Dear Esther: Landmark Edition
Top Critic Average
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
So in that fact, I can’t offer any review feedback on the gameplay or controls, as this is as basic as it can get.
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.
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.
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.
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.