The Longing: An End

The Shade is free. Some images shown over the closing credits show him being taken in by a family of trolls and, in a word, humanized. No longer a solitary weirdo, he’s one weirdo among many. The King, meanwhile, has crumbled into rubble with the last of his kingdom. I’ve gone and looked up videos on Youtube of the other endings, and this one is clearly the best, the one that the developers consider to be the real ending. Actually waking the King is not in any way rewarded.

And, having looked up said videos, I have to ask: Was it worth it? Worth playing, rather than just reading about to appreciate the concept and/or watching videos of the exciting bits?

You can ask that of any game, I guess, but it’s a more pressing question when asked of a game where you spend so much time not doing anything. Much of what this game has to teach us could be communicated more efficiently. I do think that the final hours in particular were best appreciated interactively. When the old man finally walked onto the screen, confirming my suspicions of how this was going to play out, that moment felt monumental, a culmination of increasingly intense anticipation. They made a solid choice when they decided to make the player spend the ending actively waiting, watching for a time-limited opportunity to seize, rather than just checking in to see if enough time had passed yet.

But also, it strikes me that an awful lot of the game is simply irrelevant to getting the best ending. So much of the content is devoted to improving your home so time will pass faster there, but how do you escape? Not by waiting for weeks to pass. If you know what you’re doing, you can speedrun the game in just a few hours. I can think of no greater violation of the spirit of the thing, but it’s doable. I personally deliberately put off escaping when I was pretty sure I knew how (correctly, it turns out) just because I wanted to see more of what the caves had to offer. But is that what the Shade would want?

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