I absolutely love Dear Esther. I’ve waited a long time for something like it to come along. Having created game levels in the Source engine myself its clear how much care and attention went into creating the environment, I’m sincerely impressed by what the developers have been able to build. The visuals are simply stunning and the eerie soundscape is wonderful too.
The pace of movement is slow, but that is just right for the experience this game was designed to provide. It allows the mind to slide into a more contemplative mode as you explore and I found my thoughts wandering just as they would on a long walk.
Overall I felt like I was trespassing on somebody else’s dream. I realised as soon as I launched the game that it deserved to be played in a dimly lit room with the sound turned up, and found that once I allowed myself to become absorbed by the surroundings, it triggered unusual feelings of trepidation, loss, and a strong sense of ‘l’appel du vide’. It brought Iain Banks’ story The Bridge to mind. I would rank the journey through the second ‘level’ of Dear Esther alongside the end credits of Portal, the final scene of HL2 Ep2, and the first nightfall in Minecraft, as one of the great ‘moments’ in gaming. I really look forward to seeing more games that build on what Dear Esther has achieved, and extend that in different and unexpected ways. If you’re someone who likes Iain Banks, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, Wes Anderson films, Sigur Ros, Laura Marling or Lisa Hannigan, I think you’ll enjoy Dear Esther.
February 14, 2012