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Now this is an interesting one. Last year, as part of my games course, I did a unit on Game Studies, which may well have been the single best unit I've ever taken in the last four years.

The guy who ran that unit made this.

Dear Esther on Steam

The game is available from Valentine's Day, for £6.99 or the local equivalent.

About the Game

“A deserted island…a lost man…memories of a fatal crash…a book written by a dying explorer.”

Two years in the making, the highly anticipated Indie remake of the cult mod Dear Esther arrives on PC. Dear Esther immerses you in a stunningly realised world, a remote and desolate island somewhere in the outer Hebrides. As you step forwards, a voice begins to read fragments of a letter: "Dear Esther..." - and so begins a journey through one of the most original first-person games of recent years. Abandoning traditional gameplay for a pure story-driven experience, Dear Esther fuses it’s beautiful environments with a breathtaking soundtrack to tell a powerful story of love, loss, guilt and redemption.

Forget the normal rules of play; if nothing seems real here, it’s because it may just be all a delusion. What is the significance of the aerial -- What happened on the motorway -- is the island real or imagined -- who is Esther and why has she chosen to summon you here? The answers are out there, on the lost beach, the windswept cliffs and buried in the darkness of the tunnels beneath the island… Or then again, they may just not be, after all…

Dear Esther is supported by Indie Fund.

Key features:

  • Every play-through a unique experience, with randomly generated audio, visuals and events.
  • Explore Incredible environments that push the Source engine to new levels of beauty.
  • A poetic, semi-randomised story like you've never experienced in a game before.
  • Stunning soundtrack featuring world-class musicians.
  • An uncompromisingly inventive game delivered to the highest AAA standards.

Edge has already released their review of the game here, and this sheds more light on what you should expect.

Classic ghost stories are known as much for their illustrations as their prose. This must make Rob Briscoe, a 3D environment artist perhaps best known for his work on Mirror's Edge, the Harry Clarke to Dr Dan Pinchbeck’s Edgar Allen Poe. And it’s Briscoe’s interpretation of Dear Esther that will lure people into Pinchbeck’s experimental adventure title in 2012, reopening a debate on interactive fiction that the game first became part of in 2008.

It’s not an illustrator’s job to change or even influence the writing on the page, and the same principle holds for Briscoe’s work, which overlays the structure, language and intentions of Dear Esther. And like its author, who lectures at the University of Portsmouth, Dear Esther still doesn’t pretend to have the answers to its questions, only theories. As such, it retains its freedom to explore a whole lot more than just a vandalised island in the Hebrides, which in turn frees up players to respond only to what they find there, rather than what they don’t.

What you won’t find in Dear Esther, then, is anything that might stop you taking it seriously. Were it not for your tendency to ‘drown’ in a very dreamlike way when you wander off limits, your role would seem as if it were entirely ethereal. There are no interactions that might warrant a crosshair; there’s no threat requiring a HUD. Press E to do nothing. Tap space to stand still. Click to make your mouse make a clicking sound. Piece by piece it makes you forget what you’ve learned about games, and reminds you of a time when genres were still young. And after four chapters that last just a couple of hours, the experience leaves you with two questions that will stay with you for a long time: what is a game, and why do I play?

EDG237.p_esther.esther1.jpg

In a game that only lets you move and look, expect to do plenty of stopping.

So: how does a game that explores what a game even is sound to you? I'm a little biased here. ;)

Edited by Velotix von Skruviktorrius

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I've heard about this title for a while. I decided that now's as good a time as any to check it out, see why it's so special.

And honestly, I'm extremely disappointed. I'll admit, I didn't get far, but while the narration still gives me inscentive to go further, it's really too poorly designed to keep my attention. For a supposedly open environment, the level design is extremely unwieldy and seems to punish exploration; the only visible path seems to take me left of the starting point and just keeps going until I reach the level boundary and the game kills me for wandering off. And the narrator constantly whispers "come back!" as if I'm wandering off from whatever path I'm supposed to be on despite the fact that I haven't really even gone anywhere yet, sometimes even talking over himself. The writing, music and the narration, what I've heard of it anyway, are extremely well done, but the actual design itself seems to be doing whatever it can to systematically destroy my immersion. If the commercial release turns out to have covered all of this, then I'll gladly buy it.

You want a good experimental HL2 Mod that questions the idea of being a game? Try The Stanley Parable. It's short, so it kinda hurts the experience for me to tell you anything about it, but it is the most meta video game I've ever played, exploring ideas like free will and objectives in a way that will blow your mind sky high.

Edited by SuperStingray

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^ I like this post to support the notion of people checking out The Stanley Parable. It's a really fun quirky little game, and will take you anywhere between 10 minutes to play and try out, to an hour or so if you want to try every possibility.

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I've been keeping my eyes on this remake, though I never played the original and have avoided spoilers. I do know the gameplay mechanics though. I also know Tarrah at Rely on Horror got her review copy yesterday, but haven't heard her thoughts on the game yet.

I want to clarify to people that this is one of those 'experience' video games that is based around exploration and story, and that this remake is improving a lot over the original in about every way. The island is being made a lot bigger and better designed with more to it and a lot of 'randomized events' and branching story baths that aim to make each playthrough different. The music is redone and orchestrated, the voice acting has been redone with a lot more dialogue and a new actor. The visuals have been touched up a lot and uses the Portal 2 version of the Source Engine. I'll almost surely get it and will leave my impressions later.

Also, anyone who is curious, here's some reviews:

http://www.gamespot....review-6349936/

http://www.kotaku.co...-kotaku-review/

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-02-14-dear-esther-review

http://www.bit-tech....esther-review/1

http://pc.ign.com/ar.../1218568p1.html

http://www.pcgamer.c...-esther-review/

http://www.edge-onli...r-esther-review

http://www.nowgamer....owdfunding.html

Seems to be getting a lot of 8/10s.

Edited by Agent York

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I also give thumbs up to the Stanley Parable. Interesting, thought-provoking and hilarious.

But, anyway, Dear Esther just came out. Holy crap. This is so much better than the original mod. The voice-overs are from the same guy, but so much is different.

  • The visuals are jaw-dropping. This game is using the Portal 2 version of the Source engine, and it shows, proving once again that Source can still compete with the newest graphics engines in the industry. Combined with the visual design, and, well... The game is a non-stop showcase of Scenery Porn, some of which I have never seen in a game before. And there are tons of little, well-thought-out details that make everything so much better. Magnificent.
  • There is no way to jump, crouch or interact with anything, unlike the original mod. You can only move, swim and use the left mouse button to slightly zoom in on something.
  • The level design is vastly improved, you very rarely not know where you should be going or where you can explore.

Absolutely wonderful remake.

Edited by Masaru Daimon

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Quite a bump, but this game deserves a revisit every now and then. Come back!

 

I downloaded and tried this game recently. I had not tried the original mod. All I knew was the title and that it might be scary.

 

Dear Esther was simply beautiful and a mature experience which makes you question a lot of things. While it may not be as much a game as it is an interactive story experience, it does not make it anything less of great time spent which I can recommend to, well, most people. The game is not for everyone. If you find exploration, intriguing story-telling and emotions to be boring, with no shooting and puzzles, then this game is not for you. However, if you can allow yourself to be immersed and walk on this island with an open mind, intrigued on what exactly is going on while looking at extremely beautiful scenery on the way, then Dear Esther is an experience you should not miss.

 

It is not long, I believe I spend about an hour playing through it, but it has great replay value (imo) and will make you think more and more, at the same time different events or pieces of the story is revealed. You will also start noticing new things, which may even become creepy.


The first time I finished playing through it, I felt touched, but at the same time, I was extremely confused. I looked up a conclusion on the Web, which really surprised me, so I played through it a couple more times, and I will keep playing it every so often, because it simply is such a beautiful, yet puzzling and deep experience.

 

I have no idea how the original mod was like, but this new stand-alone version is awesome.

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I never actually posted my thoughts on this.

 

It didn't actually wow me much.  I really really have no interest in stories that can't stand well on their own.  I am just simply not a fan of storylines that intentionally make you go "what the hell was that" and go discuss it on forums to figure it out.  Just not my thing.

 

The biggest problem I had was that when you go the wrong way you have to walk alllll the way back to try somewhere else at that same slow walking pace.  No dialogue to entertain you, just the same bit you just walked in reverse.

 

 

The visuals are great though for sure.  The cave in particular is such a beauty. 

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