Who is Esther? Who am I? Why am I on this island? Even if you are an avid gamer, you may not have heard of Dear Esther. It originally debuted as a mod to the popular Half-Life 2 game and, due to its popularity, became a standalone title earlier this year. It’s a bit difficult to describe though (described as “a ghost story, told using first-person gaming technologies” by the developers). Dear Esther is perhaps the beginning of a new genre of game, the interactive story.
I like to explore. I was a huge fan of the Myst series because it presented beautiful and otherworldly environments to explore and a mystery to solve (with puzzles thrown in to further gameplay). Dear Esther is perfect for those who have that same urge. You reveal bits of the storyline as you explore this beautiful and mysterious island trying to understand who you are and why you are there. What’s amazing is that it effectively draws you into the experience without the use of contrived puzzle solving to move the story along.
I admit, I had a few false starts. I am SO used to clicking on things and/or solving problems to progress a game, that I restarted the title a few times thinking that I was doing something wrong. Once I realized my mistake, it didn’t take even a few minutes to settle in to fully immersing myself in the experience (best to do it with the lights down and the sound up to take it all in).
It’s beautiful, haunting, engaging, and poignant. The environment, the musical score, and, especially, the narration are all top quality. In short, I LOVED it. I explored the island fully at least 3 times, and skipped around the different chapters even more. You definitely don’t have to be a “gamer” to enjoy this one. Don’t miss it! You can purchase it directly from the website at http://dear-esther.com for $9.99 for the PC or Mac OS X. It’s also available on Steam, Desura, and Onlive.