High art gibberish.
Dear Ester: Landmark Edition is a remake of a remake of a mod. It’s likely coming around again because it received quite the buzz the past two times it was released. It was widely praised for its uniqueness but was also mockingly called a first-person walking simulator. The Mod came out in 2008 and its first full release occurred in 2012, on the PC. It has now finally landed on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
You start at a pier on an island, just off the coast of Scotland. The only thing of any prominence on the barren island is a radio tower that sits high on a mountain. It appears to be the objective, so you slowly walk in that direction. Then, you get to the tower and the game ends.
Platform: Xbox One, PS4
Price I’d pay: $2
So the game isn’t just walking but it’s pretty close. Walking along the designated path will trigger voiceover of a British man who appears to be reading excerpts of letters written to Esther, most likely his wife. He says in so many words that he is stranded and that there was a shipwreck, which is later seen.
Just a few minutes in, I realized I had no idea what was going on and panicked. The narrator begins to reference names and places like I was supposed to know who and what these things are. Did I miss something? Was I not paying enough attention? Worse yet, I knew the definitions of 99% of the words he was using but could comprehend very little of it.
Strange diagrams and writings are all over the island, and weird sounds come and go. Every now and then something strange would happen that caught my interest. Unfortunately, those moments led to disappointment, because nothing of consequence ever came from them and they provided no context to the story – they’re just strange things.
After going through the game on commentary mode (a cool feature), I was relieved to find out that one of the creators admitted to creating something that wasn’t supposed to make any sense. It was supposed to be like a dream. This made me feel better about my comprehension skills but didn’t make the experience that I had gone through any more enjoyable. It was just an experience that felt all the more hollow.
I admire Dear Esther for what it did, when it did it. It was a novel concept that came from the humblest of beginnings. Unfortunately, the product of it all is short and unenjoyable. It feels like a dream in the worst way. It’s confusing, fatiguing, and the feeling of relief comes when it’s over. In that way, they couldn’t have done a better job.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.