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The Longing - the waiting game

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I began playing "The Longing" following its release on Switch, a hybrid adventure/idle game in which you play as a glorified alarm clock. After 2020, I - and I think the world - am ready for an artistic treatment of the loneliness and isolation of quarantine. I started it up today and instantly fell in love with it.

Our protagonist, a nameless shade, faces the loneliness and other challenges of isolation as they wait for 400 days before they can awaken the king and leave the cave. Those 400 days pass in real-time, whether the game is running or not, and I intend to see them to the end honestly and faithfully. I'm told it detects and punishes attempts to manipulate the system clock.

Every action you take in this game is slow. The shade shuffles languorously through the caverns, or will doze off and dream if you leave them for a while. There are doors that take minutes to open, locations in the cave where the way might open after weeks of real time. The shade has a cozy little nook with a bookshelf with a complete, unabridged copy of Moby Dick. Many of the activities you do can be performed unattended: click on the object and wait for the shade to finish their work. If you were in the middle of something when you exited the game, progress will have been made as though you were sitting there watching it the whole time. Any location in the game can be remembered, and you can pull up a menu to travel there automatically, which should not be mistaken for fast-travel. So it combines a convenient user interface with inconvenient activities. It is a game about patience, not a game about monopolizing your attention.

The shade is a modestly artistic soul. They want to practice drawing, but they'll need paper to draw with, and materials to use different colors, which must be gathered from throughout the kingdom. They want to express the music they hear in their mind, but the pieces of their musical instrument have all been scattered. They want to read, but the way to the library is locked. They don't need to eat or drink or rest, but a comfortable bed to rest and a fire to sit by would not be unwelcome. All of these things are "optional," in the sense that they do not contribute to the explicitly stated goal of the game, which is to wait 400 days and awaken the king, and that waiting can be passed with either more or less comfort and enrichment to alleviate the conditions of their pitiable existence.

Think of it - a game about enduring prolonged solitude! And this was originally released on various kinds of personal computer back in actual March of 2020? Remarkably prescient.
 

Ixo

"This is not my beautiful forum!" - David Byrne
(Hi Guy)
This sounds like Little Computer People, but from the perspective of the little computer person with the addition of an end goal. Keep us updated!
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
And this was originally released on various kinds of personal computer back in actual March of 2020? Remarkably prescient.
Whoa, I didn't realize that! I thought it was a new release for Switch.

I'm really intrigued by the game but it's just not my style. I like that Moby Dick is included and I saw something about other books too which I think is fun. Look forward to hearing more about it as you play.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Well, I found a mattock, grabbed a few different crystals, and then broke it trying something silly just to see if I could. (I couldn't.) And I found all the colors to draw with. The last piece of the instrument still eludes me, however.

Not sure what I'm still missing to make a bed. I have found plenty of both moss and wood.

I also read to the end of the book "Poems II," the last poem in which seems to be foreshadowing that the King will "end all fear and longing" in a disappointingly murderous way. But I'd still like to see it.

I really appreciate the "walk to a random place" option. And in a few more days I should be able to reach a few more places.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I came back after a week (and what a week it was) to find that I'm able to proceed past two former dead ends! I found a face-shaped crack in the wall, that a shade can use to verbalize their thoughts and trade materials for cryptic advice, some of which I elected to save for later. One hint seemed related to these glowing mushrooms I found. I ate a purple one and it made me glow, and I'm guessing the green ones make me stop glowing. I cross-pollinated them, but didn't try to test that theory just yet. I seem unable to go any farther in that part of the cave without a way to repair or replace my lost mattock. I would be extremely impressed if this game had the chutzpah to deny me that option, but I still hope I can do it.

Using the auto-walk feature to get around took me through a part of the cave I had seen but thought was inaccessible, where I found the last piece of my instrument!

...While waiting to return home and try it out, and after writing the preceding paragraphs, I remembered there was one other place where I had been blocked by waiting. Turns out I could proceed there as well, and there I found a second mattock. So next time I play, I'll have a few more options.

The shade's music was worth the wait.

It was subtle, but I have noticed that time is moving faster than real-time (currenty 2.5 times faster). Inspecting the hourglass seems to hint that this is a function of how comfortably the shade can live, or perhaps how many items in the Thoughts book have been crossed off. It's going to be difficult for me to avoid spoiling that detail. I find it very interesting how obscure the relation between activities and goals can get in this game.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
This is so neat. Out of curiousity, how much/often are you playing the game? A little bit every day? A few hour block every couple days? I can't figure out if the game is designed to check in frequently or if you assign a number of long tasks and come back later.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I give it an hour or so every couple of days, typically.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I booted it up again and noticed that time was advancing at 5.5 seconds per second, but this effect faded as I set about more chores and exploration. I wonder what the exact mechanic for this function is. Perhaps it has something to do with whether I end the session sitting in the armchair, and with how built up the house is. I'll test it by ending my current section immediately after using the "walk to random place" function.

I found the spot where a bed can be built, but I'm still a little short on materials.

I wonder if I'll actually use this game to personally read any Nietzsche or Melville. It seems less comfortable than just using my ebook reader. I wonder if there's an effect from letting the shade read a book fully (by leaving auto-advance enabled) while the game is closed.

So much mystery in this game. I can wait for it, though.
 
Last edited:

madhair60

Video games
Congratulations to the dev for making a game that's stiflingly unenjoyable on purpose so you can't even really review it.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
By waiting for droplets of water to fill a hole into a pool deep enough to swim across, I've gained access at last to the library. The front door, which was closed on the other side, I can now see, is blocked by fallen rocks and cannot be opened.

This means that in order to leave, I have to come back the way I came, through the pool.

When I gathered the books in the library, it incremented the number of books said explicitly to be "at home." And there isn't exactly an inventory system in this game, aside from mushrooms which you can carry around in designated areas until you eat or plant it. Even so, I'm afraid to leave the library, because the water might damage the books.

But there's nothing else here to interact with. So I've got no choice. Here goes.

....

The result was that it didn't give me any message at all, about the books or otherwise. And when I returned home, they were all there.

Well. It occurs to me that, although I'm stumped on how to go further toward the surface, there are still parts of the kingdom proper that I have yet to explore. Next time.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I clearly need to do something with these mushrooms. I planted a green one in a different part of the cave and it became huge, but one I left in place while the shade read Moby Dick didn't get huge. So instead now I'm trying planting a bunch of mushrooms of different kinds next to each other. Perhaps that's the hint being given in the chamber with huge mushrooms in the background. We shall see.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Well, I made it past that mushroom puzzle. Beyond it was a long and completely dark path, and I proceeded through as-is even though I suspect I could have a different result by eating a purple mushroom first. Beyond the that was a cliff, where, if I walked right up to the edge, the option "commit suicide" became available to me. This game has already shown me once that there are irreversible decisions, so I think I'm not gonna see what happens beyond there until I've attempted both the aforementioned mushroom strategy and checked out the Halls of Eternity that I found earlier.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Using the mushroom in that passage didn't seem to do anything. Have I misunderstood the mechanic? Or maybe mushrooms only work in the part of the cave that is the designated Mushroom Puzzle Area, beyond which you can't carry them for various reasons.

Ah well, onward to that other place.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I started walking through the Halls of Eternity. I walked until the shade's footsteps stopped echoing, and then I walked some more. Just as promised, time stands still in them, and they do seem to go on forever. However, the attempt was very worthwhile: in addition to some unique treasures (though I found a duplicate of one, so I'm not sure what's up with that - maybe it's randomized), I got more paper for making art.

And if I ever feel like pausing the timer for some reason, I not know how I can manage that.

I'm still missing one last piece of wood to construct a bed, and it was the hope of finding that that made me press on long past the point of reason. In addition to that, I need more coal, and I've found evidence of a whole other kind of resource that I haven't found any yet (I think I know where I might try to get some, but I'm afraid of I might lose if I go for it). Plus, based on spoilers I've heard and clues that foreshadow them, there's a major discovery that I have yet to find any sign of. It must be closer to the surface.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I decided to keep walking while doing other activities. It seems that the Halls of Eternity eventually become a place where pieces of paper can be found with decreasing frequency.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Coming back to this after nearly three weeks, I was able to dream a few times by eating a bunch of purple mushrooms, and I got enough coal for another vague hint. But now I seem to have exhausted everything I can interact with at the moment. I have no idea where to get more disappointments or any amount of gold coins. There's clearly more game, tantalizingly foreshadowed by several means, and my game design senses are telling me that the pay to them should be clear.

So I'm going to dissociate from the main character, and instruct the shade to commit suicide, just to see what happens. It seems cruel to do so, but really, it's just turning a page. From what I've learned so far, I could recreate my current condition, timer and all, with ease, if this turns out to be irreversible.

Here goes nothing.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Okay, well, it seems what happens is that the game gives me a warning that what I'm about to do is irreversible and will go on my permanent record. Even though I think I could work around that, it seems to be a strong indication that there's something I've overlooked instead. But all the clues are so cryptic.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Aha, I figured it out. The path forward is invisible, but the pathfinding can locate it. The dream hinted at this, vaguely.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Aha, I figured it out. The path forward is invisible, but the pathfinding can locate it. The dream hinted at this, vaguely.

How does pathfinding work in this game? I'm assuming it's the auto-walk thing you mentioned? Curious how that all works.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I'm not sure how it works on mobile or PC, but on Switch, moving the right stick around brings up a little feet icon that you can move around the screen, and double-tapping A makes the shade walk to the walkable spot underneath wherever you click, if possible. This is separate from the feature where you can remember any location you've been and start walking to it from the menu, but in the end they're both just unattended movement.

Way out here in the darkest part of the cave, I found another pair of yellow eyes, which send me back home if I approach (a very long walk by now). By remembering the hints I had received before, I was able to wait until the shade began ruminating on their prospects of ever seeing the outside world, and from there guided them to the realization that unlocked a contextual command that got me past the obstacle, a very cool bit of design to overcome a very creepy scenario.

And at last, I made it in sight of the surface, a place the shade has dreamed of. There's more to solve here, and thanks to hints I've received I have a good idea of the goal, though not the solution. But I also found enough wood to finish building a bed, so I simply remembered this location and started the long shlep back home.

There are some items in the shade's book of thoughts that are still enigmas to me. For instance, I have an instrument, but no idea how to help the shade relieve the sense of a beautiful melody in their head. Is it related to the piano and ear icons in the frame? So many mysteries.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I have figured out how to get an ending, but part of it requires me to be playing at a certain time of day and I never seem to think to boot it up at the right time.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I've finished the game. Life hit me with some huge distractions during this time, but I was able to solve the final puzzle. I spoiled myself on the other outcomes that could have been attained there, as well.

At the highest part of the cave, the camera shows the outside world, and you can see that there's day and night corresponding to real time. It turns out that you've got to do the thing in the daytime, and most of my gaming time has been at night. Around this location, there is a well: too steep to climb out of, but wells are meant to retrieve things from, so there's clearly some possibility here. At various times of day, different people will come to retrieve water from the well, and when they do, the shade can hop in their bucket. Trusting in a hint given by the blue face in the wall, you should put trust in the blind eyes of the old, not the young: if it's a child come to draw water, they'll be startled by the shade's appearance and drop them to their death, unlocking the bad ending. But if it's an old man, you'll arrive safely at the surface.

This game was really something, and I'm glad to have experienced it, though in retrospect I think I got everything I was going to get out of it long before finishing. But here at the end it's still surprising me: after booting the game up again after finishing, it just went right back into the credits, so apparently you can't continue playing or go for other endings without deleting your save file.

Some of the spoilers I treated myself to indicate that there was one thing I never managed to find, and it's got "secret" right there in the name. I think I'll leave well enough alone.
 

Ixo

"This is not my beautiful forum!" - David Byrne
(Hi Guy)
So, I’m assuming you left the king still asleep? Is that...good?
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
So, I’m assuming you left the king still asleep? Is that...good?
The King intends to end all sorrow (unsure about the exact wording, and I can't really go back and check). I got a foreboding vibe about how exactly he intended to accomplish that. Not having seen that ending, I'm unsure, but I'm guessing his plan was to destroy the world, or at least the world as we know it, and I don't roll that way.

Upon making it to the surface, there's a tremor and the king falls apart, never to be awoken.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Wild. Thank you for documenting this! I absolutely would not have had the patience for this style of game, but I love that people are making things like this.
 
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