Dear Ester is an experimental indie game built with the Half Life engine. In fact some have argued it shouldn’t be called a ‘game’ at all; the only mechanic is exploration. You walk along a largely linear path and are rewarded by a poetic voice-over every so often. You can look at things and take detours to look at more things while you try to figure out what it’s all about.
Some may find it boring; it is certainly a change of pace from the action-oriented games we’re used to, but I enjoyed it. If nothing else it is a relaxing walk across a beautiful Hebridean island. It’s like going outside but without the hassle of actually leaving your computer. The atmospheric audio makes it feel very authentic, accompanied periodically by haunting instrumental music.
The voiceovers – which are in fact letters to Ester – give you tidbits of information, unravelling a thought-provoking and high-concept story. It is filled to the brim with metaphors, symbolism and mystery. There are many questions raised but you are left to weave your own answers from the threads given to you. Needless to say I am not entirely sure what it is about. It explores an emotive issue with sensitivity and how much you connect with it is going to be personal to you.
Dear Ester is only an hour long but intended for replay. The voiceovers will make more sense with retrospect and you may notice things you missed the first time, plus the content is dynamic, altering slightly each time you play. There’s also the added incentive of ‘ghost spotting.’ A number of ghosts can be seen in the game, so keep your eyes peeled. (During my first attempt I failed to spot a single one even though some are quite obvious!)
Overall I agree that Dear Ester a not a game.
Dear Ester is Art. And as art it succeeds; it is beautiful and thought-provoking. A cathartic experience for creative or spiritual people.