(R) Dear Esther (PC)

June 3rd, 2012 -


Every so often a game comes along that just makes you stop and think. Only this title isn’t technically a game. More of a story disguised as a game.

Dear Esther, like I said above, is a story. The “game” was originally an experiment on telling a story with interactive means in 2008 as a Half-Life mod; it gathered a massive cult following. This “game” is a remake of that mod. It’s been brought up to the standards of 2012 and looking better than ever.

This isn’t a game:
Dear Esther is not a game. It’s a story being told through explorative gameplay yes, but it is all about that story and how you interpret it. There are no controls for jumping or running. The only thing you do is walk, look around, and explore to gather more pieces of the mystery. That’s it. Sounds simple I know, but once you lose the association of the word game with this title, you’ll have no problem with these limitations.

The Story:
The story in Dear Esther is one that will make you think. Dear Esther gives you semi-randomized dialogue every play through. Which means that you could play it once and see the story one way, while a friend who played it would see it another. The story is great because of the mystery it presents you with. Who is Jakobson? Who is Donnelly? Who is Esther? What is this island you’re on? Are you alone here? These are just some of the things you’ll come across in the story. It’s also praise worthy for another reason. It deals with unhappiness and it does it amazingly. Not a lot of other titles deal with this kind of stuff. After my 2nd or 3rd play through, I really felt for the narrator.

The Music:
The music for Dear Esther is some of the best I’ve heard for an interactive medium in a long time. Combined with the dialogue, it makes for an experience worth seeing many times over. Jessica Curry, I tip my hat to you for invoking some strong emotions out of me simply by hearing some of these songs.

The Ambiance:
Dear Esther is set on an isolated island somewhere in the Atlantic. The visuals alone set the stage for an awesome experience. The Caves chapter is simply breathtaking with some great lighting and ambient sound. I’ve had the feeling before, but it’s rare when a “game” can just make you stop, look, and actually make it seem like you’re there.

The Length:
Dear Esther is only about an hour long. It’s four chapters. While that is enough to get the story across and it ends very complete, I was left wanting more.

I really do have nothing but praise for Dear Esther. My only complaint I had was that I wanted more, but doesn’t that mean that developer TheChineseRoom only did an amazing job of immersing me? I do highly recommend this title. Not only if you want to experience something different, but if you want to invest in something worthwhile and thought provoking. It’s not everyday something like this comes along.


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