My video game options have been severely limited over the last seven months by medical issues that make it hard to concentrate on anything with too much difficulty or complexity (or story), so I've been gravitating towards games that don't ask a lot of the player in terms of mechanics. In practice this means I've been playing a lot of games where you walk around and look at things and/or where you walk around and collect things.
Enter The Long Dark, a sandbox survival game that recently left early access. The premise is that a mysterious electromagnetic storm disables all of humanity's technology, instantly plunging the world into a "quiet apocalypse". Your character had the misfortune to be flying over the northern Canadian wilderness when this happened, and now you've got to survive for as long as you can by scavenging abandoned human habitations and bending the hostile landscape and wildlife to your will. Hunger, thirst, exhaustion and temperature all have to be carefully managed, and death is permanent.
There's also a recently-included episodic story, but I've only tried out the survival mode so far. Unfortunately, anything higher than the lowest difficulty setting proved too taxing for me at the moment, so I'm probably not getting the experience the developers intended. Playing on "Pilgrim" mode tones down the survival mechanics to the point where they're not particularly challenging, but preserves them just enough so that they become a nuisance. Playing like this, the game also throws so many items at you that managing your rapidly-expanding inventory becomes a bigger hurdle than surviving the elements.
But I recognize that this is a particular quirk of my personal experience. Even with those caveats, the game has a lot to offer, including some beautiful stylized vistas (as seen in the gallery below) and a lot of atmosphere. The way electric lights flicker weakly to life whenever the aurora appears overhead is a nice touch, both lending a bit of creepiness to interior locations and giving the whole game the kind of mournful quality that a lot of post-apocalyptic stories reach for but never quite achieve. In that respect, The Long Dark reminded me a lot of Cormac McCarthy's The Road despite deliberately not featuring any of the brutality and cruelty of that story (which perhaps suggests that The Road's many imitators were missing the point).