A deserted island... a lost man... memories of a fatal crash... a book written by a dying explorer. Dear Esther is a ghost story told using first-person gaming technologies. Rather than traditional gameplay, the focus here is on exploration, uncovering the mystery of the island, of who you are and why you are here. Fragments of story are randomly triggered by moving around the environments, making every telling unique. Features a stunning, specially commissioned soundtrack. Forget the normal rules of play; if nothing seems real here, it's because it may just be all a delusion. What is the significance of the aerial - What happened on the motorway - is the island real or imagined - who is Esther and why has she chosen to summon you here? The answers are out there, on the lost beach and the tunnels under the island. Or then again, they may just not be, after all...
I really wanted to like this "game", but it has quite a few big issues.
The walking speed is atrocious. Throughout the experience, I was continually jumping because the jump speed is faster than the walking speed. In something that is atmospheric, I am most definitely not drawn in if I am having to constantly jump around like a circus act because I am bored just trying to reach my definition.
There are no subtitles, at least what I could find. Apparently, in the $10 remake, there are subtitles, but not for the original mod, which is disheartening. In such a story-driven experience, I would think you would want the player to have the best chances of understanding the story, and subtitles would definitely help when the music gets too loud over a certain passage or when the line simply tries to use too many big words and rereading the sentence helps a lot.
The vocabulary is definitely a problem. The whole time through, I felt like there were two different sentences for each line: one the writer actually wrote, and one where he looked up every word in a thesaurus and chose the prettiest words he could find.
Random dialog choices is a bad choice. This isn't a choose your own adventure book. This isn't a real video game where replayability is considered a good thing. This is a story that has a message it wants to get across, so don't go around giving different players different messages. It makes this story even harder to follow.
Overall, I just don't feel like this mod does what it wants to do very well. It has potential and shows innovative ideas, but in the end, it's just pretentious with its word usage and doesn't try to facilitate it at all with anything helpful like subtitles. And even though I do like the story, I wouldn't play it again to make more sense of it, because the character simply walks too slow. I was much more fascinated reading the plot theories in the game's Steam forums than I was actually playing the mod.
Feels like a average novel, or a guided tour through museum. As far as art games go, this is essentially the most mediocre, it gives us no way to interact with the world, to feel like your a part of something. you essentially walk.. and walk.. and walk. Boring us enough to force us to listen to it talk about whatever it feels is important.
If they want us to give a damn, then DO something. Anything. This game feels like a modern military shooter, in that it's the same kind of **** we've seen before. Dear Esther feels like every art game we've already played.
A pretentious pool of word porn that sets itself on the shelf of "art-house" games. Only one problem. A game requires gameplay. The written dialogue is very good, but this is a plot with no obstacles, no antagonist; There's just nothing to it.
Just because a game is art doesn't mean it's not allowed to be fun as well.
1/10 No deathmatch mode.
Little more than an art project, nearly fell asleep playing this "mod". Player moves slower than a snail and nothing happens, nothing at all. Just make this "mod" a movie for the "player" to watch rather than trying to make it playable.
One of the most ambient mods I've ever played, in every sense of the word. There is a dreamy atmosphere prevalent throughout, providing the perfect backdrop for the complex tale that is told and carefully paced. This is definitely one of those stories where you must go through it twice to fully understand what is going on, and there is a lot appropriately left to speculation. There is no combat, but it works in favor of it's unique style. You'll find yourself exploring vast, quiet landscapes. After playing games like Fragile Dreams and Ico, I wanted to play something of similar caliber. I found it here.
It is very strange, yet the writing is pure, and the map is actually pretty well made! One of its problems is that it starts very slow, and sometimes the mod gets buggy. The standalone version of Steam is way better.
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Highest Rated (6 agree) 8/10
Hey Dan I finally got around to playing your work. The narration was great. Stellar voice acting and writing, it really got me into the story. It genuinely seemed as though I was watching the last moments of a broken man's life, and that was quite something. However, it seemed that in your attempt to elevate narrative in games you forgot what makes a game, a game. I was constantly being annoyed by the little things. Whenever my character entered an area where you thought I should have my light on…
Feb 18 2011 by AJ_Quick