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February 15, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Dear Esther was (re)released today. An 'interactive ghost story', Dear Esther began as a Source engine mod for Half-Life 2. (previously) It was given a wide-ranging graphical upgrade and commercially released today on Steam. PC game blog Rockpapershotgun has opinions here and here.
posted by Sebmojo (17 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Though 'interactive' is usefully glossed in the second of the two RPS links:

My only interaction with this place was to look at it, to experience it. To react to what my own mind summoned in response, not to on-screen prompts or physical reflexes. Dear Esther is, in a very real sense, boring. It is supposed to be. Lonely tedium, that slow, slow walk through a stark land, leads to subconscious introspection. Ever walked along an empty beach at night? Sat alone on a hillside on a cold winter morning? Where did your mind go? Wherever it was, that’s where Dear Esther can take it. If you let it.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:48 PM on February 15, 2012

So is this any different than the HL-mod from a few years ago?
posted by patrick54 at 3:50 PM on February 15, 2012

Much, much prettier. From John Walker's WIT (first link, above):

The caves are stunning. Just utterly stunning. While the whole island is meticulously detailed and extremely pretty, the caves are something else, masterfully lit and so intricately crafted, that I found myself taking screenshots not to illustrate the review, but to set as my desktop background. Photographs for a frame, rather than images for a website.

And a lot of tweaks, extra music and voice clips. But it is essentially the same experience.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:55 PM on February 15, 2012

Any time I see the name I think of an old game my school had on the Amstrad, which after a little investigation I now discover was called Granny's Garden. The first kid you have to find is named Esther, which when I was 6 or 7 was a very strange name indeed.

Looking at the "updated" graphics on that page, those dragons appear to be the stuff of nightmares.
posted by dumbland at 4:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The first one was really good. I liked the walking-through-a-story idea, following (more or less) the protagonist's footsteps. Two things I hope they've fixed is the whispered voices in the beginning that were saying "wait" or "come back" or something. I kept going back to the shack and the boat and the waters edge for like 15 minutes trying to find whatever it was I'd missed until I got pissed off and left. Not the best way to start the story. Second was the silhouette at the top of the cliffs didn't disappear, so I could walk up to it and jump on it's head and stuff.
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best part, the game was profitable in less than six hours after being released.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:55 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, I should say as a semi-interactive environment/story/experience it's very good. Kinda spooky, very melancholic. I'd recommend it.
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:57 PM on February 15, 2012

The researcher who created the original Dear Esther did another avant-garde Source mod called Korsakovia, which was slightly more of a "game" than Dear Esther, but even more weird and ambitious. It's free and short; if you have the patience for a little avant-garde art-wank, I recommend it.
posted by Zozo at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

About 90 minutes of gameplay for 10 bucks, fyi.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2012

Apparently a Mac port is in the works, which makes me very happy.
posted by brundlefly at 6:49 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I adored the original mod. The first time I tried to play it, I had the same issue as Zack_Replica, where I kept going back to the shack because of the whispered voices. Then I fell down a hole and got stuck, and I had to reload. Then an invisible wall got me stuck and I couldn't move forward, so I gave it up and called it stupid. But the next day, on a whim, I decided to try again. And wow, it turned into an amazing experience, like living in a surreal dream. I can still see the cliff paintings if I close my eyes. I had no idea it was being re-released with better graphics, and I'm downloading it right now. Well worth the $10 if it's even close to the original.
posted by gemmy at 7:08 PM on February 15, 2012

Two things I hope they've fixed is the whispered voices in the beginning that were saying "wait" or "come back" or something.

It may just be my timing, but it seems to say "come back" if you drown, before placing you back on the beach.

Basically, it's the same experience, but more so - the map is similar but cleaned up, the textures are more original and prettier. Rob Briscoe, a level designer formerly of DICE, has done some really impressive things with the graphics. The cave sequence is quite breathtaking.

It's not really something you play as much as move through - there is little to no interactivity, and the map is pretty linear. I'd compare the $10 cost with a ticket to see an art film at the Angelica rather than with, say, Nuclear Dawn - as Pinchbeck himself said, it's not so much a game as a game engine. Jess Curry's music is also excellent - very, very evocative and sometimes startling.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:54 PM on February 15, 2012

Yeah, they aren't kidding when they talk about the cave sequence, or emerging onto the beach afterwards. Many were the moments where I just stopped doing anything, listened, looked, and said 'wow.'
posted by FatherDagon at 10:59 PM on February 15, 2012

Does Roger Ebert have a steam account, I'd like to gift him a copy?
posted by Mick at 5:37 AM on February 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

"Roger Ebert's Steam account" is going to be my next username.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:50 AM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

posted by juv3nal at 9:20 PM on February 19, 2012

brainygamer weighs in
posted by juv3nal at 12:56 PM on February 20, 2012

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