Four Hundred days is a long time to wait for anything. It’s even worse when there’s nothing to do but sit and stare, letting the seconds roll away one by one until finally the time is up. Fortunately there’s almost always something to do, even when the time to do it is in excess of what’s strictly necessary. The Shade is a small creature created by the King, dwelling deep underground away from everyone but not everything. The King is sleeping for four hundred days and it’s the Shade’s job to wake him up at the end of his nap, but beyond that it doesn’t matter much what the time is used for. Explore the caverns, spruce up the home cave, read books, or uncover the secrets buried deep in the earth, it’s all up to you. Alternately you can just sit and stare for four hundred days straight, if near-undending boredom is your thing.
I’ve had a game of The Longing running since about mid-January, and while this isn’t a review due to not having finished the game, I can say I’ve enjoyed almost every moment so far. That “almost” is a fairly important qualifier, though, not because The Longing is hard or frustrating but rather due to it being a semi-idle game that runs in the background while doing other things. The Shade, for example, walks at a very slow pace, but you can set waypoints anywhere in the cavern. Click on a waypoint and do something else and Shade will slowly walk his way there, then wait patiently for you to notice when he arrives. Carving a crystal from the earth takes about fifteen minutes or so, while a stroll down the endless Halls of Eternity goes on for as long as you’ve got the patience. The Longing is meant to be played slow, but the occasional discovery and the Shade’s spindly charm ease you into its pace until the waiting feels natural. Plus the four hundred day deadline doesn’t actually pass in real time if you take care of the Shade and make him happy. Time is only an enemy when boredom and depression set in, but a busy mind can chew through the wait with no problem.
The Longing is a unique and wonderful story of a servant with too much time on his hands and a number of ways to spend it. Poking in every day or two and figuring out the cave’s secrets never got old, and even as long as I’ve been playing there are still things I haven’t figured out. And that’s ok, because with multiple endings to discover there’s always going to be more time for discovery. There are hundreds of games about speed, thinking fast, driving fast, clicking fast, but not many that tell you to take some time to breathe while the world takes care of itself.