by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
Another real jewel I found while exploring the indie village at Gamescom 2019 was The Longing, a game by Studio Seufz which represents a really interesting concept. Created as a variation on relaxation based games, The Longing takes place over 400 days. But not 400 in-game days, 400 real days. To fill this time there are a variety of things you can do in the cave system which your character calls home — you can paint pictures using different colour coals that you find, you can play your instrument, you can read from a selection of actual books, or you can explore the caves, simply wandering the tunnels.
The central premise of the game is that you are the last servant of the king, waiting four hundred days for him to regain his strength and awaken, but the premise isn’t really required to appreciate what the game is. At its heart, The Longing seems to just be about experiencing solitude. It is a second screen game in that you don’t need to focus on it entirely, or even do or accomplish anything — the time will gradually tick down and the protagonist will just carry on. You can set him to walk the tunnels (he takes a long time to walk) then return to him days later to see if he’s made it. You can set him to read a book and even if you stop reading, he will continue to read that book in real time, so you can return to find he’s finished it without you. The game has a really interesting life of its own, in that it doesn’t necessarily rely on you for anything, but represents a little investment/familiarity that will stay with you for four hundred days.
The art-style is also very interesting and seems to be somewhat reminiscent of European folklore. The cave system also reminds me of Hollow Knight in a way, partly because it’s expansive, but also because the king’s chamber lies at the centre of the system in a very similar way to how the Hollow Knight’s temple does, and that both are discovered from almost the very beginning, and both games are about waking those respective figures.
If you’re interested in experimental concept based games, or just games which have solitude at their heart, then I would greatly recommend The Longing. I intend to get it later this year when it releases just to see what a 400 day game is like — I’m curious about the investment which will come from having that figure exist in tandem with you for that long. But I’m also curious to play a game which isn’t entirely reliant upon you, or pressuring you to play in the way that it often feels so many other games are. The Longing is like a little window into another world, you can exert your influence and play, but even if you leave, that reality will still be there — 400 days still ticking down towards an inevitable conclusion.