App Army Assemble: The Longing - "Should you spend 400 days as a Shade?"
We ask the App Army
The Longing is an interesting mix of an idle and adventure game that sees you playing as a Shade, who has to potter about on its own for 400 days. Why? Because the king needs to rest to regain his powers, of course. Like an idle game, The Longing continues even when closed, so it's an interesting concept. So, we handed the game over to our App Army to see what they made of it.
Here's what they said:Jason Rosner
The Longing is one of the most original games I’ve played this year. It’s a neat little mashup of an adventure game with elements of idle gameplay. You play as a rather small character named Shade, who is serving a king who has lost his power. The king commands you to stay in his underground palace beneath the soil for 400 days while he gets his strength back by sleeping.
The problem is, you get pretty bored and lonely down there all by yourself. Playing the game is sort of up to you. You can explore the caves and find new items, sit back and relax with a good book, or not play at all and simply come back in 400 days to see how it all ends. Idle-wise the game continually counts down 400 days in real time. The hand-drawn graphics fit well with the relaxing sounds of The Longing. While I certainly have some time to wait, I’ll definitely be coming back to see how it all ends.Mark Abukoff
Full disclosure, I am not a fan of idle games. Seeing those words in a title or description usually kills my interest right there. This is why I determined to look at this with a fresh eye and consider its good and bad points without regard to the idle aspect.
A few technical notes to start off. The contrast makes it very hard to read the text. You can adjust the brightness which helps minimally. And you can double tap at a destination on the current screen to automatically go there, so you do not have to repeatedly tap the screen. The music was okay but I turned it off early (just a personal preference).
This a game with a serious devotion to its theme and long-termedness (?). It’s oppressive and monotonous. You’ll feel the struggle of the poor character. You can’t hurry through it. If you’re looking for a bright spot, well, there is none that I encountered. You can’t fast-forward. You’re stuck, wandering and gathering for the few tasks you can perform. It’s as if you trapped Marvin the Paranoid Android (from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) inside of a Kafkaesque tomb of staircases and darkened doorways that mostly lead to other staircases and darkened doorways.
There are some aspects to this game I find interesting- little tidbits and comments from the character that I’m now hearing in Marvin’s voice (“Don’t talk to me about dreary!”). But sadly it’s not enough to keep me on the game for long. It’s an interesting concept but one I just don’t have the patience for. Which is a shame because a lot of work went into this and I love the concept. It's a four-hundred-day game that will literally take you four hundred days to finish. That’s creative and artistic integrity. And because of that, I’ll keep this game on my phone and set up a reminder to come back in four hundred days to see how it works out. For Marvin’s sake, I hope it’s worth it.Pierpaolo Morgante
The Longing (TL) is an idle game where we play as Shade, a cute character who is tasked with waking up the King of the realm, mostly made of caves, in 400 days. The king suggests that, while waiting, Shade can explore the caves to his liking, and so do we.
TL is an idle game, and what sets it apart from other games of the same genre is that it needs 400 actual days to be completed. As soon as the intro is over, a countdown starts, and the game suggests that we, the players, start waiting with Shade. I would say that waiting and taking it slowly is the whole point of the game, as every action (from opening doors to walking and waiting for other actions to be completed) takes some time. In the beginning, we could ask Shade to read (Mody Dick is one of the titles), walk, or draw, and he takes his time doing it, which I found quite fun.
What drew me to TL was the artwork, which is beautifully crafted. I usually play games without music, so I can't talk about the soundtrack. The controls are intuitive, and I didn't have any issues with how the text is presented, nor with its size.
I personally think that the idea behind TL is interesting, although I can also see that having to wait 400 days to finish the game might be a little off-putting for some players. I would recommend the game to people who are fans of the genre because of its interesting take, or to people who are looking for a break from action-packed or fast-paced titles. I do see myself going back to check on Shade and the progress on the different tasks he is up to, and I can't wait to see what will happen in 2025 after the countdown ends.Torbjörn Kämblad
Slow, dark, and slower still. The Longing is at the far end on the speed scale whereas twitch games are found on the other end. A slow-moving character in a cave with a bookcase, a table for drawing and a small number of items to interact with marks the start of the longing. As an idle clicker meant to be played very slowly, you can speed up the gameplay by clicking.
For example, I let my character start reading Moby Dick, and I could turn the pages by tapping. The alternative is to just exit the game, and the reading will be done automatically, but it takes a day. The Longing isn’t for everyone, but I will keep at it to see where it goes. In February next year, I might know.
Is it a point-and-click adventure? Is it an idle game? Is it very very slow? Yes and yes and yes. When I started exploring, very slowly of course, I noticed that I would get inside a door and appear at one place, but not particularly the expected place I could see on the other side with my own eyes. Oh, it’s one of those games, these labyrinth caves sometimes take me to “random” places. And I felt the need for those gaming magazines of the 90s where the publisher would give us a huge map for a game in the middle pages.
And then I found a room with a map drawn on a wall, and if you wait a long time, it will zoom out and you can see a huge map of every place you can visit. And then I would find a gap in the path, and my hero would say something like, if you wait for 2 weeks that rock is gonna fall and fill the gap and then you can cross to the other side. So, there are puzzles to solve, but you have to wait some time for them to be available, or to be solved at a certain time. If you get that little pond filled with enough water drops, or that spider building a spider web so you can reach some higher place.
You can collect a lot of stuff to make your “home” more comfortable, which will also speed up time, that is happening in real-time since the beginning, and you can only wake up the king when 400 days have passed. Got it, it’s an idle game, but you should play it to speed things up, to solve the puzzles, find the mysteries of these caves, and who knows, try to escape before the king awakes. Never seen a game like this before, but I am intrigued, and I’m already trying to find the pick axe, I want to expand my home and want crystals, I want to break the glass and get to the gold before the darkness and loneliness get to me.Oksana Ryan
The Longing on iPad Pro. You play a Gollum-type creature called Shade who lives underground in a series of tunnels with his king. Said king then decides to go to sleep for 400 days, leaving the little minion to wake him when the time is up and to keep himself occupied while he sleeps. And the game is played in real-time - giving you 400 days to wander the corridors.
Shade lumbers around at a snail’s pace, looking for items to do things like build a fire or make his home bigger. It would really be handy to have some form of map. You can save destinations in the game so that Shade goes back to them without your help, however, he still meanders slowly and seems even more creepy.
If you don’t feel like wandering you can read in your burrow, which I thought was strange in the middle of a game, although if you have 400 days to kill, I suppose it makes sense to help pass the time.
Although the concept of a game lasting 400 days is novel, I found it too slow for my taste but I might keep going back every so often to see how things are growing, etc. or maybe not.
Spending 400 real-time days in the game to see the ending, The Longing is truly unique. The concept is amazing. The game has a leisurely tempo and focuses mostly on area exploration—mostly in dungeons—which, at least initially, overshadows other gameplay elements.
In the game, while we explore and gather various goods, our character Shade can use them to do chores like building a fire, sketching different things for décor, solving riddles, and other random activities like reading a book to kill time. The first problem I noticed was that the characters moved so slowly that at times it seemed like I was stuck in the same scene.
Additionally, there is no map and only a small number of bookmarks that serve as memories of different scenes and allow us to return immediately to that area, so we have a lot of information to retain. It is not for everyone and is only understandable to those who can comprehend the need for a contemplative experience that promotes self-reflection and meditation on the passing of time, loneliness, and humanity through gaming.Eduard Pandele
I really wanted to like this one, but I should've examined the mobile screenshots first - the font is so tiny and the contrast so poor (I know you can increase it - a little) that I had to use my magnifier lens (!) to be able to understand the writings - even on my tablet. I can't imagine how anybody can play this on a phone.
Rant aside, the whole point of this game is to... wait. You control a tiny creature called Shade that needs to wait 400 days to wake up his king. That's actual days, so if you start the game now you'll reach 2025 before completing it.
Actually, I lie - you can explore the humongous caves at your little lonely Shade's disposal, BUT you do it at your little slow sluggish Shade's speed. That is, very very very slowly. So, actually, I don't lie much - you need to hold your finger on the screen at the place you want the Shade to reach, and then wait until it gets there. On its way, he might find stuff like coal, flint or... disappointments. And your finger might start hurting.
When you find elements to interact with, you have to wait some more - like, keep your finger on a door for a whole minute to open it, or even wait two weeks for moss to grow. Seriously.
The exploration mechanic is the "idle" part - you save your starting point on your map (don't forget to do this in the beginning, or you'll have to slowly return all the way back) then slowly explore the caves, then save your location when you have had enough of walking or when you gathered enough ingredients to improve your not so cosy home, then ask your Shade to return home by itself. Then close the game and return to it (way) later.
And yet, this is a weird, charming experience - your Shade grows endearing in time, his little messages of loneliness and longing got to me and I (slowly, very slowly) started caring. Do I care enough to return in two weeks from now, to see if that moss has grown and I can order my Shade to jump into the abyss? I have no idea, but most likely no. I'm sure there are ways to speed up the gameplay, but I haven't found them yet, and I'm not that excited by the experience - I'd rather read a book, watch a movie, or, you know, play something elseWhat is the App Army?
The App Army is Pocket Gamer's lovely community of mobile game experts. As often as possible, we ask them for their thoughts on the latest games and share them with you.