Dear Esther Review

by Stephen Heller Featured

2 Comments 12 Votes 4722 Views 28/02/2012 Back to Reviews

Rewarding exploration, however a little pretentious.

It's not that uncommon to see gaming mods turn into full-blown retail releases; over the years we've seen Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat and even Natural Selection make it to the big leagues after modest beginnings. thechineseroom have just re-released their 2008 mod, Dear Esther, with a brand new engine, higher production values and a bigger scope than ever before. Is this mysterious narrative-driven game worth the price of admission?

What Dear Esther Got Right

Atmosphere - From the opening moments until the thrilling conclusion, Dear Esther is simply dripping with atmosphere. Stuck on a mysterious island, the player will be exploring the unkempt mountains, delapidated shacks and the mysterious caves. There seems to be an unspoken sense of urgency as you inch your way through each area, with the atmosphere making up a good portion of the experience.

Get the Adobe Flash Player to see this video.

Thrilling musical score - The soundtrack featured in Dear Esther is just as important as the spoken narrative when it comes to driving forces. The sweeping strings as you wander the fields, the gloomy piano sonatas as you explore the depths of the caves, and the suspenseful crescendo bring the experience into a whole new world. Without the soundtrack, Dear Esther would be lacking a soul.

Exploration is the key - Dear Esther is about as linear as a game can get, but it uses exploration as a very interesting mechanic. The required path is not always the most apparent one, and the more the player explores, the more information they gather about the setting, and story of this adventure. Certain areas will trigger an internal monologue from the protagonist, which will reveal just a little more information about the situation. The player could rush their way through the game, however exploration makes it all the more rewarding.

What Dear Esther Got Wrong

Pretentious at times - Dear Esther is a different kind of experience. The player simply walks through the environment, with the protagonist occasionally coming in and revealing a little more about the story, often in cryptic ways. These cryptic reveals are often contrived, and are somewhere between a 16 year old girl's diary and a pretentious ass from Yale. It doesn't happen often, but at times the dialogue will leave you apathetic rather than entranced.

Interactive snore-fest - For the average gamer, Dear Esther is going to be an interactive snore-fest for your senses. The player is tasked with simply holding the W key to walk forward and not much else. There are no actions to be completed, just a gorgeous island to explore and a story to enjoy. This will appeal to some of us out there, but for the majority of gamers, this is going to wear thin pretty quickly.

The Final Verdict

Dear Esther is an interesting experiment of interactive storytelling, presenting the player with a mysterious island and an even more mysterious narrative. The game oozes with shady atmosphere, and the moody soundtrack really transforms the experience into a work of art. Having said that, it can come off a little pretentious at times, and the entire game can be completed by holding down the W key and moving the mouse. As a game, Dear Esther is hard to recommend, but if you are interested to see an interesting story that takes just over an hour to complete, it is well worth the $10.

By Stephen Heller

Dear Esther

Platform: PC
Developer: Thechineseroom
 
Vote for this article Log in with Facebook

Dear Esther Review Comments

Leave a comment Log in with Facebook
looks interesting, not sure it's my type of thing though
Looks amazing, and beautiful [Derp]

Post a comment

Leave a comment Log in with Facebook

Recently Read

Featured PC Content

GOTY 2015: Best Game Of 2015

GOTY 2015: Best Game Of 2015

22/12/2015 Polls 16 14
Friendly Fire Show 122: The Finale

Friendly Fire Show 122: The Finale

Podcast 21/03 Articles 7 6
Friendly Fire Show 121's The Divided
Podcast 15/03 Articles 3 3
Australian game sales approach $3b, mostly digital
maxiboy 13/03 News 5 10
Target store in SA displays games in plain packaging

Target store in SA displays games in plain packaging

maxiboy 13/03 News 5 11
Friendly Fire Show 120: I swear, by the Sun and Moon...
Podcast 02/03 Articles 2 1
Friendly Fire Show 119: Weekend at Tano's

Friendly Fire Show 119: Weekend at Tano's

Podcast 23/02 Articles 2 1
Friendly Fire Show 118: R.I.P. Tano

Friendly Fire Show 118: R.I.P. Tano

Podcast 11/02 Articles 3 3
Friendly Fire Show 117: It's not goodbye, it's Halo!

Friendly Fire Show 117: It's not goodbye, it's Halo!

Podcast 01/02 Articles 6 4

Community Content

Fallout-themed excuses to get the day off

Fallout-themed excuses to get the day off

09/11/2015 Blog 19 0

MMGN Updates

Status
Updating..
Username

canaldodg got Blacklight Retribution, DOOM, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Bloodborne

canaldodg 2 days ago
Username

LoveIsMurder13 wants Fallout 4

LoveIsMurder13 2 days ago
Username

Wamuu is now Level 2!

Wamuu 3 days ago
Username

fitaang is now Level 2!

fitaang 3 days ago
Username

ZenModz is now Level 8!

ZenModz 19/04/2016
Username

commented on Year in review: The worst-reviewed games of 2015

JanaR 18/04/2016
Username

commented on Far Cry 3: Worth Getting?

JanaR 18/04/2016
Username

emilywer12 is now Level 2!

emilywer12 14/04/2016
Username

commented on Cricket Coach 2016 coming in April 2016

shannon458 13/04/2016