Games come in many forms, and there are so many styles out there that there is enough to please everyone. With these different style of games though comes the ones where they are given names that sometimes stigmatise them, for often stupid reasons. One of these is the “Walking Simulator” like Dear Esther: Landmark Edition which is now available on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Dear Esther is about exploration and the telling of a story. The player makes their way around an isolated island being told of stories of the landscape, as well as the story of Esther. To say too much about what is revealed would be spoilers, and would ruin the experience, so I’ll say no more.
If I hear a game called a “Walking Simulator” it is easy to work out what will happen. The player won’t have a weapon, will likely not die, and will have little confrontation. Dear Esther follows these traits, though there is a confrontation of the psychological kind, making it a very thoughtful game.
On this PlayStation 4 iteration of Dear Esther the graphics are very impressive and some parts are simply stunning. This includes the section of the game when you move underground into the cave system; and it’s at this part of the game where Jessica Curry’s soundtrack for the game truly impresses.
What Dear Esther is about is atmosphere and exploration. There is almost a feeling of freedom from knowing that you won’t die, and with each part of the narration that is revealed, the story opens up more. There is a restriction in the way the game does reveal its secret though, which does simplify the experience in ways but the fact that it gets the story across is the important thing.
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition also includes a directors’ commentary featuring Jessica Curry, Rob Briscoe, and Dan Pinchbeck. This is where you learn the history of the game and where the concept of the game came about. The fact that it was born out of a Half-life 2 mod will interest PC fans, who will of course know that this game was first released on that platform. What re-releasing the game has given the developers The Chinese Room, is the ability to extend the game.
When looking at Dear Esther I do feel that I have to defence what a “Walking Simulator” is. Not everybody wants a game that is simply telling a story, and yes, this is a fairly short game. If you let yourself be immersed in the experience though this is comparable to watching a movie that manages to be different every time you see it, while of course telling the same overall story.
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is a good release for console owners that haven’t had the chance to play the game yet. If you are looking for a shooting game, then of course this isn’t going to give you that. What it will give you though is a spooky tale of a person dealing with loss, and learning to cope. What the game truly means? Well for that you’ll have to play the game and work it out for yourself.
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One now.