For those unfamiliar with the game, Voyageur is one of three available difficulty levels in The Long Dark, and the original playing experience for this game when it was first released via the Steam Early Access program. In terms of sheer difficulty, it could be considered in the middle range of the three, in that it is harder to find gear and supplies as compared to Pilgrim, bears and wolves can be aggressive if you get too close, but there is still more available gear than in Stalker and these animals are not quite as aggressive as they could be. So to keep it simple in gaming terms, you could consider "Voyageur" to be "normal difficulty", although to be blunt, all three playing styles are challenging. There are players who have survived hundreds of days in this mode, and in some cases over a thousand, but in my case I consider seventy days to be a significant achievement.
Aside from some luck, the biggest reason I've managed to survive for so long is because I have been playing in a relatively cautious and conservative manner. My previous session in Voyageur was ended by two subsequent wolf attacks after only surviving for five days in the Mystery Lake map, and I opted for random map selection when I started a new game, this time ending up in the western area of Pleasant Valley. I made my way to the Pleasant Valley Homestead (also referred to as the farmhouse), and made that my initial base of operations until I felt I had gathered as many materials from Pleasant Valley as was reasonable, and, facing a shortage of much needed sewing kits, I opted to migrate to the Coastal Highway Map after having survived for around thirty days. I could have crafted fishing lures to as a secondary option to repair and craft gear, but I was also getting a little stir crazy and wanted to explore the other regions in the game.
I first transitioned to the Coastal Highway and spent roughly thirty days in that region, fending off wolves, gathering additional supplies, sewing kits and toolboxes aplenty. After reaching day 60 I decided it was time to move on.
Currently, I'm living out of a a cabin known as the Trapper's Homestead, in the first region made available in the game, known as Mystery Lake. I've managed to gather the needed materials to craft a bow and arrows, along with wolf skin coat, deer skin boots and pants, rabbit fur mittens and a bear skin bedroll, and also successfully stockpiled a small supply of food at this location. I have a bit more exploration planned in the immediate vicinity of this region, but at the moment I could quite comfortably continue to survive in this region for several more days, even with the constant threat of wolves and bears wherever I may go.
Similar to the rules described by the main character in Zombie Nation, I have a series of rules I try to follow as I play. These rules could be easily summed up by the scout motto "Be Prepared". By following these rules I have so far (at least on this run) done a pretty decent job of staying alive:
- When possible, use a building with two doors as your home base - this is particularly important because most shelters with two doors also have a quick access door and a door that is somewhat protected with a barrier of some kind, such as a porch railing. Always exit the building through the door that leads to a protected space, so that you will have an opportunity to react if there is a wolf or bear immediately outside (and cover from which you could retreat back into the house, or use a ranged weapon to dispatch said predator).
- When possible, choose a building with a warm bed (it should have a better warmth bonus than the bedroll you start with), and a way to start a fire indoors - either a fireplace or a wood burning stove will do just fine.
- Always make sure your thirst is near or at zero before you go to sleep for the night. Don't sleep for longer than ten hours at a time (at zero thirst) without drinking to avoid dehydration negatively impacting your condition. Make sure you have eaten enough calories to survive the night as well.
- If you expect to wear your gear for a while, repair it - you will need to locate either a sewing kit or alternately a fishing lure and tackle (or craft one), and either scrap fabric or sacrifice found clothing items to repair the ones that you intend to keep. The better the condition your gear is in, the longer it will take you to get cold while outside. Don't waste precious repair materials on useless gear such as sneakers, and cotton socks.
- Always carry the materials you will need to start a fire before you go anywhere - you should have at least a few tinder, at least one piece of soft wood or a book, and either matches or a striker. I always carry one can of accelerant for emergencies, because you can start a fire with it almost immediately. If your fire-making skill is low, try to keep a book with you, because they are much easier to use to start a fire. I usually carry a log of soft firewood, use it to start a fire, then harvest hard wood once the fire is going.
- Always carry about a half-gallon of water with you before you leave - dehydration will kill you faster than almost anything else in this game. Carrying more is not a good idea because water is realistically heavy.
- Always carry some aspirin, antibiotics, bandages and antiseptic. Alternately, brew and carry rosehip tea, reishi mushroom tea and at least three crafted old man's beard wound dressing. You will get attacked, you will sprain your ankle, and you may get sick from eating bad food. If you have these first aid items on hand you can treat your condition immediately (although you may also have to sleep it off to recover fully).
- Avoid going outside during a blizzard because it will ruin the condition of your gear. If you get caught in a blizzard while outside, find a boulder or some place to crouch down out of the wind and start a fire to keep yourself from freezing. If you stay stationary with some cover it will prevent your gear from getting too badly damaged, but be prepared for the wind to change - keep a spare piece of soft wood handy if you need to find another spot to start a new fire. If you are inside and can't tell how many hours are left before night/day, and you can hear the wind blowing, there is almost definitely a blizzard raging outside (Caveat: sometimes you will have spent an hour indoors during a blizzard and it seems like there is still a blizzard going, but if you leave the building the storm will have just ended - it's worth periodically checking outside to see for yourself whether there really is a blizzard).
- While outside, periodically check you status, especially if you begin getting verbal cues from the character that he/she is tired, cold, hungry, etc. If hungry or thirsty, address those conditions as soon as you are able. If fatigued, bear in mind that sleep will be necessary soon, and you will not be able to carry as much without becoming encumbered (which will slow you down).
- Keep a significant distance between you and any wolves or bears you spy while outside. Use higher ground whenever available to be able to see a wolf or bear long before they see you. Pay attention to the direction the wind is blowing, because if a wolf is downwind from you, they will notice you from an even further distance than they would otherwise. Crouch to make it harder for you to be detected until you are safely out of range. Unless you are high enough to prevent a bear from reaching you, or can duck into a nearby building or vehicle before they reach you, do not provoke or engage a bear. You cannot fight them off, and they can potentially kill you even if your condition is 100%.
- Carry some form of meat on you at all times to use as a lure. Even if you don't have a weapon, if you have meat you may buy yourself enough time to run into the nearest shelter while the wolf checks it out. As soon as you hear a wolf growling, even if you can't see it, drop your lure and step away from the lure. The wolf will usually (but not always) go for the lure, giving you time to take aim and shoot it. The cost of a bit of meat vs around 7-10 lbs of fresh meat, wolf pelt and guts is an advantageous exchange for you. This is also much safer than engaging a wolf in hand-to-hand combat and will spare your gear from damage. It may be smarter to shoot the wolf before it starts eating, because if it changes its mind it will come for you instead. Aim for the head, between the eyes if possible.
- Cook your meat before trekking through the wilderness, because raw meat draws wolves. If you are concerned about being attacked while harvesting meat, start a fire beside the carcass. This has the added benefit of thawing a frozen carcass, which can then be harvested even if you do not have a hatchet or hunting knife. Keep an eye on your status while harvesting and cooking, and keep an eye on the fire duration. If a blizzard starts, forget the fire and get to your closest shelter immediately.
- When traveling outdoors, keep an eye out for deer and rabbits. They are an indicator that there are no wolves in the immediate vicinity (although they could be nearby). You can drive a deer before you as you trek, which may help draw out wolves that you might not have noticed otherwise. If the wolf takes down the deer and begins eating, this gives you an opportunity to shoot the wolf, potentially resulting in two carcasses for the price of one shot.
- As soon as you are able to do so, craft gear (deer skin boots and pants, rabbit fur mittens, wolf skin coat, and bear skin bedroll). These items are superior to any gear you can find while exploring, although they also weigh more than their found equivalents. Keep the gear in good condition, especially after a wolf (or bear) attack, because higher condition gear will help keep you alive longer while you are being attacked. Higher condition gear will also provide better warmth and protection from wind chill.
- Fishing and using snares to catch rabbits should be considered a secondary method of obtaining food (unless you have neither a rifle nor a bow). Neither produce as many calories per pound as wolf meat, venison, or bear meat, and there is a significant chance of failure to catch anything. Rabbit snares are beneficial in that they can yield gut and rabbit fur for crafting/repairing mittens, therefore if you choose to do either, start with snares.
- Be aware that nearly everything has a condition that changes over time. Tools generally do not degrade until they are used, but clothing, matches and food can degrade even when in storage. If possible, locate a secondary fire making source to support you when the matches are no longer available. If you are planning on a long run, conserve materials as long as you can, but be sure to use them before they are no longer viable (food that reaches 0% condition vanishes).
- Be aware that meat under 50% condition is considered spoiled and can cause you severe food poisoning, requiring antibiotics and sleep to recover. Avoid eating meat when it reaches this condition. It may be possible to use this meat as a lure for wolves, so keep it on you, just remember not to eat it. Also bear in mind that uncooked meat has a greater chance of causing severe food poisoning, so you should only eat it uncooked if you do not have enough calories/condition to make a fire.
There are more that I will add to this list as I think of them. In the meantime, be prepared.