Begin a journey through one of the most original first-person games of recent years.
User reviews: Mostly Positive (3,881 reviews)
Release Date: Feb 14, 2012

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Recommended By Curators

"Not for everyone, I realise, but as an example of games trying Something Else, I think Dear Esther is hard to argue against."
Read the full review here.

About This Game

“A deserted island…a lost man…memories of a fatal crash…a book written by a dying explorer.”

Two years in the making, the highly anticipated Indie remake of the cult mod Dear Esther arrives on PC. Dear Esther immerses you in a stunningly realised world, a remote and desolate island somewhere in the outer Hebrides. As you step forwards, a voice begins to read fragments of a letter: "Dear Esther..." - and so begins a journey through one of the most original first-person games of recent years. Abandoning traditional gameplay for a pure story-driven experience, Dear Esther fuses its beautiful environments with a breathtaking soundtrack to tell a powerful story of love, loss, guilt and redemption.

Forget the normal rules of play; if nothing seems real here, it’s because it may just be all a delusion. What is the significance of the aerial -- What happened on the motorway -- is the island real or imagined -- who is Esther and why has she chosen to summon you here? The answers are out there, on the lost beach, the windswept cliffs and buried in the darkness of the tunnels beneath the island… Or then again, they may just not be, after all…

Dear Esther is supported by Indie Fund.

Key features:

  • Every play-through a unique experience, with randomly generated audio, visuals and events.
  • Explore Incredible environments that push the Source engine to new levels of beauty.
  • A poetic, semi-randomised story like you've never experienced in a game before.
  • Stunning soundtrack featuring world-class musicians.
  • An uncompromisingly inventive game delivered to the highest AAA standards.

Soundtrack

Jessica Curry's haunting and beautiful soundtrack to Dear Esther, now available on Steam, has been a hit with gamers and critics alike. Reviewers have said ""Curry's score reflects the player's feelings without oppressively instructing them. Exquisitely constructed, both sonically and visually" (Eurogamer), "as beautiful as the game is, it’d be remiss not to mention Curry’s atmospheric soundtrack...impossible to ignore." (Edge), "spellbinding, fascinating aural landscape: a resounding success" (Square Enix), "Curry's delicate & understated musical score achieves a level of excellence. It's the ultimate achievement of composition." (Bitgamer). The soundtrack was shortlisted for the Excellence in Audio award at the Independent Games Festival 2012

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X

    Minimum:

    • OS:Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / Vista64
    • Processor:Intel core 2 duo 2.4GHz or higher
    • Memory:1GB XP / 2GB Vista
    • Graphics:DirectX 9 compliant video card with Shader model 3.0 support. NVidia 7600, ATI X1600 or better (Pre-Sandybridge Intel graphics chipsets not yet supported)
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:2 GB HD space
    • Sound:DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

    Recommended:

    • OS:Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / Vista64
    • Processor: Quad core 2.4GHz or higher
    • Memory:1GB XP / 2GB Vista
    • Graphics:DirectX 9 compliant video card with Shader model 3.0 support. NVidia 8800, ATI Radeon 2900 pro or better (Pre-Sandybridge Intel graphic chipsets not supported)
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:2 GB HD space
    • Sound:DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
    • OS: MAC OS X 10.6.7 or higher
    • Processor: Intel Core Duo Processor (2GHz or better)
    • Memory: 2GB
    • Hard Disk Space: At least 2 GB of Space
    • Video Card: ATI Radeon 2400 or higher / NVIDIA 8600M or higher / Intel HD Graphics 3000
Helpful customer reviews
34 of 40 people (85%) found this review helpful
4.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 10
Dear Esther: Games as Art

Up till five years ago, discussions about games as a form of art, were largely considered as non-important. There was a more or less clear distinction between the "higher" arts, and the more "commercial" games, although many of those used elements from several arts (in-game music, often symphonic and with a classical feel to it, being just one example). With the rise of the Indie game-scene around 2010, things started to evolve fast. Since indie-developers are not bound by contracts to large (and indeed often very commercial) publishers, they found themselves in a position where experimenting with the medium of games itself turned into something viable.

One of the almost immediate consequences of this huge shift in focus, was the rise of what many have called since then "artistic games": games as the newest form of art, following in the footsteps of literature, music, architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, cinematography and the likes. This idea has generated some debate during the last five years, but it's still an underrated aspect of gaming. The one game that really stands out as maybe thé flagship of the artistic games, would surely be Dear Esther. Released in February 2012 by the small indie-company The Chinese Room, it made a huge impact on the gaming scene by the radical way in which it changes the entire concept of what a computer game is all about.

In this game there are no "goals" the player has to achieve, there is no such thing as "winning or losing", there is not even the possibility of playing well or badly, or of interacting with the environment. Actually, the gameplay is extremely limited: the player can only walk around on an abandoned island in the Scottish Hebrides in first-person view, with no running, jumping, climbing or crouching as in most first-person games. This immediately gives the game a very leisured pace, which may not be to the liking of everyone. Dear Esther has even been called a "walking simulator" - it's the most prominent of its tags on the Steam store at the moment. But it's nothing like that, in my opinion. Thsi game is not about the physical walk around the - extremely impressive and atmospheric - island. Dear Esther tells another kind of story: a story that happens within the main character, and one that is told with such emotional force that I as a player not only identified myself with the character, but also started to actually FEEL like he does. Now that's a rare experience in any game up till now: the feeling that the entire game, with all its components (visuals, story, music in this case) got under my skin in such a way that I got emotionally involved to a very, very large extent. I won't spoil anything from the story, but it's nothing light-weight to be sure and the game has stayed with me since I first played it three weeks ago.

And there is not really much more to say about this amazing, almost genre-defining piece of art. Actually, the debate may not be if it's a piece of art (most will agree to that), but to whether it's a game or not. To my opinion, it's certainly both, and as such stands proud as one of the prime examples of artistic games that give as rich and rewarding an experience as reading a novel by Daphne du Maurier, looking at a painting by Turner or listening to a sonata by Mozart. But be advised: this gem calls for your complete attention, so headphones and a dark environment are recommended. Especially so since the soundscape the game provides, be it from the howling of the wind to the eerie, haunting music by Jessica Curry, deserves every inch of attention.

Overall score: 9/10
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15 of 17 people (88%) found this review helpful
2.5 hrs on record
Posted: November 4
"How many dead shepherds could fill this hole?"

Dear Esther is the kind of video game which is doomed to be criticized. The reason is gameplay for you only do three things: walk, listen and watch. Formula like this can encouraged a decent number of people to confer a title of Walking Simulator - 2012 on this adventure game from the young British developer The Chinese Room , who previously worked on the atmospheric Half-Life 2 mod Korsakovia. But at this point gamers of all ages should ask themselves a question: do they need another rank-and-file FPS on already flooded modern VG market or are they open for innovative ideas and blending of various kinds of art?

Dear Esther originated from a Source engine mod of the same name made by The Chinese Room in 2008. In this completely reworked standalone only WASD and a mouse are required to play (get your left-hand middle finger ready). Taking into consideration this fact, if Dear Esther was the first video game ever made by man, the industry would have been slightly different... However, alternate history theories aside, DE is to be considered as an unusual experiment, which strays from traditional principles of electronic entertainment. Gameplay is stripped of some now widespread features: interactive objects, logs, and puzzles. It takes away the fun in a traditional sense of the word though it may be all this have been sacrificed for the sake of storytelling and getting more engaging and emotion-focused experience.

The storyline is one of the strongest points of the title. Presented in a form of an audio messages, it tells about the man who lives (lived?) as a hermit on an island in the Hebrides - an archipelago just off the coast of Scotland. He wrote a letter to Esther, supposedly his wife, and messages you hear exploring as an unnamed silent protagonist are clippings from this writing. They appear when you reach certain spots of four different locations. This feature adds some replay value to a mature, if rather short journey as one can discover new pieces of the story should he visit places he missed in the next play-through. Writing is top-notch, the narrator is brilliant and reminds of the great Richard Burton, who lent his voice for Jeff Wayne's 1978 epic rock opera War of the Worlds. The story raises some major existential questions, leaves room for interpretation, and overall feels like it has been inspired by H.P. Lovecraft works.

Dear Esther looks and sounds gorgeous. It is not about photo-realistic visuals but about crafty game of light and dark, sounds, colors, and shapes. The island feels alive: grass sways, water flows, caves breathe and glimmer. The result: the most impressive landscapes which are competing in one league with Dead Space franchise and Skyrim. Sound design is faithfully backing it all up as everything - from chilly wind to distant ship horns - sounds naturally yet somehow unusual, out of this world. Combined with serene, at times dreadful music by Jessica Curry, it makes a huge impact, immersing one into the atmosphere.

Giving the game credit where credit's due, it is more than just a bold experiment. Dear Esther is an indie title which shows that gaming has grown up and is not just about mashing buttons and shooting galleries anymore. It offers no challenge but challenges your mind. It doesn't pull of any tricks but occupies it's own niche and broadens the boundaries of PC gaming, thereby bringing rage upon itself. For $10 you get 2 hours of sheer aesthetic joy on your PC. Only if your slogan is "No gameplay, no game", there is nothing for you here and there will never be.
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
9.5 hrs on record
Posted: November 15
This is an excellent way to share some time with yourself, in a very intimate way. Only for loners.
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11 of 18 people (61%) found this review helpful
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 30
Definitely the best walking simulator out there i'd say
10/10
would walk again
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27 of 49 people (55%) found this review helpful
1.3 hrs on record
Posted: October 25
I loaded up Dear Esther on my computer with high expectations. I'm a new gamer and have an arts background, so I have enjoyed exploring some of the indie games instead of the usual gun-blazing brain-blasters that seem to be so popular. I had just finished playing Gone Home and really enjoyed it. From the reviews I had read, Dear Esther was supposed to be an even better narrative-driven game. It wasn't.

When I realized you can't DO anything -- no object engagement, swimming, or overcoming the tiniest of obstacles -- I patiently explored the island, waiting for something to happen. About an hour and a half into the game I decided to give up for the day, feeling like I'd seen a lot of stunningly beautiful landscapes, but that's about it. When I reloaded the game on another day, I discoverd I was forced to start from the beginning, and there was no way I was spending another hour and a half of walking an island with nothing happening just to get through the last of the dull storyline.

I'm sure the story is great, though the metaphorical and lyrical language that guides the game was pushed too far and comes off a bit pompous-sounding. They tried too hard to be brilliant with this one, and it comes off as unnatural and forced. Skip it.
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8 of 13 people (62%) found this review helpful
1.1 hrs on record
Posted: November 14
I play games to experience a story. This game made me take an excruatingly slow walk with some guy who is seemingly really high. Would not recommend unless you enjoy said activity.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 7
I was utterly taken with this game from the moment I started playing it. The minimalistic soundtrack and utter freedom you are given to wander as you wish entranced me throughout the short time I played it. The narrator speaks as though reading poetry, though I questioned throughout the sanity of the narrator. Grief can do funny things to a person...
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
4.1 hrs on record
Posted: November 8
Ever noticed how, very occasionally, you will play a game, listen to a piece of music, watch a movie or whatever, and you know, as soon as you've finished that it will stay with you for a long time?
I'm getting that right now.

I've just played through Dear Esther twice and I find it to be time and money VERY well spent.
This is not a game in the conventional sense.
If your fix is usually space marines shooting aliens, this might not be for you. It is very unorthodox.

It has no enemies, no other characters, no items, no object interaction at all. All you do is walk and explore as the back story unfolds through often dreamy monologues.
But therein lies its strength. It really does try something different, and it pays off.

It really is beautiful. It's a couple of years old now, but if you crank the settings up to full it really shines. This is due in large part to the actual art direction and creation of the island setting. It looks very natural with no copy and paste going on and it all takes place in dusk or night time so it looks moody and washed out.
Seriously, take time to look around at the scenery.

The sound is completely perfect and enhances the experience no-end.
The musical score is haunting and perfectly timed to coincide with epic scenery or other happenings. The narrator (the only voice in the 'game') does an excellent job as well.

It's a strange thing that a game in which you do so little can have such an impact, but that really is the case for me.
This game is as beautiful/haunting/mysterious as it is unorthodox.
It won't be for everyone, but if you are open to something different, put those headphones on, turn out the lights and go for a walk :-)
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12 of 22 people (55%) found this review helpful
2.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 28
My recommendation to anyone thinking about playing this game is to go into it with the proper mindset. It is not so much a game in the traditionally understood sense of the word. Rather, Dear Esther is an almost entirely cerebral experience. It works on the player in much the same way a good painting will effect an observer who sees in the art not merely a window looking out on our own world, but that same world slightly altered by the surreal, and thus bringing to light things about ourselves we might not otherwise see. That said, Dear Esther, by it's very poetic nature, is one of the most immediately captivating games I have encountered; I do not believe it should be overlooked simply because it does not conform to the usual way in which people have come to view video games.

Overwhelming is the sense of solitude on this gloomy, desolate Hebridean island. Heavier still is the desperately sorrowful soundtrack, by Jessica Curry. In style, it is similar to film composer Christopher Young's most sparsely written music, and plays as a more effective voice in this introspective journey than does the admittedly potent narrator. I often find game music lacking in its ability to plunge beneath the fabric of a game and tug to light its individual and vibrantly beating heart, but this is a rare instance where such a feat is accomplished. Haunting as any chamber music has ever been, the score to Dear Esther will probe the emptiness within each of us, and get us contemplating questions most prefer to ignore.

This is a relatively short journey, requiring the gamer to simply progress across the island until they have reached a lone radio mast. There are no decisions to be made, no objects to interact with, and the fragmented narration of the main character plays out as you progress. The epistolary narrative renders the intent of the story in a vague light, like a sequence of events seen through shimmering tears. It is debatable what Dear Esther is actually trying to say (and I believe it to have been done that way intentionally), but anyone willing to open themselves to the voices haunting this Scottish island are certain to draw some very strong conclusions.

To me, the story deals primarily with unspeakable loss, and how we set ourselves up for even greater heartache (potentially leading even to madness) if God is not our anchor in all things. I, for one, see the issue of personal transcendence (as it is articulated at the end of the game by the main character's leap from the radio tower, who then begins a ghostly flight across the moon-dappled sea, followed by a black fade) to be illustrative not of our ability to achieve such a spiritual shift on our own, but exactly the opposite: There exists within fallen humanity a perpetual, aching cry to be delivered, redeemed--to transcend the shattering effects of our sinful natures.... But humanism cannot accomplish this miracle, nor any form of man-centered religion focusing on personal moral performance or upon the sincerity of their emotions as they are connected to a certain belief system. The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only atonement by which we can be saved from all this death. He is the only peace, the only Truth. The end result of all other efforts at redemption lead only to chilly shadows and vacuous spaces brimming with regret.

Hopefully sharing my personal interpretation of Dear Esther does not come across as a clumsy effort to proselytize (if that were the case, I would certainly have given the Gospel in its fullness), but rather illustrates the power and versatility the player can expect to experience by such an unconventional game as this.

For anyone looking to plunge beneath the surface within themselves as they embark upon the solitary journey to the radio tower, Dear Esther offers surprising treasures that periodically flash their brilliance even years after the experience has ended.
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3 of 5 people (60%) found this review helpful
1.6 hrs on record
Posted: November 7
Feels like wandering in a painting of a dream. I could've made thousands of screenshots, but each one would be like a spoiler to the story told. Poetry made into a game experience.
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4 of 7 people (57%) found this review helpful
0.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 12
If you're looking for a good story with a wide breadth of immersiveness, multiple layers of events and dailogue, clever detailing, pacing, prose, good characters, setting, and imaginitive visuals and imagery, then listen to my advice. Pick up a novel off your bookshelf. Sit down with a nice coffee on your favorite peice of furnature and seize the day. This game needs to be substantially better in every aspect for it to a. achieve what its creators likely envisioned and b. be worth your time & money.

This would only appeal to people with lack of good literature or similar slower paced or more punctilious media in their lives. I really don't see what the big deal is, maybe the people playing this game are really stoned.
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1 of 2 people (50%) found this review helpful
5.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 24
There are no bad guys to kill, obstacles to dodge or jump scares. The only button aside from movement is "zoom in". If that's a deal-breaker, this isn't for you.

I got completely lost in the atmosphere of this game. After playing it for the first time, I immediately played it two more times back to back. Each time there were different voice-overs and changes to the environment of varied significance.

The environment is immersive and expresses the mood throughout. As for "gameplay", the story itself is the game. You have to interpret and piece it together, and the game won't walk you through it or tell you if you've won. Maybe it's not a "game", but whatever it is, I wish there were more.
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7 of 14 people (50%) found this review helpful
5.0 hrs on record
Posted: November 7
I highly reccomend this game, especially to those who are stressed or suffer from anxiety or any kind like that.
You get extremly captivated by the game, it helps me wind down when I'm having a panic attack.

The scenery is absoloutely beautiful, and the story too.

10/10 from me.
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1 of 2 people (50%) found this review helpful
0.6 hrs on record
Posted: November 13
This is not a game for everyone sure the graphics are fantastic but at the end of the day it's an interactive movie with very little interaction other then walking.
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9 of 19 people (47%) found this review helpful
1.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 28
An interesting concept, but I just couldn't get into this one as much as some of the other exploration-style games.
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4 of 9 people (44%) found this review helpful
2.1 hrs on record
Posted: November 13
Dear Esther,

Please don't buy this game. It's awful, and just when you think it's about to begin, you discover you're actually at the end. Buy a decent book instead.

Thinking of you always.

Lots of love,
Scanner
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0 of 1 people (0%) found this review helpful
2.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 24
The game is a work of art, it inspires wonder with a little bit of fear of the unknown. It's best to walk into this game not knowing what to expect. When you see certain things, you almost don't believe it. I will always remember this experience.
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0 of 1 people (0%) found this review helpful
4.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 28
Superb game, easily one of the best I've ever played. The stroytelling is exceptonal and the story itself is even better. It really makes you think and wonder, and the ending was great. The one problem is they dont really explain the coltrols very well. tis is mostly ok, considering you do nothing but walk, except that they dont tell you how to save. There is no button in the pause menu (you have to press F5 while ingame). This led me to some frustration at having to replay the entire thing every time I quit, but it wasn't actually that bad because the monolouge changes slightly with each playthrough, which ups the replay value of an otherwise very linear game. On top of all this, the game is gorgeous. The plants are especially nice, but overall it is a very pretty game, and runs very well for it. My one complaint on that front is that the max resolution is a bit over 1080p (about 1500 by 950) and that while there was an option in the menu for anti-aliasing, when I clicked it it wouldn't change. Despite this I would strongly recommend this game to everyone. Trust me, you wont regret it.
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0 of 1 people (0%) found this review helpful
19.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 29
Dear Esther is a mesmerizing, haunting, yet almost ethereal experience where you wander through the environment, piecing together the story like a memory through the components of music, sight, and the almost-poetic fragments as they become known to you. Not a game in the traditional sense, Dear Esther is more like an art piece, with you one of those pieces, hosted like a novella which uses its virtual cinemascape like a theater stage, you as both performer and audience. Be prepared to take your time, let it move you, and play it more than once to pick up on those stange little things you might miss first time around. Definitely a mood-setter.
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4 of 10 people (40%) found this review helpful
1.1 hrs on record
Posted: October 26
The perfect game just for walking in beautiful serene places, it's seriously dreamy. The walking isn't even that slow, don't know what those people are talking about at all.... *Raises eyebrows* ... lack patience much? Sheesh!

If you want to go for a nice walk and hear a story, go here! :D
The cave is the best level. ;)
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