mikelemmer's Dear Esther (PC) review

A Story for Melancholy Moods

Download Size: 1.5 GB

Time to Finish: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Most Impressive Level: The Caves

Price I'd Pay: $5

Steam Price (2/15/12): $10

Like a good horror game, Dear Esther insists upon being played at a certain time: a half-hour before sunset, with the lights dim, when you won't be interrupted for 2 hours. It is for thoughtful times, those periods where you don't feel like doing anything but pondering the path you've taken so far. It's not so much a game as it is remnants of a story you silently wander through, tracing the routes and memories of a man.

The man narrates to you throughout the game, starting the moment you wash ashore onto an apparently-abandoned island. It takes a moment to learn the controls: you can only walk & look. There is no interaction, just movement and observation, listening to the man as he explains what he did here, or what this reminds him of, or something not related at all. You are soaking in a story, and although there's a few pieces of it you can seek out or just ignore, for the majority of the game you simply follow the path towards your destination. The journey is the point here; I won't go into the what, lest it ruin your enjoyment of it, but instead the how.

A Pool of Bitter Dreams

The narration is good if perhaps a tad too subdued, and the music is properly atmospheric ala Portal or Half-Life 2, but the graphics during the last 2 levels deserve major kudos for beauty & atmosphere. It manages a few jaw-dropping moments out of something as simple as a cave with a pool, or a moon overlooking a harbor. It's a pity the first 2 levels look similar & mundane in comparison; I think they could've been condensed into one level without losing any story or appreciation for Abandoned Island in Daylight.

So, were the graphics and story worth it? It depends. This is an unusual "game", a situational one whose enjoyment relies on your current mood more than any fun mechanics stored within. If you're still interested in it, I would suggest you check it out. But not immediately. Instead, wait until it goes on sale and store it someplace safe, until the time comes when you're in the proper mood for it. Like a fine, rare wine, it is consumed quickly; save it for an occasion you can savor it.

2 Comments
Posted by Cincaid

Nicely written review. Sadly I can't justify spending $10 on this (unemployed yay), but maybe I'll enjoy it whenever my money situation is looking better.

Posted by ghostNPC

Couldn't have said it better; excellent review.

Other reviews for Dear Esther (PC)

    The Interactive Poem 0

    Dear Esther is the antithesis of the traditional video game, to the point where it’s debatable whether it’s a game at all. The only player actions are moving through the world and looking around, while the only thing close to a gameplay goal is to progress through the environments until you reach the end. Dear Esther doesn’t aim to engage you through action, strategy, or puzzles, but through mystical surroundings, poetic narration, and haunting music.In many ways the world of Dear Esther itself ...

    6 out of 6 found this review helpful.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.