Dear Esther has the holy trinity. Beautiful graphics, a heart-wrenching soundtrack, and wonderful writing that deeply invested me in the character.
The thing with Dear Esther is that everything is supposed to invoke the feeling of isolation, of being completely and totally alone. There are moments when the music drops out and leaves you with nothing but the crunching of stones underfoot and the wind desolately howling in your ears.
These introspective moments serve a very good purpose, and it’s not to make you uncomfortable or out of laziness. Dear Esther isn’t a game where you’ll be running from enemies or killing things but is one for the player to interpret their experience themselves. It’s not that straightforward of a game.
The Landmark Edition of Dear Esther contains directorial commentary by the developers, The Chinese Room, and they strongly emphasized in the dialogue that this isn’t a game where they’re going to tell you with audio or visual cues how to feel. This is really important, as so many games these days will hold your hand — telling you how to feel, assaulting your every sense with jump scares and strange noises until you’re stressed and quivering behind the sofa.
Everything about Dear Esther is supposed to invoke the feeling of isolation.