I am what you would call a dog enthusiast. Whenever I see one on the street, I get excited and want to pet them badly. Naturally, a dog management game sounds right up my alley. The Red Lantern, the upcoming indie debut from Timberline Studio, fits the bill perfectly. It’s all about exploring the icy tundra with a pack of sledders while surviving the wilderness.
The Red Lantern is all about making difficult decisions
Surprisingly, what I thought would be a fully controlled expedition game is actually on-rails and a roguelite. Your main character, voiced by Horizon Zero Dawn‘s Ashly Burch, narrates the adventure, and her dialogue with the pack of five canines informs your decisions. Do you go left or right? Should you approach that elk or shoot it in the face? Will that abandoned home have supplies or a rabid squirrel? These are the types of questions you have to answer quickly, and there’s no way to know if you are right or wrong.
Choosing between two different options isn’t the only hardship you will face in The Red Lantern. There are three different meters you have to keep an eye on: one for sleep, another for hunger, and the final for dogs. It’s easy to get caught up with the choices you make on the go and forget these icons entirely. Setting aside time to camp is the key to survival.
However, the camp itself isn’t all fun and games, though you can pet the dogs (an important aspect of any video game featuring the animals). For instance, I had two slabs of meat on me. My dog meter was looking low, so I gave my pack the two uncooked pieces. When we set a course after resting, my hunger was immediately on the decline. I had forgotten to take care of myself while focusing all my worry on the pups. This lead to me starving to death, which isn’t shown but is written in bold letters onscreen. Thanks for the reminder of my failure, The Red Lantern.
Live with your mistakes
I chatted with a rep after my time with The Red Lantern. On the subject of management, he stressed there is no going back once you make a choice. The title doesn’t have a “save anytime” feature. It’s still a work in progress, so the game might save when you camp, for example. But if any of those three key meters deplete, it’s back to the start of your journey.
The dev also mentioned you can pick which dogs you want on your five-spot team. Aside from starvation, he said the hounds can’t randomly get picked off due to a bad decision, but I still have anxiety this might happen in the final product. In addition, he laughed when he heard about my death, saying I should have cooked one of the resources for myself. Hey, hindsight is always 20/20, guy.
The Red Lantern is an interesting game that demands quick thinking. While I was bummed to find out it is on-rails, it’s still stressful to make life-changing commitments in a limited amount of time. It served a slice of humble pie and taught me to remember to think of myself as well as my four-legged friends.
If you want more information on Timberline Studio’s promising first video game, you can check out its website. The Red Lantern will mush its way onto Switch sometime this year. Happy trails!