lil review: Dear Esther

  • Platform: PC
  • Developer: thechineseroom
  • Publisher: thechineseroom
  • Release Date: February 14, 2012
  • Price: $9.99
  • Official: Dear Esther 

“Take this walk, hear this tale”

Difficult game to review; that’s what Dear Esther is. This is the definition of an artsy indie title. Combat? There’s none of that. Goal? Not really. Collectibles? Not exactly. Dear Esther isn’t a game in the normal sense, its a title that puts story and world first, it allows the player to dictate themselves how much they’ll get out of it, by allowing them to decide how much they want to explore and fall into its story. This storybook nature makes this one exceptionally difficult to put a grade onto, but I will do it anyway.

When you begin your journey with Dear Esther, you find yourself standing at a shoreline, you don’t know where you are and you don’t know what you are supposed to be doing. You do hear yourself begin to speak however. As you begin to move and explore this new island setting, the character, and thus the player, begins to recount events of his life. As you move away from the water and begin exploring this new landscape you will hear random bits of history, random bits of information regarding important figures in this man’s life, and potentially, events that led him to this place.

Dear Esther started life as a mod, and through its success, the team began work on a legitimate release. This full release features enhanced graphics, audio, and absolutely fantastic voice work and writing. While the entirety of your experience with Dear Esther consists of walking, and it could use a faster speed, it is the story and voice work that will keep your digital feet moving.

Some say Esther isn’t a game, and that point is valid, but I still feel it is an experience that one should try. While you do nothing but walk, the landscapes you travel are absolutely gorgeous and the dialogue spoken powerful. While you hear this tale of misery and loss, you find yourself walking along cliffs, through abandoned homes, inside amazing caves, and finally along a moon drenched beach. While the journey is slow, it makes you contemplate the story more then if you were breezing through it all.

If you feel a game needs to be fast, have some action, or to explain its purpose; then you won’t like Dear Esther. But if you like a story that will make you think, if you like to see visually arresting landscapes, or if you want to experience what games can be when they’re not about violence, then Dear Esther may be for you. This tale doesn’t take long to complete, as it can be finished within a couple of hours, but the dialogue is randomized each playthrough, so to hear everything will take a few restarts. This feature allows those truly dedicated to get their moneys worth, but it is not necessary to feel the weight of this story or to fully grasp its intended purpose. Each player will come out of Dear Esther believing something different, and each will be touched in a different way.
-Chuck

lil Rundown

  • + Writing and delivery are fantastic
  • + Amazing atmosphere
  • – Not much game
  • – $10 may be much

Final Score

7.0 / 10

“Good”

4 thoughts on “lil review: Dear Esther

  1. I’ve wondered about playing this in the past. I did enjoy Proteus, so a game where walking is almost the only action shouldn’t be a problem I suppose! As you say, $10 may be the sticking point. I don’t know why Indie developers insist on that price point for games that are light on hours.

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