Dear Esther is a Half Life 2 source mod turned retail and plays very similar to the free mod Stanley Parable, you awaken in a world all alone and walk forward as a narrator tells you a story.
“A deserted island… a lost man… memories of a fatal crash… a book written by a dying explorer.”
The focus is on exploration, uncovering the mystery of the island, of who you are and why you are here. Fragments of story are triggered by moving along the linear paths until you hit a dead end. At the dead end you simply turn around and you’ll find a new path that branches off and you can continue walking forward. There are also a few moments of well composed music that stand out against the simple environmental sounds that fill most of the game’s soundtrack.
Now if this sounds good to you so far I am sorry, this “game” is the most boring 80 minutes I’ve ever spent with this hobby.
I’m going to keep the spoilers below the page break. Before that however I want to say that this game is the worst aspects of “art games”. It is boring, almost to a criminal degree. You can only move at a slow walk, unable to interact with anything at all, the only thing you can effect is finding a trigger for the narrator, but his story is such a jumbled mess that I started wishing he would stop talking his nonsense. The story is poorly told, convoluted, and completely full of itself. I am glad that I played this “game” because now I know it’s hogwash that doesn’t deserve any of the praise it received.
The game only being 80 minutes long, anything I mention may as well be spoilers. You can play through the game and have no idea what just happened, or you can read the description of the game on the official website and already know the whole story.
“A deserted island… a lost man… memories of a fatal crash… a book written by a dying explorer.
Dear Esther is a ghost story …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?
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…”
Talk about being completely full of themselves, “is it real or imagined, the answers are out there or they may not be” they already explained the story in the description!
That’s right Dear Esther is a game where you play a ghost who is telling you his story of being on this island after he killed his daughter Esther in a highway accident cause he was driving drunk. His story is mostly about his stay on the island, his regret over what had happened, and his final moments before jumping to his death.
There are a few moments when the game almost tricks you into thinking something worth while will happen. A flashlight flickering in a far off cave, the shadow of a man on a cliff that can be seen in the corner of your eye, but disappears when you look, and the moment you dive into a waterfall only to find yourself at the scene of the accident. Sadly every one of these moments are wasted and all that is left is the desire that it would just hurry up and end.
If you want to see this game done right, check out Stanley Parable, the writing is cleaver and fun. Or try TRAUMA, another game about a girl in a car accident piecing her mind back together. Both are well done and enjoyable games. Don’t waste your time or money on this game is my only suggestion, both are better spent elsewhere.