The Longing: Wait is a Verb

Having seen the “birthday present”, I did wind up taking mild hints on the mysterious door. I don’t feel too bad about this because it’s clear that this whole endeavor is optional, unrelated to the project of escape. There were two parts I was stuck on — obtaining the key, and finding the door again — and both of them turned out to be linked to transient events that occur once in every 24-hour cycle. That’s 24 hours game time, which means that if you know when the events are scheduled to occur, you can spend most of the wait at home, where time goes faster. But without hints, the only way to know when the events occur is to observe them. So the honest way to solve these puzzles would be to think “This seems like an important place. Let’s just sit here for an entire day and see if anything happens.” Which might be unreasonable for a critical path puzzle, even in a game themed around waiting, but, again, this is all in pursuit of an optional secret.

The mysterious door leads to a small room, essentially just a forgotten storage closet, containing a couple more books, a large portrait of the King which presumably goes in the Shade’s home with all the other decorations, and a tall crystal that by now I recognize as the important thing for the secret. More importantly, however, it pulls another prank on the player, like the business with breaking your first mattock. The mysterious door only appears for a little while. It might be possible for the prepared player to go through, grab all the loot, and leave before the door vanishes again, but it’s really set up to take you by surprise and leave you stranded in a doorless closet for 24 real-world hours until the door reappears again. The Shade himself, reacting with his customary sense of resignation, recognizes this as basically just a miniature version of the rest of his life.

And this whole adventure made me realize: If there’s one thing that I’ve come to admire about this game, it’s the devotion to exploring its theme. It doesn’t just make you wait for 400 days, it comes up with various different kinds of waiting, with different feels. Waiting in different contexts, for different purposes; waits of minutes, hours, weeks; one-time waits and repeated waits; waits that you can shorten and waits that you can’t; waits where you can go and do other stuff while you’re waiting, and waits where you have to stay in once place; waits you initiate deliberately and waits that are forced on you. It’s a style of game design we’ve all seen before — Nintendo in particular has been praised for their ability to create entire game franchises out of the appeal of a single verb, starting by filling in the blank in the sentence “It’s fun to _____”. Mario is based on the verb “jump”, Zelda on “explore”, Pokémon on “collect”. But The Longing chooses the verb “wait”, which isn’t ordinarily regarded as fun at all.

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