Longing: a yearning desire.
Yearning: a feeling of intense longing.
It seems one cannot be defined without the other. In the end, it all circles back to desire: a strong feeling of wishing for something to happen.
The artistic talent behind The Longing is Studio Seufz. Founded back in 2017, it’s “committed to creating animated films and indie games for young adults, focusing on emotional and existential content with an accessible design.”
This isn’t to say that adults won’t like The Longing. On the contrary, this game might be just the exercise in patience, and struggle with loneliness, that we have all become much more acquainted with recently.
The Longing might be new, but it happens to have a very long and rich history, inspired by a German tale, the legend of Kyffhäuser. In this tale, a dwarven character must check every hundred years to see if his sleeping king is ready to awaken.
With this rich story’s influence, Studio Seufz now places Shade into our care. The king, creating Shade in the palm of his hand, says he must sleep for 400 days to regain his power, at which time Shade must wake him. Then a 400-day, real-time timer begins to count down.
Players can help Shade occupy his time… or not.
Should players find it in their hearts to help Shade battle with omnipresent loneliness, they can read his personal notebook: Thoughts. This will give players hints on goals to accomplish, for example: growing mushrooms, finding a friend, or seeing every location in the realm.
Players can explore to help Shade find things to furnish his home or achieve his goals. The king’s underground realm is filled with secrets to discover, and there’s plenty of time to do some serious discovering.
If your Shade is more of an introvert, then plop him down into his cozy armchair and read books to pass the time. Actual copies of several books can be collected: from collections of poetry, to The Count of Monte Cristo and Moby Dick! If you’ve been meaning to get around to reading some of the classics, then spend some time reading with Shade to help keep him occupied too.
Or will loneliness and curiosity get the better of you? While the king did ask Shade not to leave, that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t. Clever players may be able to discover a way to exit the realm. Will you forsake your king, or choose to stay?
Four hundred days seems like a long time to commit to a video game. However, have you ever noticed how, when you keep your mind occupied, it feels like time moves faster? Well, this same phenomena, literally, happens to Shade too! Whether playing music, drawing, or reading a book, the in-game timer will actually count down more quickly (in ten second, or more, increments) if Shade is having fun.
Even helping Shade spruce up his abode can help the time pass. Collecting crystals, carpets, drawings and books will make his king-adjacent home more pleasant to be in and thus move time along quicker.
If you prefer fast-moving, high-octane gaming then you might want to steer clear of The Longing. Shade has all the time in the world, and therefore no need to rush. There is no run button, and Shade employs a slow gait as he traverses the terrain.
Pressing Y will bring up a handy menu of places you can remember. Save any location, and afterwards you can click on that memorised location to have Shade automatically walk there, even if you turn the game off during.
Artistically, the game is a 2D point-and-click adventure game full of plenty of time-based puzzles. The landscape changes as time passes: moss grows, spiders build webs, insignificant-seeming drops of water will eventually create large pools if you have the patience.
The art style creates the feel of a once-epic kingdom that has fallen into ruin. From dark hidden corners, to bright and glowing wonders, the realm is a delightful palette of earth tones and unanswered questions.
The soundtrack is an atmospheric joy to the ears, and will change depending on where you are in the realm. Fearful music when lost in the dark will transform into an epic soundtrack of awe when you come back into the light. It is worth exploring the caves simply to hear all of the ambient music create each carefully crafted mood.
Shade himself feels akin to a Tamagotchi, or virtual pet. No matter if you’re in the game or not, time is passing for Shade, and you can play with him, or not.
How attached players get to Shade, and his plight, can determine how often they will hop on to help Shade out, even if it is simply to plop him into his chair and hand him a thick book to idly read. Yes, Shade will read the book – and time will move faster – even when the game is not running.
The game has multiple endings to discover, and not all of them have to take the full 400 days. Will you discover what the king has in store for the world once his power is restored? Will you try to escape the realm as fast as possible? Shade’s existence is in your hands.
The Longing £13.49
If you are the kind of gamer who likes an atmospheric, experimental style of game, then pick up The Longing. Will you be benevolent or cruel? Curious or apathetic? Loyal or untrustworthy. The choices, the discoveries, the myth, and the magic are all in your hands!