Dear Esther was originally released on Steam in February of 2012 and was a driving force behind the rising popularity of the ‘walking simulator’ genre. Four years later, and this game is being brought to the home consoles in the form of Dear Esther: Landmark Edition. The differences between this edition and that of its original form are subtle, are they enough to make this game feel at home in 2016?
If one was to play Dear Esther without knowing its development outfit, it would be hard to guess that it was made by a small studio. The graphical fidelity is something you would expect from a company that have deep pockets. Textures, no matter how close I got to them, looked perfect. At times it is hard not to stop and admire the gorgeous scenery, and just watch the waves crashing on to the beach. The striking fluorescent blues of a certain story element. Every aspect of this game looks beautiful, and the detail that has been put in to it is incredible.
The sound of Dear Esther is possibly the best I have ever heard. From the sounds of the ocean to the score, it drags you in to this experience and does not let up. A games score should add to the experience of the game, and Dear Esther’s score does this perfectly. It sucks you in to the story and creates an atmosphere that has to be experienced to be believed.
The gameplay and controls does its job effectively, the controls are responsive and each step the character takes feels weighted. Small touches bring the controls to life, when walking up a small slope you can almost feel the slight struggle behind the characters footsteps.
Now on to the game itself. There is little that I can actually say about Dear Esther’s experience without negating the appeal of playing it. Dear Esther is just that, its an experience. As a game it is bland, you walk, look at things, and walk some more, but that is not this games appeal. This game drops you in to a story and carries you to its conclusion. It is almost akin to having a story told to you, but having the story unfold when you reach certain markers within the games map creates a connection to this story.
This is the characters story, you are him, and you are experiencing his journey through narration and piecing together the environmental clues scattered around the environment. The story is drip fed to you throughout the game, and provides you with just the right amount of information for you to need to know more, in this sense, the game is nothing short of spectacular.
Despite all of Dear Esther’s positive elements, there is somewhat of a downside to it. From a story perspective, the hours to an and a half it takes to complete this story is the perfect timeframe, just right to complete it within one sitting, and you will want to complete it in one sitting, that’s for sure. However for a game just shy of £10, this is not a lot of gameplay. The game itself does provide incentive for repeat playing, as more story can be found throughout the game that you may have missed first time through.
A positive touch however is the inclusion of directors commentary that can played whilst playing the game. Definitely not recommended for you first play through, but it is a nice touch to get some incite of this story from the makers of the game.
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is an experience that has held my imagination for days after finishing it. It is beautiful yet haunting, sad yet inspiring. It may be short, but it is perfectly paced, and you owe it to yourself to experience this game, it will leave you breathless.
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