Top Critic Average
There’s a reason why Dear Esther spawned the “walking simulator” genre. It was the first, and is still one of the best, exploration games you can play. On your second playthrough, however, the directors commentary is why you're really here.
"The combination of art, narration and a beautiful soundtrack composed by Jessica Curry that fits every moment of the game solidified Dear Esther one of the most beloved and iconic video games around. With its long-awaited introduction onto Xbox One and PS4, console players can now enjoy the intimate experience first hand with in-depth commentary from key members of the original team at The Chinese Room".
It seems odd to give a game like Dear Esther a score. If I were rating it purely on its artistic merits, I'd give it 100. As a game, its unique qualities mark it out as something that deserves to be played and experienced, but if you're hoping for something action-packed, you're barking up the wrong tree. Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is a great game that transcends what a video game can be as a medium; a perfect marriage of artistry and ideas that you absolutely need to delve into.
'Dear Esther' helped spark a trend of narrative-focused indie games, and it's great to see it celebrated in such a nice package. The 'Landmark Edition' is the best way to experience The Chinese Room's gorgeous adventure, and the developer commentary is a fantastic addition. It's well worth the price of admission, whether one has played the original or are just experiencing it for the very first time.
A beautiful early example of the narrative driven 'walking simulator' brought to life with stunning graphics and the same intriguingly muddled narrative as its become famous for.
It goes without saying that Dear Esther: Landmark Edition won't be for everyone. However, those who are willing to open their minds and try something different are in for a treat, because Curve Digital has brought a haunting, beautiful and memorable experiences to consoles with this port.
A beautifully animated walking simulator. I recommend that you give it a play, because it really is quite a different experience from most mainstream, fast driven, AAA games. It reminded me of a form of meditation because it was simply that immersive.
A landmark title indeed, Dear Esther’s debut on PS4 serves as a timely reminder not just of The Chinese Room’s seemingly bottomless well of talent, but also of Dear Esther’s capability to fulfil that oldest of gaming mantras – escapism, with vigour and aplomb in fashion that very few other games have managed to before and since its original release.
Dear Esther has always challenged the definition of what it means to be a game, but the way that it controls the placement of the narrative with the player's advancement through the world creates an experience that can only exist within a game. The environments and the score create a world that's a little more like experiencing a classical art museum rather than a traditional game world. The audio commentary from the developers provides a nice little addition that really cements this as the ultimate release of Dear Esther.
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is only $9.99 on PlayStation 4, and if you’re a fan of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture – the spiritual successor to this game – and want to see where it all started, then this is a game you have to play.
A hauntingly immersive experience which may not be as exciting as the average game but four years on it's still a beautiful piece of art. If you haven't played it before now is the time to pick it up.
Throughout its very short 90 minute run time, Dear Esther creates an atmospheric and engaging experience that begs you to keep playing. If you’ve played it before though, the director’s commentary is all that’s new for the Landmark Edition.
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is by no means going to be for everyone, but it’s a game I wouldn’t hesitate in telling people to try out even if they’re new to the narrative genre. If you’re looking for a game that could be considered art just as much as it could be a video game then this is certainly up your street.
Dear Esther's appeal is directly tied to the player experiencing it. While it is a masterclass in graphics and sound, the game itself is practically a blank slate. It's like a puzzle with only a handful of pieces. The player isn't obligated to put it together, and they're not in the wrong if they choose to ignore it entirely. Still, this is a uniquely bold experience that pushes the medium in new directions. There are people out there thinking about it, asking questions, and really exploring what they just experienced. That is what's most important.
If you have never played Dear Esther before the $9.99 price point is well worth it. You’ll get a memorable, emotional experience and once you’re done, you can do it all again with director’s commentary.
While Dear Esther is still a fine game and one that should probably be experienced by fans of the genre, the fact remains that it is still almost a decade old. Games that have since released, such as Firewatch, The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, and even games like Journey and Abzu, offer so much more than what Dear Esther provides. Even The Chinese Room’s own follow-up, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, has more going for it. But don’t let that sway you from experiencing the original walking simulator, and seeing the story that is told on this mysterious island.
While touted as the first member of the “walking simulator” genre, there is something to be said about the mood and tone that Dear Esther evokes through what you see and hear. As a chill and explorative experience, it delivers a coherent narrative more than another recent hit (or miss) No Man’s Sky. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, it is a structured, and directed, storytelling experience.
If you played the game originally, there might not be much reason to come back to Dear Esther, though the most loyal of fans may get enough mileage out of the Director's commentary I mentioned earlier. In this case, you play through the game with the narrator being swapped out with those of the artist, composer and writer as they discuss various decisions that went into the design. It is a nice touch for a game that has a lot of artistic value and it is interesting to see some of the thought that went into some of the game's more memorable moments and scenes. All in all Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is still an interesting experience, though its release around four years later does show the game's age a little. There are better examples of the genre out there now (including The Chinese Room's own later release Everybody's Gone to the Rapture), but Dear Esther still deserves a look if you haven't seen it yet.
Dear Esther has grand ambitions. On one hand, these were achieved. On the other, Dear Esther never reaches it full potential and results in a game that’s good, not great.
Every game developer has to start somewhere. Dear Esther was a valiant first step into a much bigger world. It may have been something special back in 2008, but it is definitely showing its age — especially when compared to The Chinese Room’s later releases, Esther falls dramatically short of modern expectations. If you are looking to relive the first salvo in the walking simulator renaissance, then feel free to give this a try. However, if money is truly burning a hole in your pocket, you should probably just check out Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture instead.
Dear Esther certainly creates some striking scenes with its graphical and aural combinations and there are some deeper elements to uncover if you're dedicated to going through it multiple times to seek them out.
Clocking in at just over an hour, the experience provides a great look into the beginnings of the narrative exploration genre. I just don’t find the look to be entirely compelling on its own merits.
As a fairly big defender of the "walking simulator" genre, I feel really let down by Dear Esther. It needed more of something, whether it be a better story, more gameplay than wandering, or more interaction with the island. Definitely needed more than a feeling of "huh" when it ended.
It's clear that the “walking simulator" genre has moved on since its birth child four years ago. The antiquated gameplay has been surpassed by the likes of Gone Home, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Firewatch, and the visuals are just as murky as a Scottish rainfall. There are far more and much better narrative-driven experiences to be had in 2016, and so Dear Esther: Landmark Edition feels like a bit of a relic in this day and age.
I admire Dear Esther for what it did, when it did it. It was a novel concept that came from the humblest of beginnings. Unfortunately, the product of it all is short and unenjoyable. It feels like a dream in the worst way. It’s confusing, fatiguing, and the feeling of relief comes when it’s over. In that way, they couldn’t have done a better job.
The experience of Dear Esther would be identical if it was presented as a short story, or an on-rail VR video. The lack of interactivity only further exposes the flaws which have been created through forceful transition of Dear Esther from paper into a videogame format. But despite all its flaws, it is still an interesting ‘thing‘ to experience, especially if you want to see the beginnings of the walking simulators first hand.
Still, some people will find meaning and depth in what Dear Esther delivers. I envy that. The linchpin of these games is to develop a connection with the player. Along with that connection comes emotion. Dear Esther is simply too disconnected from itself to ever connect with me.
Dear Esther is a boring slog with little narrative payoff. Although it does encourage an ideal of "interpret as you will", it lacks the foundation and support to drive discussions of death, life, and grief to the point to which it strives. Fortunately, the experience is short, cheap, and a good boost to an achievement score, but beyond that, is worth a pass.
Developer The Chinese Room is capable of capturing many highs and lows of human emotion through both their sound design and storytelling. With that said, Dear Esther: Landmark Edition feels more like a lukewarm experiment — a legacy precursor that paved the way to their more successful titles - an experience that is both significant, while also being entirely out-of-date by modern genre standards. Dear Esther was the baby step that aided in the creation of the genre — while you have to learn to walk before you can run, Dear Esther’s modern competitors have been sprinting for years.
Dear Esther may have played a huge part in the growth of interactive drama, but it remains an acorn compared to the trees it helped grow. It’s an ultimately shallow game, one that rattles off a story directly without any finesse or attempt to integrate it with the gameplay.