As you explore the world of The Long Dark, you’ll notice aurora are often present in the sky, appearing and disappearing according to some unknown set of natural rules. Besides acting as a hauntingly beautiful reminder of what has transpired, the aurora also have an effect on the world around you.
The natural world is highly disrupted. Weather patterns are affected, in many cases become more extreme — previously cold places become even colder, etc. Weather is prone to sudden dramatic shifts. Wildlife behaviour is also affected. The presence of heightened electromagnetic energy disrupts migration patterns, and interferes with group dynamics. We see major migrations go horribly awry, with resulting mass die-offs. Between this, and the abundance of “easy prey”, predator populations like wolves, wild dogs, bears, etc. thrive.
During flare-ups of Aurora activity, there can be so much electromagnetic energy that some electrical devices within a localized area might become powered. This manifests as streetlights suddenly flaring up or pulsing with light. Record players or radios suddenly begin playing music, or static, or emergency broadcast messages. Television screens might become lit up, even if they can only broadcast test patterns. Light bulbs are especially susceptible to this since they simply require an electrical charge, so entire streets or town blocks can become illuminated in an unpredictable fashion.
This can make exploration more rewarding, but also potentially more risky. Locations like hospitals, police stations, banks, that use electronic security systems and vaults, might suddenly become accessible again in the presence of an active Aurora, vs. inanimate bricks you have no chance of disturbing. These places can also become traps for the unwary, or unlucky. Sudden flare-ups can trigger unexpected fires that can catch you by surprise. Or you may find yourself plunged into darkness, scrambling for a light source.
Shortwave radio communication might work, but only during periods of relatively little atmospheric activity. It might be possible to make contact with more distant locations, but such communication would be highly unpredictable. Incoming electromagnetic interference, or spikes in the amount of interference, could get picked up on a basic handheld radio. Spikes in static would suggest an incoming “flare”. Seeing static man-made light sources in the distance would also typically be a sign of heightened electromagnetic activity.
A night-time sky filled with highly active Aurora would be bright enough to navigate by without requiring additional light sources. It might also interfere with compasses, or hide the night-time stars to the degree that familiar constellations or navigation markers like the North Star are no longer visible.
With such wide-reaching effects on the natural and man-made environments of The Long Dark, will the aurora have an impact on survivors as well?
In Story Mode, the Aurora makes its first appearance when the player first wakes up following a plane crash. This is hereafter referred to as the "First Flare." After that, it does not make another appearance for long time until in Episode 2 where the player blacks out at Maintenance Yard. From there and onwards, Aurora will keep making appearances randomly.
In Survival mode, Aurora's appearance is very rare, regardless of the region and only appears mid-night provided the weather is clear with no snow and fog.
Once Aurora is making it's presence, certain lights will begin to flick in their houses and cars. Radios in cars can be usable and songs will begin to play. Wolves will avoid the traffic lights as they are afraid of the light. In addition, all wolves and bears will be covered in green fur which can be visible from long distances.
Coming into contact with certain electricals will harm the player, for example electric cables will severely hurt the player, reducing their health by 50 points and giving a "burns" affliction. Elevators can be usable at Hydro Dam to move the player around quickly.