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Noises 14th June 2012 11:48 AM

The game that wasn't a game
I've been playing a lot of Day Z lately. Obscene amounts, in fact. It's everything a video game should be. There's vehicles. There's guns. There's zombies. You can even shoot your friends. But it's a strange creature. There's no linear story progression, the content is totally player driven. There's no attempt to balance the game, or carebear players in any way shape or form. It's not a game so much as a harrowing existence you log into and out of. Yet in spite of breaking the rules, or perhaps because of it, it's a hugely popular game right now.

But it's made me wonder, what else is out there in the gaming world, left of center, doing something different, breaking some rules? What's giving people the opposite of TDM gameplay? I decided to check out Steam Store to see what else is out there, and I stumbled across a masterpiece.

Dear Esther is not so much a game, as an explorable narrative. You don't shoot baddies. You don't rescue the princess, or win the race or solve the puzzle. You certainly don't have other people shooting at you for your beans. You just turn the graphics up to OH MY GOD THAT"S GORGEOUS and walk yourself through a deeply cerebral, mature and hauntingly beautiful, masterfully written storyline. And as strange as that might sound, not only does it work, it's even got the pull to draw you back over and over. Just to walk around and look.

The video was enough to make me spend the ten bucks and check it out. When I got to the steam store page and saw the soundtrack was also available as extra content I went for that too. This won't be for everyone, but I'm sure some older gamers will love this.

Pro tip, pay the extra $5 and buy the soundtrack. Beautiful, sparse ambient music with more than a hint of Celtic influence by Jess Curry. If, like me, you're a self described audio nut, it's more like paying $15 for the half price soundtrack and getting a very beautiful and different gaming experience for free.

And the story? No spoilers, but also worth the price alone.

Justin Kace 20th June 2012 03:06 PM

I found Dear Esther a little bit 'hipster', but still definitely worth the money and time, just for it being something quite different in terms of gaming. I intended to play through it again after my first playthrough, but haven't got there yet. I wrote a little Steam review... I'll see if I can find it.

A very peculiar experience. I wouldn't call it a game, it's definintely a story, and the player is more just along for the ride. It has some very nice visuals, and the music and narrative is great (although the narrative can get a little wanky in places). It took me 1.5 hours to play through and at the end I'm not sure how I feel about it. Wether my money would have been better spent elsewhere or my time would have been better spent in another game (or a book or listening to a CD, which is closer to what I was doing playing this). I think I'll revisit it, as it's apparently semi-randomised.

Not really a recommendation, this. As a story... I still don't really know what the full story was. As a game... It's just not. There are no puzzle elements, no choices (other than play the game or don't), no challenge (aside from the urge to damn my curiosity and quit). But it was still quite interesting, and only 1.5 hours of my life so I wont begrudge it that.

Justin Kace 20th June 2012 03:11 PM

Here are a few that I have found that are more art than game (imho!).

"These all also might be games for non-gamers. Even if you have never touched a video game in your life, just take a quick look.

Not really a game, but had impact. Freedom Bridge | Necessary Games

This lovely one bought a tear to my eye.

Another not really a game. Play it through twice and be daring! :) Every Day The Same Dream | Miscellaneous Games | Play Free Games Online at Armor Games

A curious and introspective little puzzle game. Keep playing this one. It's a little bit of beauty. "

SiHy 8th July 2012 11:42 PM


Originally Posted by Justin Kace (Post 3562079)
A curious and introspective little puzzle game. Keep playing this one. It's a little bit of beauty. Play The Company of Myself, a free online game on Kongregate "

I really enjoyed this one. A great example of a few simple ideas executed well.

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