GAME NAME: Dear Esther
DEVELOPER(S): The Chinese Room
PLATFORM(S): PC, Mac, Linux
RELEASE DATE(S): February 14, 2012
Dear Esther isn’t a game. There are no puzzles, obstacles, no goals, and no enemies… Except for your character’s own mind. Dear Esther has proved itself to be a moving and beautiful story that you “play” through. Some would call it a walking simulator, but it is far more than that.
If you play this game, prepare to be taken on a two hour journey into someone’s inner most thoughts. The character you play as was shipwrecked, and is wandering the island in which he landed. You choose where you want the story to take you.
All there is to do is walk around the paths in front of you and listen to your character relay to you his tale of woe. I can’t really go any farther into the story line than that, because that would simply give away the whole game.
As your character reveals to you his life, you take in the scenery around you. Waves lapping the shore, glowing moss at your feet, candles flickering in the wind. You become swept away into the game. It has been years since I was so immersed into a game, movie, or book. Or movie-game-book in this case.
Who is Esther? It isn’t clear at first. As time goes on, you eventually start to discover who this Esther is and what your character has to do with this person. You are drawn towards certain areas that cue new narrations. An abandoned shack, a decrepit ship, a fence line nestled among gentle hills.
Two hours later, or four hours later in my case, you come to the game’s beautiful end and think “What just happened?” I actually found myself in awe at the end. I didn’t want his story to finish. I wanted to ask my character questions, continue to explore, and admire what was programmed around me.
The graphics were huge for me. The game was absolutely stunning, and The Chinese Room should give themselves a huge pat on the back for creating such a gorgeous game. Every piece has been meticulously created. Yes, you have to have a rather beefy computer to enjoy this game to the full effect, but don’t worry as the settings are adjustable.
When playing Dear Esther, realize that it is not a game. It is much like a book, in that it starts slow and builds up into something amazing. All of the elements of a true story are there. For some it may be frustrating that you can’t interact with the landscape. There were multiple things that I wanted to touch, and if I could I would hope it would have its own dialogue, but alas you can’t and there isn’t. At one point you come across a ship, and I tried every which-way to climb upon it. I wanted so desperately to get into the boat and explore the nooks and crannies. Maybe I missed the opening, and you will find it!
Dear Esther requires a few play-throughs, because you simply won’t get the full story the first time around. There are certain areas that you can explore that are somewhat hidden or not obvious. If you allow yourself to be distracted by the larger things in the landscape, you may miss a path down the shore of the beach. I chose to attempt to explore the whole game in one go, which is why it took me so insanely long. One go at it will take you a couple hours if you stick to the main story line.
For someone who loves a good story, I would definitely recommend this game. If you are looking for a super interactive game, this is not for you. Also, try to grab Dear Esther while it is on sale. A large amount of people have been upset at the $9.99 price tag for a two hour game that they may or may not have liked. If you compare it to a movie ticket though… Go for it. You don’t want to miss out on this beautiful narrative.