We haven't done a review for a while since we've been hung up on games of yesteryear like Battlefield 3, Saints Row: The Third, and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. After seeing the scrolling ads over and over again on Steam, I decided to take a risk with indie title Dear Esther. It was a risk that yielded very little reward.
Dear Esther... (*farts into microphone*)
I played Dear Esther having absolutely no idea what it was and having no expectations launching the game. The trailers and pics made me assume it was a first person adventure/puzzle game. Kind of like Myst or my new favorite virtual laxative Amnesia. I was way off and I can honestly tell you there is nothing else out there like this game. I don't know even know if this qualifies as a game.
The closest thing I can relate it to is the video game equivalent to an artsy film student thesis. When I was in college, I took a bunch of film classes and participated in numerous student film festivals where I had to make shorts alongside other students. While I made short films about assassins that killed people's pets for a living, there were always so many of these weird, experimental, overly philosophical, and incomprehensible projects that involved something like a character sitting in an empty room, narrating a poem heavy with metaphors, subtexts, and analogies that covered some personal issue only the filmmaker knew. Like his struggle with Aderol addiction or coping with being an Eskimo in an anti-Inuit society.
That's exactly what Dear Esther is. An artsy-fartsy interactive poem. There is no attack button and no run button. There isn't even an interact button. You simply walk a linear path on a deserted island as a narrator pieces together a story written by an unknown writer. It takes about an hour and a half to complete and cost me $10.00. Not exactly the ideal way for me to spend 6 Costco hot dogs worth of cash or a Sunday evening.
I will say the crowning achievement of this game, the one thing that lead me to finish it were the graphics. Despite being made on the dated Source engine, the game sure is purdy. The textures and landscapes are surreal and beautifully designed. It's not a serious technical eyeball fucker like Battlefield 3 or Uncharted but its still amazing artistically. I'd say the guys who made this definitely have a future in level/world design.
The most enjoyable part of this game was framing and taking these screenshots.
Despite my complete lack of enjoyment in this game, I'm pleased to see that the gaming industry has come far enough to permit this kind of project. I think it shows serious evolution in the medium now that anyone with an idea and dedication has an outlet to distribute their creation. And considering that the guys who made this just signed on to help develop Amnesia 2 (and the graphics in Dear Esther look infinitely better than Amnesia), I think this game will lead to some promising titles in the future.
I just wish it didn't cost me ten fucking dollars.
The verdict - Empty set. Dear Esther cannot be validly compared to any other game.