Genre | First Person Adventure, Art
Developer | The Chinese Room
Platforms | PC, Linux, OSX
Website | http://dear-esther.com/
In Dear Esther, the player explores an island in the Hebrides while listening to narration detailing letters written to the eponymous Esther about various topics. Various locations on the island trigger various items of narration, and certain aspects of the island are randomized. Which items of narration are triggered is also randomized to a degree.
Dear Esther is a first person game. It has one hundred twelve items of narration, four levels, and one flashlight which activates automatically in dark locations. Some parts of the levels can only be explored in a linear order. Other parts allow the player to choose which direction to explore.
Some of the narration in Dear Esther contradicts itself. The narrator will use one symbol or metaphor in order to represent one concept and then later alter his use of the symbol or metaphor in order to refer to another object in a way incompatible with the first use of the symbol or metaphor. The narration focuses on four main characters, including a former inhabitant of the island and a man named Donnelly who visited the island. Sometimes the narrator’s diction bends or breaks the rules of English grammar.
The graphics in Dear Esther are in a realistic style. They depict beaches, cliffs, water, a lighthouse, caves, chemical formulae, moonlight, and other things. The sounds in Dear Esther are the sounds of the player’s character’s footsteps, the sounds of the sea, and other ambient noises, plus the voice of the narrator. The music in Dear Esther is classical, post-classical, and electronic in style, depending on the track in question. The music features piano, violin, and other instruments and sounds.
The different combinations of narration and scenes that appear in the game, combined with the player’s ability to observe or fail to observe certain details in the landscape that they explore, combine to form a narrative that does not specify certain aspects of the story. This allows the player to interpret the plot in a number of ways that are compatible with the player’s experience of the game. At certain points, quotes from the Bible relating to Paul the Apostle are used.