Contemporary is the case here, take from it what you will
Dear Esther is a very odd piece of work. As a game it is monotonous and vague, as a story it's very difficult to comprehend, as an experience...Well it's a mixed bag, it has some fantastic moments however it deffinitly isn't without its vices. The reason I gave it 4 stars instead of my initial 2.5 or 3 rating is because I thought to myself 'you know what, this is going to be in my mind effecting me for quite a while' which has lots to say for itself compared to many games, or even many pieces of entertainment.
I had this game recommended to me from the Giant Bomb forums for similar plays to the outstanding 'To The Moon', reading the summary of it sounded like it would be very up my ally as it was discribed as "intresting", "more story than gameplay" and "a profound experience" to name a few. So I bought the game with a hot headed determanation to get something not dissimilar from my experience of To The Moon. And buoy I needed it...
My first impressions of the game where that the interesting foggy remote island that could be out of England somewhere was at least an original choice followed by the enjoyable tones of the narrator of which reminded me of Sherlock. These thoughts were soon followed by trying to piece the set up together. The rest of the game consisted of the same thoughts.
Looking at it from a very gamey perspective, it's nothing more than Epic Citadel but using the much less graphicly impressive source engine and instead of the Infinity Blade castle its an extract of some lands from Oblivion. Or aka a really shit version of Oblivion with no NPC's, stupidly crippling movement pace and occassionally triggering Sherlock Holmes narrating every so often. Well the last bit would probs make Oblivion more classy but that's a story for another day.
The narrative felt over complex after I had triggered narrative parts as I progressed, this made me feel stupid which made me initially dislike the game for making me think I am. However I soon realised the fault was not mine, these paragraphs would take a veteran reader of literature a run for his or her money. To ask a gamer who is trying to also navigate around a world and figure out where to go whilst also piecing these seemingly irrelevant phrases into context is pretty redonkulous.
So why did I continue playing Dear Esther and continue on to write a positive review for it? I asked myself the same question about 40 minutes in telling myself I should probably do something more productive than crippling my index finger held over the forward arrow for so long whilst embracing Oblivions scenery. However at this point I found myself strangely compelled to carry on. I assumed I was in some sort of trance where I was not really paying much attention to navigating my charcter and not paying too much attention to the narrative, letting my subconscious juggle these things about whilst not really thinking of alot. It was a strange experience rivalled possibly by a large amount of narcotics or hypnotism. After about 30 minutes in this trance I started to feel abit freaky so I had a break and read into the game to quell actually what the fuck I was playing
After reading into some of the gooey of the game on IGN and Wikipedia, I noticed that the game was probably trying to achieve this state of mind within me, as the context of the narration was never intended to be comprehended so easily and the crippling pace was purposely done. Once returning to the game I felt a little like the magicians trick had been revelled here but still enjoyed it.
Ultimately this game isn't the be all or end all, super-ultimate-thinking-indie-is-the-way-forward, life changer. Nor did I find it make me reflect on my own life much or cause a rapid amount of profound thoughts about what is life. However I did find it to be an experience I definitely hadn't felt much of before and the vast amount of symbolism in the game will hunt my dreams for decent while now.