Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Indie Nation 63: Dear Esther

3:20 PM on 05.29.2009 // Anthony Burch

I have to admit -- I heard about Dear Esther from RockPaperShotgun, and their writeup is probably superior to whatever it is I'm about to blather on about regarding this moody Half-Life 2 mod.

Dear Esther is an incredibly slow-paced mod with no combat whatsoever and an emphasis on atmosphere over scripted narrative. It's subtle,unapologetic, and gets subtly goddamn unnerving near the end. If you've got the time -- and more importantly, the patience to deal with your character's agonizingly slow walking speed -- there's really not much else like it. 

Check it out here, or hit the jump for more of my commentary on it. 

Dear Esther feels to me like a cross between BioShock and Silent Hill, with everything but the atmosphere and the narrative removed. With literally nothing to do but search this island for clues, hearing the progressively madder rantings of a person who may or may not be your character, the game practically suffocates you with its atmosphere. Of course, the story is so damned vague that by the end you may only have an inkling regarding what's going on (I still don't know how the road to Damascus metaphor fits into anything), but you'll hopefully have just enough of an idea to be disturbed, and saddened.

What little plot there is gets delivered primarily through a sort of voice-over narration by someone who is writing letters to a woman named Esther. The environment itself puts forth a couple of clues, but  they unfortunately tend to rely on the narration to explain them. You'll see a diagram of a molecule or something, and rather than finding out why it's there or what it means through further exploration, you'll eventually trigger an audio letter that more or less explicitly tells you what it's there for.

As subtly unnerved as I was by several of the audio diaries late in the game, I would have loved to have gotten just as much information from the world itself, as was the case with something like BioShock or Portal. As it stands, the game world just sort of serves to confuse the shit out of you, until the voice-over narration comes along and make things (somewhat) clear with a wave of its hand. 

Still, there's something to be said for confusion. Being on this paradoxical island full of wrecked ships and scientific cave etchings is a wholly bewildering affair that, when combined with the (often too-loud) music and the narration, often made me feel like I was standing in the middle of a much more believable, and thankfully less monster-filled, version of Silent Hill.

The quiet, existential dread slowly creeps up on you as you slowly begin to piece together just what this island is, and what it means. There's no "a-ha" moment where everything just sort of clicks into place and everything is answered -- there's only the slow realization of where you are, and what it all might mean. The moments of realization in Dear Esther are not awe-inspiring or even necessarily gasp-inducing, but they get under your skin. The game's final moments may make your stomach sink just a little, or make your heart skip half a beat. 

Get it here, if you're still interested.

Also: when the game starts up, don't go along the beach -- the level is unfortunately designed in such a way that the beach looks like the right direction to go, but you're actually supposed to jump onto a grassy area and follow a barb-wire fence to the other side of the island. It's relatively easy to find your way around after that.






 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
If anyone wants to peep me having a quick, unpolished go at some cheesy Sonic music, the fun is here: https://soundcloud.com/justin-stewart-57/i-am-all-of-me-wip
Torchman avatarTorchman
Daily reminder that your waifu is shit. That is all.
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
While fighting a Lucas, I did Bayo's up taunt, then I remembered what happened to Lucas's Mom in Mother 3. Now I feel bad.
Xeo avatarXeo
Anyone played Digimon Cyber Sleuth yet? I'm hearing great things about it and strongly considering picking it up. Thoughts?
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
São Paulo's samba schools parade is about to start on tv! It is not as good as the one from Rio de Janeiro, but still pretty good and nice to watch. Also, there is some ice cold beer waiting for me and my girl. Yeah!
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Well, the Guinness is poured, and the Waifu Wars article is under way. Can you guess who it's going to be?
PappaBear avatarPappaBear
Impromptu Quiplash Stream Pre-FNF Come join https://gaming.youtube.com/watch?v=793yaFcpJyI
KingSigy avatarKingSigy
After a long struggle, I seem to have landed in a dream job. It's very exciting and nerve wracking, but I'm happy with where I ended up.
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
Got myself a job for the summer! Now celebrating with some freshly bought Gravity Rush.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
REMEMBER: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is on PS+ for PS3! For PS3/PS4 owners like me who have barely used their PS3's since the PS4, remember that Sony still supports it!
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
*Giggles with glee* img I am loving XCOM 2, even what little of the story I've seen is great! Lost one solider in the first mission. After if course completely failing it XD
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
So uh... I didn't know Nordic was handing out free upgrades of Darksiders 2 Dethinitive Edition for us owners of the original game + all DLC on PC. I wonder if it's even worth installing compared to the original release.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Change the text to Destructoid. Make the alien Mr. Destructoid. And make the skulls either just Jonathan Holmes, or all staff. [img]http://www.destructoid.com/ul/339243-/xcom2box-noscale.jpg[/img] We can make it into an unofficial shirt if it rocks?
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Can any California based Dtoiders confirm/deny how accurate American Truck Simulator is, scenery wise? Apart from the total lack of pedestrians, that is.As a Brit I remember playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 and not recognising a damn thing about Manchester.
ScionVyse avatarScionVyse
Wario getting a look at dat ass the only way he knows how.
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Okay, what the hell is Youth Health Mag and why is it always sited as a news source?
ScionVyse avatarScionVyse
I changed my avatar. You want to sue me? My lawyers are ready to trademark suing me so you have to pay me first.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
The multiple flavors of the soundtrack found in the options of Crypt of the Necrodancer is one of the coolest things I've ever seen a rhythm game do. Been happily replaying the earlier levels just to see a different artist's take on Danny B's original.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Welp, the steam lunar new year sale got me. By making me get BROFORCE!!!! I feel more patriotic already.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
DICKS! Now that I have your attention why don't you join our [url=https://discord.gg/0koh7AdmqhjF1egd]super unofficial Discord chat room[/url]? No installs required and it is always up. So far no spam, no drama, all fun and chit chat / dank memes.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -