Dear Esther

The mod sat in my download directory for about a year: I had downloaded it right after Rock, Paper, Shotgun had announced its release. I knew it to be what I call an “art game,” my own made up genre where gameplay takes a backseat to artistry. They often have a strong, but often clouded and confusing story. They’ve been hit and miss for me, as I couldn’t get into The Void and only enjoyed about half of The Path. I’m not sure why I thought I would like Dear Esther anymore than the others.

With it sitting and waiting to be installed for so long, I read that it was being remade. Former DICE level-designer for Mirror’s Edge (one of my favorite games), Robert Briscoe, was remaking it so as to improve the visual aesthetics, while fixing some of the bad pathing that was in the original. The blandness of the mod may have been why it sat unplayed so long.

The mod was originally developed by thechineseroom while they were still part of the University of Portsmouth. The chinsesroom also worked on the remake with Briscoe. Besides the other changes, the voice actor’s script was expanded and re-recorded. Also, the soundtrack was re-orchestrated and doubled in length.

When the game was finally released commercially, I pre-ordered but didn’t play it immediately: I really wanted to be in the right mood. On May 15th, I thought that I would be going home and playing the just-released Diablo 3, but Blizzard had other ideas. Then I saw that Dear Esther was on sale and that got me thinking about playing the game. So I did.

The game meet and exceeded every expectation I had for it. The first striking thing of it is most definitely how beautiful it is. While being largely photo-realistic, the color palette and soft lighting made everything look like a painting. The voice actor, Nigel Carrington, had a very resonate voice, though the narration was not constant. Most of your time in game is spent just walking, taking in the rich mood and incredible visuals. While I’ve heard it called an interactive game, that’s only true if you consider moving the mouse and hitting the ‘w’ key interactive. The music is just as responsible for making the game amazing as the visuals. Jessica Curry’s score is mesmerizing and well worth adding to your daily playlist.

If any of this sounds even remotely interesting to you, I highly recommend you play this game. It only takes two hours, you will be glad you did.

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