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Last year, The Chinese Room released a console version of its flagship non-combat exploration game Dear Esther—named the Landmark Edition—and suggested it would one day land on PC. It's now doing exactly that, the developer has revealed, and will be completely free-of-charge to owners of the original on Steam as of 6pm GMT/10am PT tomorrow.
With it comes remastered audio and developer commentary for the game which is widely considered to have sparked the 'walking simulator' genre. It's been ported from the original Source Engine onto Unity 5 and has additional accessibility options, large subtitles, a crosshair, multi-language options, and a smattering of trophies and achievements.
Since the launch of the 2012 original, a number of similar games have come along—not least The Chinese Room's own Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. Of the former, Chris described it as "a trip through a brilliantly conceived landscape that rewards attentive engagement with a moving story."
Here's the launch trailer for the game's PS4 variation:
In a blog post, The Chinese Room also promises a mega-exciting announcement which will be made at 10am PT/6pm GMT when the game launches. "[We] can't say more now," reads the post, "but follow us on Twitter because you really don't want to miss the boat on this one and it's extremely time sensitive."
Dear Esther may very well be the most famous walking simulator ever released, and also one of the best. Its 2012 release made enough of an impact that a remastered version called the Landmark Edition is in the works, and in October people who live in and around the great city of London will have the opportunity to enjoy it in an entirely new way: As a live on-stage performance.
Starting on a small beach, with only a brooding cliffs and a small lighthouse in view, BAFTA-nominated narrator Oliver Dimsdale takes you through the game, journeying from the desolate Hebridean island to a car crash on the M5, a crisis of faith of a guilty heart, the lost shores of a dreamed shoreline and a final ascent through the waters of madness to the release of flight, the play's description explains. With the playthrough of the game on-screen accompanied by live narration and a live performance of BAFTA-winning composer Jessica Curry s powerful score, the story is even more brought to life here.
I would absolutely attend this play if I could. I very much enjoyed Dear Esther in videogame form, and the chance to see a live performance by Jessica Curry, who composed and performed its soundtrack, would be worth the price of admission entirely on its own. And I think that having the interactivity, such as it is, taken out of the audience's hands will result in a very new sort of experience, too. Say what you will about walking simulators, but losing all control of your actions within the game world to basically be caught within another person's dream and to be forced to simply watch and listen may well lead to a very different perspective on what's happening.
Sadly, I won't be anywhere near the UK when the players hit the stage, but maybe someone will sneak in a camera. Dear Esther will be performed at 7:30 pm UK time on October 14, at the Milton Court Concert Hall. Tickets are 22.50 plus booking fee. Full details and links to book tickets for those of you who will be in the neighborhood are at barbican.org.uk.
BioShock isn't the only game that's about to be remastered for a new generation of hardware. The Chinese Room is updating its lovely, slightly spooky exploration-adventure game Dear Esther for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It's being badged as the Dear Esther: Landmark Edition, and will also be released to owners of the 2012 PC original as a free update.
The Dear Esther Landmark Edition is a faithful port of the Source engine original onto Unity 5, the studio said, with remastered audio, a new developer commentary track, additional accessibility options including large subtitles and a crosshair, multi-language menus and subtitles, and trophies and achievements.
The promise of achievements is bound to elicit a few snide giggles, as Dear Esther is widely considered to be the game that birthed the walking simulator genre a supposedly pejorative description of first-person games that lack interactivity. And it's true to a point: Dear Esther is, if you look at it that way, about nothing more than wandering around a rocky, windswept island while some guy blubbers in your ear. But it's a beautiful journey, filled with questions and ambiguity, the sort of experience you really take in, rather than simply finish. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a great game, but it was absolutely groundbreaking in the way it challenged widely-held perceptions of what videogames are, and could be.
(Yes, I liked it very much.)
The Dear Esther: Landmark Edition update will be released in a few months. The console version comes out on September 20.