Love the game “Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture” by The Chinese Room? Then, be ready for another thrilling and haunted journey by the directors of The Chinese Room, namely, Dear Esther : landmark edition on your consoles.
Dear Esther is ‘a remake of a remake of a Half-Life 2 mod’. This tale of a desolate Scottish island started before getting a commercial PC release in 2012. Since then, Dear Esther has become a seminal title for some and kicked off a wave of “walking simulator” games. Dear Esther: Landmark Edition. The Landmark Edition sees the island remastered in Unity with a director’s commentary and those all-important trophies too.
You play as an unnamed man who has travelled to a secluded and deserted island just off the coast of Scotland, with only a lighthouse in the distance being the sole landmark. The plot is then told through an internal monologue that takes the form of letters, mostly addressed to the protagonist’s partner, Esther. These explore the couple’s past and a car crash that haunts the narrator as he traverses the environment. It’s a non-linear narrative adventure. The creators strongly emphasized on the dialogue that this isn’t a game where they’re going to tell you with audio or visual cues how to feel. This is really important, as so many games these days guide you holding your hand — telling you how to feel, I mean literally making you feel assaulted with your every sense, with jumps, scares and strange noises until you’re shivering and quivering into the corner of your room.
Developers took great care to balance the writing and the music with stunning visuals, which I feel is quite a magnificient work. The quality of the graphics was way beyond what I was expecting, with clean textures and crisp animations. This helped the entire overall experience become a much more enjoyable one and, it created a more immersive and realistic environment for me to stumble around in.
It has emerged with remastered audio and an added directors’ commentary which reunited the original team of Jessica Curry, Rob Briscoe and Dan Pinchbeck for the first time in years, to play through and comment on the game, its legacy and offer unique insight into the creation of this incredible game.
Along with the commentary bonus– which can be enjoyed right from the start, if you prefer – the Landmark Edition also boasts some additional tweaks not seen in the current PC release, including additional accessibility options. In addition, the Landmark Edition introduces those all-important trophies and achievements too. The PlayStation 4 version is also bundled with a stunning and visual-candy dynamic theme.
Although the story is fairly deep, the gameplay here is the definition of bare bones. The game does not have a HUD and you cannot interact with anything whatsoever. The only interactions with the protagonist is the ability to walk and zoom in on things you wish to observe. Here you’ll encounter a couple of confusing design choices throughout your solitary hour to 90 minutes with the title. To make things worse, the walk speed is a bit too slow for our liking which made certain sections incredibly tedious. On top of that, at a couple of points the game will decrease the walk speed even further, possibly just to make a scene a little more atmospheric. The “Esther” of the title is the late wife of the character, lost in a drunk driving accident. The “Dear” takes the form of his letters to her, sending them off to sea, knowing she will never read them. There are other people mentioned: Donnelly who had been to the island before; Paul, who may be the man’s wife’s inadvertent killer; and Jakobson, a shepherd who lived on the island a couple of hundred years ago.
The introduction of new characters and the narratives come across the way as the story goes on. It was a rather emotional and sentimental game which made my eyes brimming wet towards the end.
Perhaps this unnamed man had gone insane in losing his wife and sought out a place to be alone until he was ready to follow her into the eternal abyss or perhaps he was already so lonely without her that he thought solitude could be his panacea. Whatever it was, it was one hell of a thrilling journey for me and keeps feeding my curiosity throughout the game with its mysterious and haunted yet awfully beautifull work. Me, being a lover of horror genre, stuck on it. Ok, I will be unbiased now, but still, it’s a nice piece of work with modern intellect, new game genre and stunning visuals and music.