The Long Dark

From Before I Play
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  • Pilgrim mode is a great way to get your feet wet and learn the game before trying it for real. Animals won't attack you, and your hunger/thirst/coldness bars won't deplete nearly as quickly.
  • Mystery Lake has less good spots for loot than Coastal Highway, but most of the really good foraging spots at Coastal Highway are camped by wolves, so Mystery Lake is probably slightly easier to survive in for a beginner. I haven't really played Pleasant Valley enough to say one way or the other.
  • The most important thing to keep in mind is that nearly all resources in the game are both randomized and finite. Eventually you will reach a point where you won't realistically be able to replenish any resources other than firewood. Making everything you find last as long as possible is a core strategy to the game.
  • On that note, matches are your most precious resource. Eventually they will run out and you will have no way to set any new fires, which means a quick death. The way around this is to set a "permafire." Once you get a fire going, it will not usually go out if you keep feeding it with new firewood. You can get a fire permanently burning this way, though you will need to spend a lot of time every day gathering firewood, somewhere around the ballpark of 6 hours without tools.
  • Don't ever be outside either at night or during a blizzard unless you have a really, really good reason for doing so.
  • If you get caught in a blizzard and are way far away from shelter and in poor health, you can slow your cooling off by standing in an area shielded from the wind. Standing by big rocks and cliff faces will drop the wind chill a lot.
  • Don't pick up anything unless you need it right then, except for possibly food items. Item degradation doesn't start until you pick things up, or at least goes much much more quickly when you do. This especially applies to tools and matches.
  • Be careful of the dam. There's plenty of great loot in there but there's frequently a wolf as well. Don't ever go inside while you're weak.
  • It's OK to be starving or dehydrated. In fact to lengthen your survival times you'll want to game starvation quite a bit. Your health depletes at a much slower rate than your stored calorie count does, so the best way to make your food last as long as possible is to wait until you're seriously starving (like at 50% health or lower) and then eat 800 calories or so. By the time you hit 0 calories again you'll have healed back to maximum and can repeat the process.
  • There's a hidden bunker in the Mystery Lake area. Its location changes every game but there's a ton of great stuff down there. You can usually survive down there for at least a week or two with just the stuff that's there.
  • The fastest and most economical way to get food is to make lots of rabbit snares in an area with rabbits. For endurance runs (surviving long past when other supplies run out) this will be your primary source of food.
  • Don't shoot wildlife until it's very close. If you don't drop the animal immediately, there's a very good chance it will get away and you'll have wasted the bullet. This is especially true with deer, less so with wolves.
  • A good way to get venison without wasting a bullet is to lure a wolf toward a deer, then toss a flare at it after it's killed it.