls.
Moreover, the Shade also never runs or tries to perform acrobatic movements to cross difficult terrain. As a result, you will need to navigate the world by yourself. All these limitations make the Shade frustrating to work with, regardless of how patient you are. Moreover, since there are no speed boosts or abilities that can counteract these imperfections, you’re stuck. It’s either you manage your patience or exit the game.
The Cave and Isolation
Outside of the starting room, you’ll find a vast and confusing network of caves. However, like the game’s tone has established, the corridors you can explore in The Longing are desolate. There are things to do in-game that might fill your time. For example, you can occasionally pick up coal scattered throughout the premises, although that’s hardly something to do.
You can also find chalk in various colors to draw. Mostly, these items allow you to decorate the otherwise dull premises of The Longing’s corridors. There are also tools that you can find to mine crystals for similar purposes.
Scattered throughout the premises is a vast collection of books that you can find. However, these books aren’t simple folk tales imagined by the game’s creator. They’re full-length books that can be found free online, such as Friedrich Nietzche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
The Longing is a vast game, more than you might initially imagine. Hence, it’s theoretically fun to explore all the different places in a beautifully drawn art style. At some point, you might find a cliff to jump from or a door that leads to a new area. However, like everything in this game, these elements also force you to wait and be patient.
For example, certain obstacles demand an immense amount of time to pass before they resolve. Closed doors, for example, will only fully open after about two hours.
There’s also an in-game cliff that you might be able to jump from. However, the Shade refuses to damage its own body and wants the moss beneath to grow sufficiently first. This will take two weeks before you can perform this action.
The Longing also has a fast-travel system like many other exploratory games. However, this system isn’t exactly fast, just a slightly more convenient way to do things. In essence, this system allows the Shade to memorize locations and mark them on the game menu. You can click on any room to return to it if you want to find what you might have missed.
However, there’s no car or horse or any transportation option that will allow you to quickly move from one place to another. Instead, the Shade has to walk back the whole way. Moreover, what’s worse (and slightly funny) is that the Shade seems to enjoy your frustration and impatience.
Impatience And Frustration
At first, you’ll probably feel like The Longing seems interesting — and it is, at least in principle. It certainly tries to make a point and executes that perfectly. With everything about the game taking so long, you may feel frustrated by this point. What else is there to do? Where should you go? Do you have enough patience to move and accomplish anything?
Perhaps if we weren’t living in a pandemic, this game would frustrate players a little less. However, because many of us are so familiar with loneliness, isolation, and compulsory waiting nowadays, this game isn’t exactly a good escape. Of course, we’re not saying video games are necessarily meant to solely be an escape from real life. Moreover, games have evolved into a sort of art form instead of solely existing for entertainment.
Four hundred days is a long time to wait to get to the ending of The Longing. It’s certainly no easy task to simply wait. However, the game is brave in that sense because most games won’t dare to make players wait for even minutes. While there are ways to speed up the timer by a small amount, the game still takes a long time to complete.
From a purely philosophical point of view, The Longing is good and poses deep questions. For example, what is our relationship with instant gratification as a society? Have we become so used to quick fixes and immediate success that we refuse to wait?
With these elements in mind, The Longing certainly can be considered a more artistic and philosophical game. However, we also can’t say that it is a fun game unless you have a particularly unique predisposition.
Art Style & Atmosphere
In terms of art and mood, The Longing certainly achieves the goal it sets out to accomplish. The theme is dark, dreary, and isolating, qualities that are expressed through the game’s somber art style.
The Longing isn’t solely about drudgery, despair, and wandering aimlessly and hopelessly. Thankfully, the developers did put some more thought into the gameplay and what you can do. For example, the King initially orders you to remain with him and not leave the room. Will you defy your master’s orders and explore the cave?
The game is also packed with multiple endings. Moreover, with the plethora of in-game areas, there’s always a new location to discover. However, they all hinge on your patience and motivation to accomplish anything through the Shade. With such slow-paced movement, it can be difficult to remain patient to even do that.
The game is certainly daring (asking you to wait, of all things!). However, it does pose some intrigue that might make players keep it and set a reminder after 400 days. Some will probably want to see what happens at the end when the king wakes up.
On the other hand, many will probably forget about the game in a year. Perhaps it’s only a select few that will continuously and diligently clock in to explore the underground kingdom.
Is It Worth the Price?
The Longing steam price is currently at $14.99. At the time of writing, Steam gives it a 9/10, suggesting it’s been worth it for many players. However, opinion on The Longing and whether it’s worth the price is divided amongst other reviewers. Those that couldn’t stand the unbearable wait times and slowness were probably the ones to give it a bad review. However, the game is also doing something right for it to garner positive reviews from many people.
The Longing is certainly a unique game and a fresh take on gameplay. Some say it’s an experiment, a self-isolation simulator, or a bleaker version of Tamagotchi. Regardless of the view, it’s certainly sparked interest and draws out reactions from many people who’ve tried it. Even more interesting is the fact that those reactions are both good and bad.
However, that kind of reception is unsurprising for a game like this. It’s because of The Longing’s nature that it can be difficult to review. You can’t exactly say it’s a good game if fun and entertainment are your only criteria. However, it’s not exactly bad either because it accomplishes its main task perfectly. Some people might find it ingenious while others might hate it to bits. Regardless, if after reading this review you’re intrigued, then perhaps having a go at it is worth a shot.