INSOMNIA

Dear Esther (2012, PC)

By OperatorHunterM / June 15, 2015


If you go to my Steam profile and check out the list of games I own, you should see that I love games with stories. If the game has more of an interesting plot than mechanics, there is a good chance I'll take a shot at it. I've played games like Myst and Ether One so I know how these games work. Limited interacting with the environment, "show" more than tell and vague storytelling before getting the point of the story.
   I'm all for that.
   But Dear Esther, unfortunately, has none of those qualities.

   And I tried, really I did. You can see that I've played this game for up to an hour. But unfortunately I just couldn't get into it at all. The game's plot is that of a man roaming an island moving from one place to the next while a narration plays explaining details of his situation. And that's it.
   Now that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if both what you're seeing on screen and what the narrator is saying were interesting and corresponded to each other. But the thing is: they aren't and they don't.
   At least nothing was there that I could see right off the bat. I'm ALL for deep storytelling, but the writing in Dear Esther is so heavy-handed that it comes across as pompous. You just don't get a feel at all for what's happening to your character or whoever Esther is. I really wanted there to be a "hook" to this game, but there just isn't one. Nothing that grabbed my attention.
   Another problem comes in with the fact what mechanics you do have are very — not limited necessarily — but "unimportant". With most visual games like these, what you "see" is what tells the story. But Dear Esther's island is just... bland. Nothing here that's unique or at least nothing that you see here gives you any clues at all to what's happening. The house you enter, the cave, the beach, the lighthouse or the plains... all of it has nothing that adds to what is going on and has been done many many times before.
   Not only that, but the narration CHANGES with each playthrough. So you won't be listening to the same thing every time. I assume that each variation of the script leads to the same place at the end. but after roaming around for a good ten minutes, painfully slowly, not finding anything and then deciding to quit for the day, only to replay with a new reading of what was happening... was just discouraging.
   I love these types of games, and I REALLY wanted to like Dear Esther, but I can't recommend it to anyone. The narration and the action feel so distant from each other, and the effort to reach the ending of either conclusion just never felt like time or energy well spent.

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