All screenshots were taken by me and me only. Some pictures in this post are compilations. I put a few screencaps together to save your time, so you won't see exactly the same thing when playing.
This winter, we're coming back to Bear Island and will embark on a voyage of discovery. The wonderful winter survival simulator The Long Dark has received its first DLC named Far Territory. The list of promised features is impressive: three new regions to discover, new equipment and other items, more types of fauna and flora to encounter (and kill, and then eat), and even more.
Not everything is perfect, though. Usually, I stay away from the broader TLD community — the official forum and the Steam community, the dedicated subreddit and so on — but after I did some brief research, it turned out quite a few fans weren't exactly happy. First of all, this is the first update in the long history of the game that you need to pay for if you want to get all of the new content, and the initial price turned out to be pretty steep. What's worse, the official roadmap says that it will be delivered in six batches so players will need to wait for an entire year to see every novelty promised by the devs. Due to the complex nature of the DLC, old saves with experienced and well-equipped characters become obsolete and it's necessary to start a new game.
That doesn't bother me all that much, though. I have much trust in the Hinterland Studios, the developing team behind TLD, due to their obvious passion and dedication to the project, but also because they've always shown a fair approach towards players (as far as I know, that is). Without much hesitation, I decided to pay the full price for the DLC just a few hours after it showed up on Steam.
Into the Far Territory
Before starting my report from the long trek west, I want to make it clear that I went in blindly. Since I wanted to enjoy the full surprise, I refused to read any hints about the location of the new content. Obviously, I missed a few things, but not much.
The journey starts slow. Since old save files are obsolete now, I have to create a wholly new Survival character. My starting location is Mountain Town, a nice and relatively safe area. Now, the usual grind starts: a thorough search to collect enough gear, supplies and solid clothes, because I'm expecting some trouble in the newly added region. I quickly discover something new, the possibility to make Improvised Crampons. It doesn't require much work and soon they're ready. I've always hated getting my ankle or wrist sprained just because my backpack was a few grams too heavy, and this will make my travels more comfortable.
Feeling ready to roll, I leave the town and go south for a brief stop at the Mystery Lake. Sadly, there's no rifle to be found here, but I discover what is possibly the first bug in the newest update: you can't pick up rabbits killed by wolves. This is a very minor issue, so I just shrug and move westwards.
The journey is uneventful until I reach the end of the railroad track. Before the DLC arrived, the path was blocked by rubble, but now it's open wide. I enter a maze of corridors with a flare blazing in my hand and, after some time, finally emerge in the first new area. It's quite underwhelming, though: first, it's a long march through a deep ravine with a majestic bridge overhead, then some climbing and we pass through said bridge to enter a long railway tunnel.
Things get a tad more interesting after I emerge from it into a new area. A lonely train car waits on the tracks and I decide to spend the night inside. Two rabbits are happily hopping around and soon both get stoned. Sadly, a hungry and angry wolf decides to join the party, but I emerge victorious, if somewhat bruised and bleeding, then make a fire and eat my paleo-diet rabbit steaks. Time to get some sleep, some real exploring awaits tomorrow.
The morning stroll takes my alter ego down the railway tracks until we encounter a small abandoned train station. It's just lovely; I've always loved visiting such places in the meatspace and now I decide it would make a great hideout if I planned to stay here for a couple of days. However, I haven't reached my main destination yet, so I have to abandon it quickly. Just one peak inside the tipple tower standing nearby — one can crawl inside using the diagonal chute — and I move on westwards. A battered roadsign tells me the Airfield should be nearby.
After I reach the border of the map, another new area loads. Soon enough, I encounter a second sign which makes it clear that I'm heading right towards my goal. Indeed, after a few minutes of marching, I climb a hill on my right and, despite the foggy weather, I think I can notice the outline of an airstrip and some buildings in the distance.
This took me some time, but I'm finally here. The Forsaken Airfield. There's a huge landing strip here, a control tower, a large hangar and, most importantly, quite a few planes and helicopters. I've loved all kinds of flying machines since I was a little kid, so I couldn't be happier. The DLC trailer showed the same place during one of the aurora nights, when the electricity comes back to Earth for a short while and all lamps and little cockpit lights come back to life, turning the airfield into one huge, jolly Christmas tree. I can't wait to see it myself, but the aurora is a capricious mistress, so it's time to do more mundane things.
...and that, obviously, means more exploring and scavenging. A car in the parking lot reveals another surprise: a polaroid photo hidden behind the sun visor. This new feature marks a point on your map called the Vista which lets you map a really large part of the area, together with icons pointing at plants, animals carcasses and other useful things. A nice tiny addition that makes your survivor's life a little easier and less time-consuming.
This will get me some laughs, but I've always been obsessed with sun visors in this game. Even though I knew they'd always be empty, I desperately kept searching each single one in any car I encountered. Now, finally, I have a real reason to keep doing that. Thank you so much, Hinterland!
When I'm finally finished looting the airfield, including the control tower and an enormous hangar, I decide to move north. The surrounding area is hardly exciting, being mostly flat and empty. After a while, I reach a plane that crashed in the middle of a frozen lake and then set my sights on a steep hill in the distance. At the top, I discover a small, cosy house. It has almost everything a traveller could wish for, and there are plenty of rabbits nearby, just like a fishing hut. If I get wounded and hit by a snowstorm, it could make a perfect shelter to survive for a few days without starvation.
After an entire day of rest and feasting on fried rabbit meat, I decide that I'm ready to continue the reconnaissance. I move southwest along a high, impenetrable mountain wall. Eventually, I notice another mountain hut clinging to the verge of a cliff. After a short climb and playing hide-and-seek with a nasty wolf, I'm inside. As nice as it is, there's nothing special about the house except one thing: during the standard search, I find a revolver hidden under the floorboards. This is another novelty introduced by the latest update. While it seems to be insignificant, it will make searching inside buildings less tedious, because I'll be excitedly checking every nook and cranny for pleasant surprises.
The time is high to return to my main base at the airport. During the long walk eastward, I find an absolute unit of a rescue helicopter crashed in the middle of a snowy field. She's a real beauty, and I excitedly jump inside to inspect it, with the quiet hope that I may found a signal pistol — there's hardly anything more satisfying than firing a glowing-hot flare in the mouth of an attacking wolf. Sadly, I don't find the weapon.
But my doom finally finds me.
After lighting a fire and making a cup of herbal tea, I suddenly notice that all lights in the pilot's cockpit have started glowing. This shouldn't be happening unless it's the middle of the night and weird lights appear on the sky, but here we are. To make things even worse, a strange fog settles outside and the ice is shimmering with electrostatic. At the least convenenient moment, I encounter a new atmospheric condition added to the game, the Glimmer Fog, and the game notifies me that it will soon cause my alter ego to catch a nasty case of insomnia. As if that wasn't enough, the temperature starts to fall down rapidly.
It's high time for a hasty retreat. I start marching to the east and I have to do it blindly since the demonic vapours have reduced visibility to almost zero. To nobody's surprise, I get lost very quickly and just keep marching, hoping to find any kind of shelter since I've started to freeze. Eventually, I hit the mountain wall on the eastern border of the map and after a while, finally notice a cave entrance. My feeling of relief evaporates because I meet the owner of the cave. He's big, his furry and he's really anti-social. That's right, I've just encountered the one and only bear in the area.
This ish where I am now: close to hypothermia, absolutely lost in the fog, my health bar is slowly bleeding, and with nothing but a lousy revolver in my hand. Because I obviously failed to find a real hunting rifle that would give me at least some chances to fend off.
Goodbye, cruel world. I've just lost ten hours of real-time progress.
Fortunately, sometimes God (and his little angels of game code) smiles upon fools. Either due to a bug or the weird fog, the bear appears to be stuck on a flat rock in front of the cave. Within a moment, the situation turns into a shooting range session. The revolver has low stopping power, but after the final twelfth shot lands right in the middle of his butt. Who's roaring now, fleabag?
Another bug makes it impossible to make a fire anywhere near the cave, but the fog is finally beginning to disappear. It's time for the spoils of war, and my hunting knife is oh so sharp. Burdened with 12 kilos of bear meat, weakened by frost and insomnia I slowly trudge back to the airfield, like Caesar coming back from one of his campaigns.
Revenge is a dish best served smoking hot — and with melting fat dripping down between your fingers
As it turns out, there isn't much to do after that dramatic episode. I go for a few more patrols, but most of the area is already explored. The basement beneath the hangar reveals a pleasant surprise: a forge with a supply of coal. They're hard to come by in Bear Island, maybe two or three exist in the entire game, and I may need a place to make arrowheads or even makeshift tools.
As an afterthought, I finally manage to find a few notes which reveal glimpses of the people who visited the Forsaken Airfield before me. This was one of the points on the DLC announcement list, new notes scattered around the new areas which let the player piece together the backstory. So far, it feels underwhelming.
One farewell look back and it's time to slog away, back to the east. Goodbye, Forsaken Airport, you were good to me. Mostly, that is.
After going back from the expedition, I did check the community to find out what I missed. Apparently, the only major thing were new customised weapons, but I'm sure I will encounter them sooner or later. At this moment, I feel really optimistic about the future of the game. After all, this was just one of the promised six updates and we'll see much more new content in the future. I definitely don't regret buying the DLC and if you're a TLD fan reading this, you should consider it as well.
Stay frosty, people.