Sometimes games try to go off the beaten path to give you a story and attempt something completely different. Think Journey, Dinner Date, The Path even Heavy Rain. Dear Esther falls into this category for better and for worse.
You play through the eyes of a man seemingly trapped on an Island of sorts. Everywhere is run down and all you can do is walk and explore off the verges or a linear path. Whilst this goes on, your thoughts are read aloud in poetic text with lots of allegories and high brow references. Whilst the voice over is well done, its the graphics that take your breathe away. The Island is sumptuous. – especially the caves with dripping stalactites. The empty houses and barns are full of detail and the lighting of candles and the water is beauty in itself. It really helps to immerse you into the world that you’ll inhabit. The music is wonderfully composed too. Everything is designed to tug on the heart strings which is does and its conclusion in particular is expertly done.
However its own design, which is essentially a tech demo that you can walk and swim through, has its limitations. It’s a testament to how so little goes so far that I was disappointed that I couldn’t explore things further. I wanted to pick up and read the letters left strewn around the barns. I wanted to interact with things that looked so good, in other games you’d expect to pick up them or move them.
~Absolutely stunning graphic and sound design
~A genuinely unique entry into the gaming world – more a short story…
~… that can be over within an hour
~Beware its interactive limitations before you begin to avoid disappointment
Unique, engrossing and another example of how games can evolve into graphic novels. It has its limitations and is over very quickly, but it has certainly made an impact that stayed with me afterwards and there’s something to be said for games that do that in these days and times of games popping out every day. Fascinating.