I am fairly open minded, but the game Dear Esther has seemed to completely destroy any sense of open mindedness I have. Of course, I am not the biggest fan of indie movies, which are dripping with pretentious themes and brooding characters. That might be the main reason why I did not like Dear Esther.
Of course, since the entire tagline to the game seems to be about how it is not necessarily a game, I will not judge it as such. In truth, it seems to be more like an interactive experience. You do not interact with the world. In fact, you never even touch it. The only thing that you do is that the character turns on his flashlight when he goes into dark spaces, but that's the only world interaction that you get.
My main problem with Dear Esther is that when taken as a storytelling experience, it's quite weak. The ending is complete bullshit and the entire setup to the end does not really satisfy any loose ties about the characters that inhabit the world. Is the world just a dream? I would have to guess so. The way that objects in the world are still there make the visuals very cool and interesting, but they make no damn sense. If he's the only one on the island, then why are all these candles lit? There’s an ethereal way that the character moves, and when he jumps to his death at the end, I could only laugh at the slowest death in existence. Also, the screen fades to black. Death or Bug?
Ultimately, I don't like this game because it does not seem to realize that showing not telling is the most important part of a game. When the character gets an infection on his leg, I would rather it shown on the person, rather than it being told in a rather droll way. I would also prefer that the slow act of the character dying as he's making his way to the place where he'll jump actually being shown. Maybe have the character black out, or his vision getting blurry?
The reality is that the game could have taken place anywhere. There is really no reason that the guy was in that island at all other than to create a strong sense of visual narrative which the game completely does not capitalize on. The writings on the cave walls I thought were actually going to have some more significant meaning, but they did not either. Ultimately, there was no point to the game being on that island in the first place and I feel like that ruins the entire experience. I actually started getting angry when I realized just how inconsequential the setting was.
Sure, the game is beautiful, but the world doesn't really do much for me story wise. There wasn't enough environmental storytelling to really tell you what the game was really all about, and I felt cheated at the end. So cheated in fact that I felt like I had to review it. I'm sure that people will tell me that I dont' get it but that's the entire point. There really isn't anything to get. There are a few points where you feel emotional, but it's certainly not for the world around me and it's not because of the drivel that the main character is telling me. It's because the music feels emotional.
It's not that I don't like experimental videogames. I rather enjoy them. But there's a difference between what some people consider good art and what some people consider bad art. I feel like this is bad art to me. Art is subjective, though.
In conclusion I am probably being overly harsh in my review. But I don't care. I regret the hour it took me to play this game and I wish that I had not sunk that time into it.In conclusion I am probably being overly harsh in my review. But I don't care. I regret the hour it took me to play this game and I wish that I had not sunk that time into it.