By Kristofer Hammer
Dear Esther is like a walkman tour at a museum. There is no touching, and you get to stop, stare and listen to what is around you. Given that you are unable to run, jump or open doors, and your only ability is to walk, why bother with this “game” at all? The real driving points are the atmosphere and story, granted it might take multiple playthroughs to fully grasp what is occurring, but the story is well written and vocally performed.
The dialogue advanced in its vocabulary but it’s not so obnoxious that anyone couldn’t understand it, and the points made by the narrator are often beautifully poetic and emotionally impactful.
What I mostly received from this experience is a great sense of atmosphere. The story on the surface seemed simple enough, but the atmosphere was always beautiful, especially considering that this is a mod (modification) and not a retail game.
The scenery shifts between a gloomy late evening and a full-moon night, each providing a different sense of dark and loneliness. My favorite parts were definitely the cave section and the ending mostly because of how the story is taken and how the surrounding area really exemplifies what is being said in a more visceral way.
Dear Esther is not a game I would really consider replaying, and definitely not something you need to run out and pick up. However, it is a perfect example of a vision carried out by the developer and of the capabilities of the modding community.
If you feel a desire for something that is completely different than what you have been playing and are willing to accept some flaws, then I would recommend playing Dear Esther at least once. If you’d rather shoot zombies, then I would divert your attention elsewhere.