Not Your Typical Castaway
By Brett Wolfe
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on September 20th, 2016 for Xbox One (Also Available on PS4 & PC)
Developer: The Chinese Room Publisher: Curve Digital
With walking simulators becoming all the rage again, it is to no surprise that the 2012 Dear Esther got a remastered version. Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is an action walking simulator that is developed by The Chinese Room. This title follows an unnamed protagonist during his exploration of the Hebridean Islands. Throughout his explorations, he reads various letters that were addressed to a women named Esther.
The mechanics in this title are extremely simplistic as the controller only uses a few buttons. The left stick is for the movement of the character, the right stick changes the direction of vision, and every other button zooms in. Dear Esther: LE is exploration at its best. There are no way points, no sprinting, no action button, and the goal of each level is to reach the end and start the next one.
Besides the experience, the visuals and soundtrack of this game are the best thing. Both of them help immerse you in the world by pulling your emotions and making you feel for the characters and what is going on around you. The title features some of the most stunning visuals that I have seen in gaming as a whole. The environments are beautiful and the landscapes makes you wish that you could vacation to the islands. I always felt like I wanted to across every bit of space to just absorb what the world had to offer. During my stream of this game, someone associated the game with a Bob Ross painting and I feel that is an excellent way to describe the overall world that is present. The world is such a peaceful place and that really helps sink in everything around you. The soundtrack pairs perfectly with the visuals. The music adds to the dramatic moments so well that you are invested getting to the next section. I am not a music buff; however, the music was an aspect that I loved the whole way through. It was such a wonderful score that made this game worth every second. The music that is provided in this game is similar to an orchestral theme and is just amazing.
The achievements with Dear Esther: LE pair better with the game than any other title I have ever played, except maybe the TellTale Series. The achievements are story related, with a few miscellaneous ones. The miscellaneous achievements require the player to do things, such as walking 5000 steps, find all the urns, listen to all the dialogue, and two death related ones. These achievements are so great for a title of this magnitude as you can just go on your way enjoying the game without worrying if you are going to miss any achievements or not. The urns are right off the beaten path, you are going to walk a lot, and if you are up for exploring the dialogue will not be hard. The death related ones are the only ones that will take you out of the experience. However, there are multiple locations to achieve these.
Without being too specific on details and trying to remain as spoiler free as possible, I feel it would be best bet to include my experience from this title as it is extremely experience-based, well, experience. I personally enjoy walking simulators and games that tell a story similar to a movie or a novel. I would find myself wanting to go back to a location if there was a fork in the road to just see what was the other way, making sure that I wouldn’t go too far and not be able to go back. Being used to walking simulators like NERO, I was expecting various puzzles or enemies to show up. However, nothing of the sort came to be. There was not a single puzzle or any other NPC in the entire game. Once I completed the game, I understood why this was the case. The lack of characters and puzzles made this game what it is. It was an amazing experience in exploration and had no worries about needing to solve a puzzle or kill an enemy to go to the next area. This was the best way I felt the game could be presented and it shined from that. So if you take anything from this review, EXPLORE! Explore until you have explored to the boundaries of the game. You will not regret it.
The replayability of this title is decent. Due to the Director’s Commentary that is included the player can experience the game differently two times. The first playthrough can be with the actually story, while the second one is played with the voices of the directors explaining what they feel about each section of the game. The game is also rather short (around 1 hour 30 minutes) thus allowing you to go back and quickly get to sections you may have missed over.
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is priced at $10 USD which is a great price point for this experience. The only aspect of this title that I feel people might have an issue with would be the length of the game. Being a roughly two-hour experience, some people might think that is too short to get their money’s worth. However, I equate it to watching a movie. This title is like a movie with interaction and people pay $10+ to watch movies all the time. So get ready for an amazing title and remember to explore!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 9/10
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