What do you do when your King and idol tell you to wait, and I mean wait for a long time. You play as a small Shade who’s been given the instruction to wait it out for his King to regain his power, and you have to wake him up when he’s ready. The only catch is that The Longing is 400 days in real-time – so there’s plenty of time to fill.
The Longing is an idle puzzle game that is all about patience. You’ve been given 400 days to bide your time before you have to wake the King, so it’s all about how you spend your time. There’s a timer at the top of the screen always looming, reminding you how long there is to go. Even when you close the game the timer will continue to run down. It’s a game about quiet moments and waiting. When you’re in the game you have plenty of caverns to explore, you can decorate your quarters or hunt for items like coal. If you’ve never got around to reading Moby Dick, then you’re in luck as a full version is on the shelf and you can read that if you want to.
The game is really emotive. The design of the Shade really makes you feel sorry for the little guy. He’s got big, sad eyes and he’s very small. The world around him is so big so he seems very vulnerable. The Shade moves very slowly and even the doors take time to open, as they haven’t been opened for some time. However, you have a lot of time to fill, so the pacing works.
The world you inhabit as the tiny seems huge. There are underground caverns, grand royal rooms covered with precious stones, huge bug stairways that seem to go up forever and mysterious doors to open and see what’s hiding behind. The world around you changes ever so slightly with rocks falling the background and water dripping – the ambience of the game builds up to reinforce that sense of loneliness.
There are various time-gated puzzles in the game. You may have to wait for an ancient door to slowly creak open, plants to grow or perhaps creatures to help you get to new areas by building bridges. As you explore the areas there is a mechanic that allows you to remember where you’ve been and then fast travel, which is a handy feature as the Shade walks very slowly. It’s important you remember your way, as it could be easy to get lost in the vast underground.
As you walk along our little Shade friend will talk about how he feels. He notes down in his diary that he wants to talk to someone else, and wondering aloud if he really should wait for the King or try to escape. As time goes by our Shade starts to doubt himself whether he can complete such a big task. It’s an emotional experience which I was really expecting. Much like slower TV series of recent years, this isn’t a wham-bam action game, this is about the quiet moments in between the action.
There are items you can find throughout the underground to help fill the time. In particular, the Shade is somewhat of an artist and he likes to draw. You start out with just one colour, black, but you can find others throughout the world to add more flair to the drawings. Once you’re done you can hang them on your wall to spruce up the living quarters.
The Longing is a unique game full of emotion. The graphics are simple, yet very effective and the character design is very emotive. The music in the game reminded me of A Clockwork Orange in places with 80’s style synth music, further increasing the sense of danger in this vast world. It’s slow but intentional. You can finish the game in less than 400 days, as my chat with the developer confirmed. How we go about doing that is unknown to me at the moment but I have marked my calendar 400 days from now and personally I can’t wait to find out what happens to our little Shade.
Over the coming weeks and months maybe I’ll find a way to escape. Maybe I’ll get to the door and won’t want to leave my King sleeping (as I really want to find out what happens when he wakes up). Hopefully, he’ll reward me with something for all this waiting.
The Longing is an interesting game that I’d recommend checking out. It’s slow but gives you time to think. If you’re used to action moments and fast-paced gameplay then this may not be for you. However, if you’re looking for a unique experience then I’d recommend giving this one a shot.
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