I have found it incredibly difficult to write a review for The Longing. Its slow pace and lack of fun antics makes it feel like the antithesis of what a video game should actually be, yet there’s something so compelling about the overall experience that I’ve also found myself fascinated to discover as much as I can within it. You’ll certainly need patience to appreciate its finer points, with everything in the game (including waiting four-hundred days for the King to awaken) built around monotony.
The Longing’s concept is simple: players take on the role of a small creature known as Shade as it waits four-hundred days for the King (who is currently in the form of a giant statue) to awaken. Simple, right? Well, those four-hundred days actually take place in real-time, with time passing in The Longing both when you’re playing and not playing the game. You know how time always progresses in Animal Crossing, even where you’re away from your Nintendo Switch? It’s kinda like that.
So what can you do during those four-hundred days to keep yourself entertained? You can decorate your home with the items you find out and about on your travels, you can grow some mushrooms, you can read some books (plenty of copyright-free classics make an appearance), you can venture out into the caves to discover new secrets, or hey, you could even top yourself and bring an end to the four-hundred day wait. The Longing doesn’t tell you WHAT you need to do with those days… it just says you’ve got to wake the King after they’ve passed.
“You know how time always progresses in Animal Crossing, even where you’re away from your Nintendo Switch? It’s kinda like that.”
Of course, you don’t HAVE to wake the King up. The Longing features multiple endings that can be achieved by completing different actions in-game, with some offering more satisfying conclusions than others. It’ll take a bit of work (and, again, a bit of patience) to uncover these options, but it adds to the intrigue of the overall experience. It encourages players to take the time to explore the world and see all of the possibilities it offers.
Whilst there are things to do and see in the game, everything is essentially tied to the progression of time. For one, Shade’s movement speed is RIDICULOUSLY slow, meaning performing even the simplest of actions will take some time. In fact, I’d actively encourage players to have something to occupy themselves with during the wait.
If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, you’ll want to steer well clear of The Longing. Patience is certainly key in the game and a lot of time is spent waiting for Shade to do the things you’ve asked of him. There are things that can keep you entertained during this time such as Shade’s reactions to things around him or the little remarks that he makes, but they won’t be enough to keep you invested if the idea of waiting around doesn’t appeal to you.
“Whilst there are things to do and see in the game, everything is essentially tied to the progression of time.”
If you ARE willing to wait, you’ll find that some of The Longing’s ideas can be quite clever in design. You know how I said everything is tied to time? Well, that applies to exploring the world too, with some pathways not opening until a set amount of time has passed. This might be so that a spider has the time to weave a climbable surface for Shade, so that mushrooms can grow that Shade can climb, or even so moss can grow to provide a soft surface to jump down to. It gives players an incentive to return to The Longing after not playing for a few days, with the new areas to explore offering fresh things for Shade to discover.
There are little tasks to complete to help make Shade’s refuge more homely too, whether that’s by decorating it with furniture, lighting a fire to keep it warm, finding a way to get running water, and so forth. These improvements come with the added benefit that they speed up time, so there’s certainly an incentive to help Shade out. You can also speed up time by playing music once you’ve found all instrument parts or by reading books, with even the simplest of tasks helping players progress.
“Whilst I found the gameplay cycle was very clever and original at first, it got to a point where the novelty wore off a little.”
Whether or not you’ll actually WANT to spend the time to do all of those tasks or not is another thing altogether though. Whilst I found the gameplay cycle was very clever and original at first, it got to a point where the novelty wore off a little. Instead, I found myself begrudgingly watching Shade’s slow movements, knowing I could be playing something a bit more involving on my Nintendo Switch instead. Sure, you could just wait the four-hundred days out and boot the game up in time for the King’s awakening, but what’s the point? There’s a lot to discover in the Longing that adds to the mystery – it’s just a shame that it requires perseverance to see it all.
The thing is, you can’t really consider it a flaw. The Longing was DESGINED to be this way – it’s not as if the developer got something wrong or that the gameplay is poorly executed, but it’s meant to be a patience-testing trudge. Is the payoff enough to make it worthwhile? Well… I couldn’t tell you yet having not seen the full four-hundred day ending, but it has done enough to have at least kept me invested into the game for some time. My patience has been wearing thin though and my frequency of play has been a LOT less than it was to begin with.
The Longing is a real test of patience thanks to its slow sense of progression, but there’s no doubting that it offers a unique and intriguing experience. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy some of my time with the game, with the clever time-based puzzling and the mysteries of the world certainly keeping me invested in Shade’s long wait.
However, it didn’t take long for that appeal to wear thin. I didn’t have the patience to fully appreciate The Longing for the long term, but instead find myself waiting for those four-hundred days to be up just to see how it ends. I completely appreciate what the developer was trying to do here, but it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t hate the game or think that it was necessarily bad… I just struggled with the amount of time it takes to do anything.
But hey, who knows, The Longing could be the perfect game for you. There’s nothing quite like it out there and it deserves praise for that. Just bring some form of extra entertainment with you if you’re planning out a long trek in the game… you’ll need it.
Developer: Studio Seufz, ASHGAMES
Publisher: Application Systems
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC
Click here to visit the official website.