There are a lot of games in the “walking simulator” genre. I have not played a ton of them. They have never been my style. After digging through What Remains of Edith Finch though, I have a newfound respect for the storytelling these games can provide. So when The Vanishing of Ethan Carter dropped onto Xbox One years after its initial release, I decided to check it out for myself.
The first thing I noticed upon entering its world is how gorgeous this game is. Being late to the party, developer The Astronauts were able to take advantage of Microsoft’s powerful new X console. The game runs beautifully and offers up two modes, one for resolution, and one for frame rate. The world of Ethan Carter is simply stunning. Lush vistas and worn down buildings really sell the world.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
The story of Ethan Carter revolves around a boy who has gone missing. Players take on the role of Paul Prospero, a supernatural detective in hopes of finding out what happened to Ethan Carter. Ethan has been sending Paul fan mail for quite some time, but when the letters turn dire, Paul sets out to find the boy and discover just exactly what is going on.
The journey only lasts a few hours, but it is filled with plenty of interesting twists and turns that kept me engaged throughout. Where the game comes up short is its open-ended approach. Most narrative games work because of the design that leads players down a path. Ethan Carter does no such thing. The world is completely open and there are not arrows or guides to push players along. It is entirely up to the player to explore and discover everything.
At first it is liberating. I loved being able to discover things at my own pace. However, some of the design decisions led me in circles. Thankfully unlike other titles in the genre, Paul can move at a brisk pace. Which means searching the large environment doesn’t take longer than it has to.
What I did love about the game though is all the stuff it manages to throw at players. There is a nice mix of game types and puzzle design throughout the adventure. I just wish the game took the time to dive deeper into the characters within it. By the end I felt like there were a few too many plot holes for me to fully invest in some of the people I ran into along the way.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a solid experience that I really enjoyed taking. It could have benefitted from a little more structure and fleshing out the characters a bit more. Still, it is great to finally have the game come to Xbox, and I am happy to have experienced it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.