Discussion The Patient Gamer - Dear Esther Landmark Edition - The Mother of All Walking Sims


Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
I know walking sims are a divisive topic in the world of gaming. "They aren't even games" "You literally don't even interact with anything" "Its somehow less interactive than a book" "Walk Forward: The Game"

Personally, I really like them. They are universally very calm games, typically with some solid writing/plot/story to tell such as genre standouts like Firewatch and The Stanley Parable. They make fantastic little palette cleansers between heavy duty gaming sessions. For me Dear Esther followed Tomb Raider 2013 and was such a welcome break from the chaos and brutality of the later title.

Dear Esther started out as a Half Life Mod which gained enough popularity to eventually launch as a stand alone title. A few weeks ago Steam was giving copies away for free, so I grabbed one and got playing.

The game takes place on a small island off the coast of the UK, a man washed up at the foot of a lighthouse begins a long climb to the island's small summit where a radio tower stands. As you navigate the quaint, derelict beauty of the small island your character narrates the events of his life that lead him and other hermits and outcasts to this small island, as as he goes further along you realize there is more to his story than initially meets the eye.

Walking Sims sort of live and die on their writing and characterization. Given this game spawned the genre, it isn't without its rough edges. The narration comes off as a bit too overwrought, with some lines early in the game that don't sound like something anyone would actually think or say to themselves. The writer seemed more concerned with sounding smart than necessarily sounding good. The effect definitely wears off by the later half of the game, but that can either be the result of the writer finding a good groove or because I couldn't detect the smarminess though my fancy cheese and wine (I know the vintner, its not a brand you can buy in the store).

Outside of that, the game still looks quite good from an art direction perspective and the sound design is fantastic with the narrator being excellently voiced and the musical score being appropriately dour. The graphics, from a technical perspective, have certainly aged but not nearly as badly as one might expect.

The whole experience was a quick jaunt, over in 2-3 hours tops, exactly the appropriate amount of runtime for a game of this nature, but plenty of time for my mind to reset and ready itself for another full bodied gaming experience.

If you want to try and space out your heavy duty gaming sessions with something more contemplative, calm, and visually pleasing, then Dear Esther is a solid pick for you. If you already like Walking Sims, the game may interest you from an historical perspective, but the genre has advanced quickly and you may find the game a bit too sparse for your liking at any price above free.
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Diamond Member
Dec 10, 2010
I recall when this game came out, and I was really tempted to get it. But never ended up doing so. I assume now during a sale its probably pretty cheap and worth checking out.