Ten years ago today, the commercial remake of Hebridean gloom simulator Dear Esther launched. But this year, we're the ones getting presents. The developers, The Chinese Room are giving Dear Esther away free on Steam for 48 hours. Grab it by Wednesday and it's yours for keepsies. All the gloom and guilt and that wonderful, wonderful lonely island are yours! Happy birthday, dear Dear Esther, happy birthday to you.
You have until 3pm on Wednesday the 16th to claim a free copy of Dear Esther on Steam. It usually costs £8. This is the Landmark Edition, the 2017 Unity engine remake of the 2012 commercial remake of the 2008 Source engine mod.
Ten years ago, Dear Esther was strangely controversial for... oh god, even summarising the discourse is boring. Let's skip over that. What I will tell you is that it was notable enough for us to write two Dear Esther reviews. John went first, followed by Alec a few days later. They both liked parts of it, wandering the pretty island in particular, though questioned if they'd recommended it at the price. It's free right now, so... just get it?
My contribution (with Pip) to one of the many boring discussions surrounding the game is a tongue-in-cheek protestation that Dear Esther isn't even a 'walking simulator', okay, because it's too objective-driven, and calling it one does a disservice to many great aimless potter 'em ups. Pip offered the feeling-out-a-definition description that it's "a digital staging of a radio play, maybe", which is great. But I'm grateful that Dear Esther paved the way for other walking simulators to look at that path and say, "Yeah but what if I ignored paths, and ditched the overwrought writing, and just wandered about, feeling a mood?"
The Chinese Room's latest game is Little Orpheus, a platformer inspired by pulp adventure movies—quite different. After debuting on Apple Arcade in 2020, it's coming to PC and consoles on the 1st of March.