Movies, or films if you are from North America, have been the staple of worldwide entertainment for years. With each and every decade moving pictures, of various lengths, quality, and purpose have been slowly killing off the relics of the past. First came books, which have been murdered by motion pictures, then came the turn for the radio which was swiftly obliterated by television, which introduced talk shows, TV series, and last but not least music videos. The hostile takeover by the motion picture entertainment has lead to creation of oligopoly, a market with limited competition which has resulted in growing complacency within the industry, and such in combination with the ever expanding hubris has been exploited by the interactive entertainment, which we all know as videogames.

Slowly but surely, developers such as ID Software (the good ID, the one with Carmack and Romero), Epic Games, Rockstar Games, and Naughty Dog, have been hacking off pieces of the entertainment empire, which was held hostile by corporations such as FOX. And now, 15 years into the 21st century, they’ve overthrown the moguls of the modern media, and have become the trendsetters, just like 20th Century FOX once did. And they have accomplished so through creation of entertainment dependent on user input, and player agency. Titles such as DOOM, Grand Theft Auto 3, and The Last of Ushave shown the public around the world, that entertainment doesn’t have to be absorbed through passive observation. And that we can go above and beyond the limitations of the silver screen, but unfortunately other titles such as the recently released Dear Esther: Landmark Edition, have proven just the opposite.



The original release of Dear Esther has paved a way for a multitude of the so called walking simulators, which despite their sarcastically named genre, have shown us that videogames can be fun, challenging, and rewarding without combat, or time splits. Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and Three One Zero’s Adr1ft, belongs in the upper echelon of the interactive entertainment, and it is because they’ve managed to combine captivating gameplay mechanics, with impactful stories despite lack of combat and a multitude of NPC’s. However, the same cannot be said about Dear Esther.

Dear Esther is a very passive experience. In-game controls boil down to two analogue sticks which are responsible for walking and looking around, and a single face button responsible for zooming in. And throughout the entirety of the playthrough, which will take no longer than an hour and twenty minutes, players don’t have to do anything besides walking in a forward manner. Narration is triggered automatically throughout as soon as plot relevant objects come into character’s peripheral vision, and players do not even have to refer to controller’s face buttons, as some narration triggers while the character is not even looking at the object in question.

Lack of interactivity through player input takes a lot away from Dear Esther, as many plot relevant locations are separated with 5-10 minutes long corridors encased with invisible walls, within which most will just look at their mobile phones, seeking some actual entertainment. I for example had to replay numerous chapters simply because I’ve missed portions of plot relevant narration, as I was browsing through Rainbow Six Siege’s Reddit page. I tried to pay attention to everything that was happening around the player character, but the ten minute long moments of silence, which persist through the game, just bored me to tears. And will do exactly the same thing to majority of persons who decide to give Dear Esther ago. This is because the island, on which the title takes place, is so aesthetically dull, it makes Gears of War look exciting.



Dear Esther is filled to the brim with exactly the same looking rocks, patches of grass, and desolate beaches, and even though the surroundings take an unexpected turn about two chapters in, it is too little too late to regain player’s attention. During the fourth chapter players will be presented with an overturned cargo ship, and a plethora of plot relevant objects, which have been turned into shrines. But such are just there to pose as background images, as players can’t interact with them in any way. Even if one spends minutes zooming in and out, he/she will not even get a single word from the narrator. And to make matters worse, most will simply walk past the said shrines, as such are located on a hard to spot path, which majority will simply ignore. Most will see the said shrines only when on the way to the final objective, but at this point, players will decide to press on, as getting back to the path where the shrines are located, will simply take much too long, as the pace with which the player character walks with is unbearable.

Ultimately, Dear Esther is like a talking book, with a wide array of CG videos, which were stuck together in order to create an illusion of it being a videogame. 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.

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