Dear Esther’s Landmark Edition wandering out Tuesday

The ‘Landmark Edition’ of seminal walky story Dear Esther [official site] will launch tomorrow, developers The Chinese Room have announced. It’s basically the same game, but remade in the Unity engine with a few tweaks and a director’s commentary. It’ll be free for everyone who already owns the original Dear Esther, and it sounds like it’ll be separate rather than strictly an ‘update’, preserving that Source engine version and mod heritage. That’s nice.

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is a PC release of last year’s console version, which jumped engine to Unity. The Chinese Room worked in a few changes along the way, like new accessibility options including larger subtitles and a crosshair. Jessica Curry, Robert Briscoe, and Dan Pinchbeck also got together to make a director’s commentary, which comes (optionally) through little nodes scattered through levels in the Valve way.

It’ll launch tomorrow at 6pm GMT. February 14th is the fifth anniversary of Dear Esther’s commercial release (itself a remake of the 2008 Source mod), so this is a nice little celebration. Looking back in today’s announcement, The Chinese Room say:

“It’s been an amazing five years. Dear Esther is now recognised as a major title in gaming history, something we could never have predicted when we made it. Back then it was just a little game made with a lot of heart and passion. We made the best thing we could and didn’t expect much more than hoping a few people would like it and that we might make enough money to pay back what we’d borrowed. Five years down the line we’re an established studio and Dear Esther is widely cited as a genre-defining title.”

The genre it’s defining is, of course, the walky radio play – because we all know Dear Esther isn’t a walking simulator. That makes this official t-shirt an even cheekier joke.


  1. lglethal says:

    I’m going to ask the question – whats the best way to actually play Dear Esther? I tried it many moons ago when it first came out and bounced right off it. That was really before the whole Walking Simulator tag came out and so I defintiely went in with the wrong mentality. Whats the best way to go in now? Put some relaxing music on, and just wander around in the game or is there a path to follow that gets the most out of it?

    • haldolium says:

      Just play it as intended. Maybe on a couch with a big screen. Listen to the story, enjoy the beatutiful crafted environment. Dear Esther is entirely linear and not very long.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      I think DE is definitely one of those games that got too popular for its own good. It’s okay to bounce off it, it’s very much a marmite experience.

    • Zallgrin says:

      I had been intrigued by Dear Esther from the start – and I’d been watching a walkthrough on my mobile phone with my headphones jacked in. If it’s your thing, then you’d enjoy it any way possible.

      But speaking of ideal conditions – grey day or late evening, rain optional, quiet mood. Enjoying Jessica Curry’s soundtrack is vital, so make sure to turn up the volume. The game itself is largely linear, but there are nooks and crannies you can discover and information that might change your view on certain things.

      If you are annoyed by the slow walking pace, though, feel free to ignore the secondary paths and walk straight to where the main path leads you.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      The game world is actually pretty linear, just wander forwards and try and puzzle out what’s going on from the narration and the visible clues left around.
      I played it at night in a calm mood – much like a book, multi-tasking and music/youtube playing in the background will get in the way.

      If you find yourself thinking about the definition of “game” or pretentiousness, it may not be worth your time.

    • Ross Angus says:

      While FhnuZoag has a point, you could always take the “O” Grade English approach and try and answer the following questions:

      * What is the significance of the title?
      * Who is Esther?
      * What has brought the narrator to the island?
      * Is the island real? If not, what might it represent?
      * What happens during the ending?

    • Jalan says:

      Putting on other music and not listening to the music Jessica Curry wrote for the game is just sacrilege. Dump on any other aspect of the game if you must, but the music is a treasure.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I’d echo the comments above, take the game as it comes, although you’ll have to be prepared to do a bit of grinding towards the end if you want to beat the boss on your first try.

    • Halk says:

      The plot is one big joke, so basically think of it as a showcase of very beautiful level design and enjoy the great soundtrack.

  2. MajorLag says:

    Many games have ended up in my Steam Library over the years that I don’t recall purchasing. It’s a strange phenomenon that I believe modern physicists have termed “The Bundle Effect”. Many such titles have bored or disappointed me and are quickly forgotten, but Dear Esther, I think, I will remember for as long as live. Because I hated it so much.

    All you do is hold down W while some pretentious bullshit gets read at you in a random order because nothing it says is important enough to be worth understanding anyway. Oh, it’s very pretty, I’ll give it that, but since you can’t actually interact with anything, why not just watch a YouTube video? You can even hold down the W key if you like. The game won’t even let you escape its miserable pointlessness by drowning yourself. I know, I tried.

    Did it change the medium forever? Is it a Landmark title? Oh yes, absolutely, in the same way that Hitler was once Time’s Man of the Year. And now it is remade, but in a different engine! And I’ll get a copy for free, oh joy of joys.

    I’m sure someone out there likes this… thing. Maybe even as passionately as I dislike it. And I’m sure that person is madly typing away even as they read this, such is the nature of the internet. And that’s fine. Let anyone who hasn’t had the misfortune of paying money for this game yet read both and rely on their own judgement.

    And you know what? I should totally give credit where it is due. If a work of art can divide people so passionately, make them feel so strongly, yet differently, about it, then it deserves some recognition. Unfortunately for Dear Esther, it is obvious that was never the intent of the work, just a byproduct of it being pretentious garbage.

    • Ghostbird says:

      Since you can’t actually interact with anything, why not just watch a YouTube video?

      That’s an unexpectedly profound question. One answer might be that a game can deny you the chance to interact while a video never had the possibility of interactivity in the first place. Or you could take the view that the ability to pause and rewind a video makes it at least as interactive as (say) Thumper or Temple Run and what we’re really asking is why the artist chose this limited set of interactions over another.

    • Crocobutt says:

      I feel you.

    • Daymare says:

      I find being able to move around in a virtual space, observe, listen and try to interpret the things I see is enough interaction for me.

      People have been calling this game pretentious ever since it came out. Is it because for them the narrator speaks in purple prose? He IS very opaque, that’s true. There is a place for this kind of text, imo. And maybe it’s okay to do that in an indie game on a pretty Hebridean island.

      Either way, I’ve adored DE, mostly because I found the landscape beautiful and the soundtrack always moved me and set the mood perfectly. I didn’t need to understand 100% of everything that was said. One can figure out the main beats of the events, even though the language may be deliberately vague. I always enjoyed hearing/reading it, because the mental images it painted were pretty (e.g. the parts about coming here on a “paper boat without a bottom”)

    • Sonntam says:

      I can answer the question with the youtube video:

      1. It’s because no one pauses to read every single sentence on the wall and trying to pause at the correct timing is annoying.

      2. It’s because a youtuber pausing to read every single sentence written on the walls would be EXTREMELY annoying to me.

      I myself have first watched Dear Esther on youtube and then bought and played it myself. I felt a lot more comfortable holding the wheel, instead of backseat driving and being pissed at the driver for the too slow/too fast pace.

      It also feels incredibly good to stop walking and just stare at a glowing diagram for a couple minutes, listening to the waves and wind and trying to decipher what that picture stands for.

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      why not just watch a YouTube video

      For the same reason you go walk around a sculpture garden yourself instead of looking at one on YouTube, I suppose.

    • wonderingmonster says:

      I could not help but read your comment in Raphael’s voice from the Stanley Parable trailer.

  3. gbrading says:

    Good to know. Dear Esther is a bit depressing but I still find it ultimately uplifting, so I look forward to playing it again and hearing the director’s commentary.

  4. CelticPixel says:

    Always up for another stroll through Dear Esther while listening to its amazing Jessica Curry soundtrack.

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    Aerothorn says:

    I genuinely believe the mod version is the better narrative experience. There’s a careful balancing of multiple layers of interpretation, whereas the Briscoe version privileges one of them, so there ain’t a whole lot of mystery left.

    • alms says:

      I must give the mod another chance then; remember downloading it and then for some reason I can’t remember, bouncing off it at the very opening.

  6. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I enjoyed Dear Esther’s short journey, to the point of having a tear in my eye at the end. However, it doesn’t stop me laughing at the great Fitzthistlewits’ Let’s Play.

  7. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Loved it. Cried at the end (and I don’t wear my vest in bed and sometimes go outside without buttoning my coat up….nails).

    Nice excuse to visit again and see what my whizzy GPU makes of it.

  8. tonicer says:

    “last year’s console version” Yeah … i’m gonna keep my money, thank you.

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      phuzz says:

      Good news!
      From TFA: “It’ll be free for everyone who already owns the original Dear Esther”

  9. Danda says:

    “it’ll be separate rather than strictly an ‘update’, preserving that Source engine version and mod heritage. That’s nice.”

    That was the right call. Also, it’s free for those of us who owned the original. Kudos to the developers.

  10. Halk says:

    >It’ll be free for everyone who already owns
    >the original Dear Esther

    I own the original on the Humble Store and the Landmark edition is now available on the Humble Store. But nonetheless the LE does not show up in my Humble Store account, only the old version.