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Somber Reviews - Dear Esther (Game)

Updated on May 24, 2014

The Game: Dear Esther

An indie game that has received a lot of praise, raised eyebrows, and absolute confliction took the stage in 2012, for being both an amazing experience, and, a weird kind of game. Critic would look at this creation, and wonder what it was...what it was intended to do.

Weather or not you scorned the idea, or, gave it the highest praise, one thing was fore sure. Dear Esther, tested the waters for something great...even if at first, it wasn't widely understood.

This game was merely an experimental first person, artistic style, game. Although, truth be told, it also sort of follows the same basic idea as an interactive exploration simulator. Developed by The Chinese Room, it was originally released as a free source engine mod, back in 2008.

Due to the popularity, the mod was entirely redeveloped to be a game that released in February of 2012. The game is unconventional, as this is simply a storyline drenched deeply in visual simulation.

Beautiful scenery.
Beautiful scenery. | Source

The Plot

Ironically simplistic, and enticing, Dear Esther manages to pull off some of the best storyline I've ever seen in a game.

This is, in essence, a ghost story, that takes place on a deserted island. With literary prose that go beyond the normal story elements, this first person game dares to bespeak tales of unworldly proportions. The strength of Dear Esther can be truly found within the plot, and how it carries you through the lonely, desolate environment of an abandoned island.

The surreal environment, and eerie styling's of Nigel Carrington, the narrator, makes for an experience you'll have to play to believe.

Completely, beautiful visuals, and no UI to clog up the screen.
Completely, beautiful visuals, and no UI to clog up the screen. | Source

Game Play

Dear Esther is a first person exploration type of game, that includes absolutely no combat, nor enemies. In fact, the promise of seeking out these unearthly findings is without a doubt entirely up to the mindset that the player uses when encountering the various visuals within the game, and subtle nuances leave clues within the narration itself.

There is very little player interaction with the environment at all. The only thing you can do is control where you walk. There are no objects to pick up, nothing in which to read (beyond the subtitles), and even exclude commonly loved Easter-eggs that can be found in other series of its type.

As such, this is not a game for everyone, and truly only appeals to literary enthusiasts, who seek an intellectual story experience.

Dear Esther Official Trailer

You might like this game if:

  • You enjoy other indie titles of this genera such as Gone Home, or The Stanley Parable.
  • You enjoy complex literary overtones, and continual, flowing narration.
  • You enjoy a slow paced game with no combat, or enemies.
  • You enjoy stunning visuals that carry the tones of the narration well.

Somber Reviews

This game, is one gigantic seesaw of good and bad mixed together, and as such, it should be accepted by the fans of similar series as such. Now, there are many who purchased the game, and found themselves unhappy with the results, though I am not one of those people.

I wouldn't say this game is for everyone. In fact, I preach the opposite, though I personally find it to be a joy to sit down and replay this game. It's suits my tastes, if you will.

It is a game that requires a particular type of player, and though this game is indeed quite good, I wouldn't recommend it for those seeking something more in their gaming experience. Like in the review I did for Gone Home, this series is best equated to a book.

If you read stories more than once, then there's a good chance that you will play this game more than once...however, if you don't read books more than once, or simply don't read at all, there isn't a very high replay value. In fact, some could argue, with good reasoning, that there really isn't any at all...

The appeal of Dear Ester lies within the nearly poetic, and flowing narration of an eerie tale. The visuals, which are indeed stunning, make for a very immersive environment. However, the very thing that makes it so great, is also a major issue.

Not everyone can immerse themselves into a game such as this. Frankly put, it requires you to be of an inquiring mind, willing to put together the pieces of the sordid tale within your own head. If you can't do that, you likely won't take much joy in this game.

With hardly any player interaction, also a major downside, those who like environments they can putter around in, won't find that here. There isn't anything to pick up, or toss around...and you won't find any notes on your travels either. This really does push the envelope, into more of an audiobook, with a visual appeal.

I know that sounds idiotic when equating a game that way, but truly, that's how I like to think of it.

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Final Verdict

The enjoyable storyline captures me, and draws me in...I can safely say that it would offer most gamers an enjoyable, if not brief experience.

You see, due to the fact that there is very little interaction with the environment, this game doesn't appeal to me in the way that others might, but, the scenery is a saving grace. I play this game to relax, and drift in the deep narrations. I want them to pull me in, and not let me go. In my eyes, this game belongs on a top 50 games of all time list.

As with all of my reviews, based on a score of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest possible score, and 10 being the highest, Dear Esther earns a strong 8.5. Ultimately, for what it tries to do, it's a good game...but, it doesn't earn a higher score, because going to have a very small replay value for most people.

Pick it up, if you haven't already. It's worth at least one solid play through, even if that is all you do...however, keep in mind, the game can easily be completed in about an hour...perhaps two or three if you really go slow and look for every single ghost.


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