The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first person mystery game with some puzzles with an emphasis on narrative. I'd say, if you are in to atmospheric stuff, puzzle games, or just really like good looking environments, this game is absolutely for you.
I'll say it right away; this game is quite short. Like most indie games that seem to surpass that level of quality that we "expect" when something is made on such a small scale (Journey, Dear Esther). As an Indie developer you can only make a game truly good if it's short (we're talking about linear traditional type of games, where it takes a long time to set up environments and set pieces). Either you make it linear and short, or you can make it open (which is a hit or miss design choice) and very long.
Not only is it short, but it also has very little replayability. There aren't many things to "discover" that aren't already integral to your progression in the game. So once you've finished, you've done everything there is to do, as far as I know.
So it's safe to say that TVOEC is one of those games that might not be worth the full price, if you don't appreciate short, but good games. I'm sure it will go on sale soon, anyways.
(I'll try not to spoil anything or even mention the narrative)
You kind of go in to this game not knowing much about it. It's called "The Vanishing of Ethan Carter", but who is Ethan Carter, and why are we here? How do we find Ethan? Do we find him at all? Is he real? Is anything real? What do I do? That's probably my favorite aspect of this game: It doesn't hold your hand, it gives you MINIMAL information and you get to put the peices together at your own pace. That's very much missing in most games these days.
The game starts out putting you right in the beautiful forest of Red Creek Valley. You''ll be impressed by the visual fidelity. Screenshots don't have anything on the actual beauty of seeing this game in motion. It has a very moody, melancholic aesthetic. You could say that it's "photo realistic" but no, I cannot agree with that. It has realistic assets, but the actual treatment of movement, sound, and color are not realistic, they're romantic and depressing (in true Swede nature).
Once you get to the first few puzzles, which are surreal, HP lovecraftian mini-adventures, you'll notice that some of them are thematically unrelated, that's because their only connection are narrative. There's sci-fi, fantasy, modern fiction, ect. all to be found in this game's stories. Which is actually incredibly creepy. It's hard to pinpoint why. I guess the surprise of seeing something so disconnected from what you expect the game to throw at you can be really off-putting (hopefully in a good way though).
The consistent mechanics that go in to the strictly narrative parts of this game are fairly straight forward, you inspect things, find a dead body, and find out what happened by placing everything in the place where they were before the murder, and "contact the dead". It is actually a really cool idea, and the execution is perfect.
Well, that's kind of all there is in this game, not including the story. It's short, but very very sweet. I'd say it's worth a swing if you're not insecure about non traditional gameplay *cough* people calling Dear Esther a walking simulator *cough*.