Summary: “Yes, but is this the right medium for that story?” That’s the first thing they told me to ask myself in film school. It’s something not enough filmmakers ask themselves throughout their career. This is exponentially true for game designers, as evidenced by Half-Life 2 mod-turned-retail interactive-narrative Dear Esther .
Excerpt: I was browsing across Steam and happened to come across a game called Dear Esther. Originally created as a mod to Half-Life 2, it was remade and released as a full game in 2012. I didn't know a lot about it, but exploring a deserted island in the Hebrides chain, off the coast of Scotland, seems like something I would enjoy, so I gave it a try.
Excerpt: Okay, so this is going out late, but as I have not gone to bed yet (even though I probably should have), this is still day 20. That being said, my 20th review is on something that can only loosely be called a game.
Excerpt: These ambivalent ramblings, although my own, give a taste of what is in store for any gamer adventurous enough to play Dear Esther. Originally designed and released by University of Portsmouth researcher Dan Pinchbeck in 2008 as a free mod for Half-Life 2, Dear Esther was actually developed as part of a funded academic research project to explore experimental storytelling and gameplay.
Excerpt: Your left mouse button is useless. It's not needed, and neither is your right. Dear Esther doesn't require you to interact with these inputs. It merely asks you to walk, to explore, and, most importantly, to listen. Whether or not you want to play Dear Esther shouldn't be up to whether it is fun to play (it isn't), whether it's got some great mechanics (it doesn't), or whether the difficulty spike is unfair and frustrating (it's not; there isn't one).
Excerpt: I wander through your beauteous landscapes, marvel at the artistry of your world, and yet I weep, for I know that many of my fellow shall cry “But there is no shooting!”. More still will cry “But there is little interaction!”. And I shall weep, for they have somewhat missed the point.
Summary: Dear Esther is a bold attempt at something most developers would never consider. It’s strictly a narrative and nothing more. For simply $9.99, you can experience a short but quality and unique type of game yet to be capitalized on. Though some ignorant players who can’t realize the intent of this game will say it’s terrible.
Conclusion: In spite of a lukewarm reception from critics, Dear Esther was a financial success (In your face Bobby Kotick! - Ed. Vader) and that should be proof enough that gamers are interested in exploring non-threatening virtual worlds as well. Worlds where they can experience mature stories and feel a broader range of emotions than what they feel in typical 'kill or be killed' games.
Pros: Beautiful visuals, equally accomplished soundtrack, professional writing and good narration, the game run smoothly with maximum settings even on mid-range PCs;
Cons: A bit too much ambiguity and wallowing in self-pity, no interactivity whatsoever, can be finished in under two hours.
Excerpt: Originally starting off as a mod for Half Life 2, Dear Esther is more an artistic experiment than a traditional game, and after a few years of additional development, it’s now available as a $10 standalone release. Dear Esther’s story is truly a mystery wrapped in riddles. A narrator reveals fragments of information as you wander across an island, climbing from shore to hilltop and descending into deep caverns.