Dog sledding survival game lets you turn off canine deaths

In one of The Red Lantern’s early reveal trailers, developer Timberline Studio highlighted one of the Alaskan adventure game’s brutal, heartbreaking moments: a quick shot of a bear attacking — and presumably, killing — one of the sled dogs. It was a difficult scene to watch for most people, but made the game a nope for plenty others.

But there is some good news: The Red Lantern has an option to turn off dog deaths.

The Red Lantern is a game about a woman and her sled dogs, heading out into remote Alaskan wilderness to race in the Iditarod. When I played it at PAX East, I found it heavy with violence, but not in a way that felt exploitative or overboard — it was a violence that, when used right, gave the story weight. Of course, I didn’t come across any scenes as brutal as the bear killing the pup. It’s something I’ve considered as I download the game, now that it’s out. It feels silly, but I don’t know if I can handle watching a dog die right now. It’s just not what I need.

When I spoke to The Red Lantern creative designer Lindsey Rostal back in March, she said the bear attack wouldn’t happen “exactly” like it did in the trailer. (She’d previously said she should have put a trigger warning on the trailer.) That didn’t mean things wouldn’t go wrong, though: “There’s definitely a chance for a dog to not have a good end,” Rostal said. “But you can also prevent it in a variety of ways.”

One of those ways, it turns out, is a setting that prevents any dogs from dying. Right on top of the Options menu, there’s a toggle for “Dogs Always Live,” and that can be switched on or off, as spotted by the Can You Pet the Dog? Twitter account. Does the dog die in The Red Lantern? It doesn’t have to.

“Though The Red Lantern contains roguelike elements and poor decisions can result in unfortunate consequences for your sled team, an optional toggle can disable death for your dogs,” Can You Pet the Dog? tweeted.

People in the tweet comments are pretty excited to see an option like this, which makes the stakes pretty clear. Things might not go right, but it won’t send you over the edge if seeing dogs die is something that upsets you. Plenty of folks reacted with relief, noting that they weren’t originally going to play the game because of it — but now they might be able to give it a go.

The Red Lantern was released Thursday on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC via the Epic Games Store.

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