The Long Road Back Review – Car Troubles in the Post-Apocalypse
Developed and Published by KS98 Games
Available on PC
The Long Road Back is a simple concept. You’re a guy, who might be the savior of humanity. You don’t care though, because you just want to go home. Therein lies the central conflict in the game: You want to go home, but your cars keep getting messed up. That’s it. You start going somewhere, and you run out of gas, or a boulder crushes your car, or you flip your car. At every stop along the way you’ll face off against cultists who want nothing more than to flay you and stop your from saving humanity. It’s really very funny, in a way. You don’t care about stopping the apocalypse, but every time you stop, you’re doing a little bit more to push back the tides of an ancient evil…entirely by coincidence.
Our reluctant hero knows his way around a gun. You’ll have 6 different weapons to play with throughout The Long Road Back. There’s the standard revolver, standard shotgun, and then some surprises that I won’t ruin. A lot of care and detail went into modeling these guns, and they’re a joy to use. The firepower doesn’t much matter. In my time with the game I haven’t found any enemy that can absorb more than 4 shots. This is not DOOM. It’s a more thoughtful, slow-paced experience. Enemies have no time for your nonsense. They’re fast, and they’ll kill you in one hit. Every enemy, from the lowly footmen to the 12 foot tall monstrosities. If they touch you, it’s over.
They’re faster than you as well, which makes things…interesting. You don’t reload fast. So far, I’ve managed one combat reload. Any other time and I was just getting my head batted off by enemies while trying to reload. You need to take your time. Scout out spawns, and fall back and wait for enemies. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by rushing towards them. You’ll die, a lot. This brings me to one of the things I didn’t like about The Long Road Back. The levels are long, and there are no checkpoints. In multiple levels you’re broken down, and tasked with finding gas cans. After each can, you have to go put it in the car. The first time you do this there are 9 gas cans to find. If you’re at 8, and get hit, the level starts over.
Give me a checkpoint! It doesn’t bother me too terribly much, seeing as how I’ve beaten the levels that use this formula and continued the game. It can become a bit frustrating because you’re never given any indication of where the enemies come from. They poof into existence and make a noise. It doesn’t seem to be directional. Hearing the growl of enemies would often send me spinning like a top, trying to find out where the noise came from. It led to more than a few deaths. Killing these cultists is fun and easy. They’re 2D models that show battle damage when you shoot them. That is an eye for detail that I love to see. The standard rank-and-file will show bullet holes when hit with a revolver, and a shotgun will put a hole clean through.
The Long Road Back wants to scare you. It plays with expectations in a very fun way. You’ll find that when picking up key items and weapons that there is usually a jumpscare. This is mostly towards the beginning of the game. As time goes on, these jumpscares lessen until you think that the dev has given up on scaring you. They didn’t. The jumpscares just start to show up in other places. Unexpected places. I wasted quite a bit of ammo shooting at jumpscares. It was painful, because ammo is so rare in this game. You’ll have weapons, sure. I died many times to miscounting how many bullets I had. Reloading after every combat is essential. It’s so essential that it’s one of the main tooltips I saw on loading screens. As I said above, reloading during combat just ain’t it.
The Long Road Back doesn’t want you to relax. Any time not spent frantically moving through levels, dreading the next scare, is time wasted. The ambient sounds of the different levels deserves praise. You’ll learn the sound of enemies spawning in, but it’s hard to deal with sounds that are similar, but not the same. You’ll think enemies are spawning in and check all over the place, only to find that you scared yourself with a similar noise. The Long Road Back is so good at keeping you on edge. The levels aren’t all just shooting. In one level, you’re running from what – through my brief terror glances – I assume was the Jersey Devil. You don’t have weapons for this. Someone has spray-painted “RUN” on a box and by god you better run.
All in all, I’ve really enjoyed my time with The Long Road Back. Is it perfect? No game is. Is it a helluva achievement? Absolutely. If you dig a good scare, and a solid but straightforward story, this is the game for you. Just mind the gap during that Jersey Devil chase.