Thoughts on: Dear Esther. Landmark Edition

[Russian version] 

By now, there’s not much to add on Dear Esther, really. Cleverly named «Landmark edition» already casually mentions how important the original mod and 2012 commercial release were in showing that games can be all about story and still find an audience. The main goal of this particular re-release, really, was to just make sure bigger audience can experience the game, since the original Source remake couldn’t work on consoles and additionally locked the developers into specific legal restrictions. So let’s quickly check what’s been changed.

In this video above you’ll be able to see the differences between all 3 versions of Dear Esther available today. Apart from obvious visual difference between the original mod and the commercial remake, Source and Unity versions have some mild changes between them. What’s not seen on the video is that Landmark Edition has a very welcome director’s commentary mode as a huge plus and all the different localisations are now part of the download. Although, note, that these are completely new translations. Comparing this one to my original Russian one, I gotta say, it’s not exactly better all the time. Where my attempts at poetic language felt clunky, new translation seems to simply disregard the tone of the game at times. Still, it sounds a bit less «amateurish» than mine version was.

What’s even harder to judge is whenever small visual changes are good. While seemingly higher vegetation and deeper contrast usually look nicer in the Landmark Edition, it seems that the remaster co-developers didn’t manage to bring back the beautiful soft lighting in the opening levels that shone on the grass, nor soft shadowing from the torch (flashlight). And some of the more contrasted scenes actually make less impact. As such, while caves are still beautiful and now have additional wet shine on the stones, it lacks the stunning HDR-photo-like quality in some of the amazingly looking parts, instead looking a bit too light or too dark. It feels as if slightly less care and craft was put into the remastering of the 2012 release, especially since the new voice clips from the previous release still sound jarringly louder and of slightly different audio quality.

So I can’t really say that the Landmark Edition is the best way to experience Dear Esther. If possible, it is better to play the 2012 release first and then play the Landmark Edition for the developer commentaries. Still, Esther is a powerful game that, if you’re in the mood, is very worth experiencing.