The exploration game genre has been having a lot of talk about it in the last couple of years questioning its credentials of being a “real game”. From Dear Esther to Gone Home, both games have had a lot criticism since their release. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is easily though the best game of its type to ever release and is worth investing into.
This review is incredibly tough to write because it’s one of those story’s that you just don’t want to tell anyone about in the fear that it might ruin some of the enjoyment to others. The focus on The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is the story so to not mention any of it pretty much takes out all of content and critique of the game. All I will say is that it’s really intriguing, mysterious, and weird in a really good way.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is begins with you arriving in this town, and then it leaves you to explore everything yourself. They really mean this lack of handholding because it is literally the first thing that’s said to you when you begin the game. This really does allow you to explore the world in any way you see fit. You can literally just walk around and take in the world. This is a great freedom because The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. I could barely go ten steps without wanting to take a screenshot and upload it to Steam. I couldn’t stop just standing still and looking around, everything is stunning.
The picturesque landscape hold so much beauty and despair. The town seems abandoned as does the railroad track. The isolation found in the world is paired with the narrative poetic thoughts of your character. The beauty of nature is in stark contrast to what you will find when you explore as death ad violence is waiting between the trees.
The game is essentially about inspecting the scenes you find as go along, piecing the evidence together as they swirl around the evidence. It’s a nice aspect to include as it keeps the pace consistent.
It isn’t a perfect games as flaws are present. The save system isn’t perfect as it doesn’t seem to save all progress you’ve made as well as one section of the game that stands out as its weakest link in an otherwise stunning game. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has confirmed that you can make a truly excellent exploration game that does not force you down a set path.