I write this as the cold winter wind compels my creaking fingers to rest, blowing through the aged cracks of this house as old as my tainted memories of us.... ::: BLELECCCHH VOVMMITTT ::::::::
Sorry. Now, what is "Dear Esther"? Well, you basically just walk around in first person, going from one point to another as some dude whispers in your ear every once in a while. It's mostly linear, and I finished it in about 70 minutes.
The environments that you walk around in look absolutely amazing. These are some of the best natural environments I've seen in any game ever, and I found myself constantly taking screen shots as if I were on a hike with my camera. In fact, the environments reminded me of some amazing treks I did while visiting Iceland. Here are just a few highlights:
Say what you will about Dear Esther (and believe me, I will say some things later), but if you call the game "ugly" you are downright mental and I will stab you with one of those unrealistically thin (but cool!) spikes from the game's caves. Right in your eye. Which is probably busted anyway.
And the music is quite amazing as well. It's subtle and subdued, which is very appropriate for the experience. Not much to say about it, but if you enjoy Brian Eno's ambient works, you'll dig the soundtrack.
Now, the writing. Fuck it, I'm not gonna sugar coat it. It's badly written pretentious bullshit nonsense. I had no fucking clue what was going on or who the characters were and what happened to them and by the end I didn't give a shit anyway. I like story-driven games. I absolutely lovedTo the Moon, and as a teenager I played through almost every LucasArts adventure game. And I do enjoy reading books! I even enjoy Shakespeare plays! But this? This is either supremely incompetent or it's just not for me - probably a bit of both. I should say, however, that I also hate the writing of Charles Dickens, so maybe if you enjoy his work like "Oliver Twist" you'll find something positive here.
What about its merits as an "experimental game"? It definitely is a little experimental (although not in any sort of interesting way), but it sure as hell is not compelling. You want a compelling experimental game that will really blow your mind? Check out The Stanley Parable. It's free, it respects your time, it even has replay value, and the writing and voice acting are better than in Dear Esther. Move along, folks, nothing to be seen here.
Was it worth $10? Meh...I think the audio-visual experience alone would have been worth $5, but $10 is a stretch.