Close your eyes and imagine a game with a rich, in-depth and excellent story and narrative.
It’s a first person shooter.
Only it’s not a shooter. But it is first person.
That’s the best 3 line explanation of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter I can offer.
Over the last while, with the uprising in indie, crowd-funded and early access games, we’ve seen a much wider ranger of genres available, and some more risky than big publishing houses might have ever taken a chance on in the past. It feels like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of those games – it’s beautiful world, rich and involved narrative and excellent story are all told without you having to fire a single shot, which might make it less mainstream than those big publishing houses care to pick up. This is the beauty of the new distribution platforms we’re seeing – we get to see these kinds of titles come into being.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is hardly groundbreaking – games like Outlast and Gone Home have come and gone with mixed receptions but something about this one makes it feel special.
You play Paul Prospero, a gruff voiced paranormal investigator. The story twists and turns around a ‘fan letter’ you receive from a boy called Ethan which leads you to visit his town to investigate the contents of his letter. When you get there, you see the town is abandoned and Ethan’s family home has been burned to the ground. What follows is you piecing together The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
You do this with a trick or two up your sleeve, able to piece together crime scenes by examining clues and using his ‘sense’ to create a timeline and visualise the crime as it took place. It’s a solid idea and it’s pulled of well, as long as you’re a thorough explorer of the environment which can sometimes have the clues and puzzles too hidden in its dark, noir-like visuals. I found myself on more than one occasion having to backtrack to the start of an area to scour it for one more clue or object. It doesn’t feel torturous though, because the word is just so damn good looking I didn’t find myself too worried about having to explore it.
If I did have one criticism of the world though, is that each ‘crime area’ is not well enough seperated – you sometimes end up looking into the next area for clues for the previous area, which can be frustrating.
On the surface level this is a ‘find the clue’ game, but with the depth of the story and the incredible landscapes, it feels like so much more.
Oh, and then there’s that epic twist in the tale at the end…
He also hosts the nAvTV podcast and this here website is his domain.