The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, A Brief Review

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draclvr
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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, A Brief Review

Postby draclvr » Sun Oct 05, 2014 2:13 pm

Since there is so much “buzz” about The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, I’m going to write up my thoughts on this game right after finishing it last night while it’s still fresh in my mind. This will be from the viewpoint of someone who does not play very many adventure games and is a long, long way from an expert puzzler.

This is a first effort from The Astronauts. Please visit the official website for this game for more information and some excellent gameplay videos.

Ethan Carter Game

First, a couple of points about the game you should consider before you buy it. It uses real time 3D movement, so if you have an issue with motion sickness playing these games, you may not be able to play this one. There is also one short scene of fairly graphic violence, so be forewarned if this bothers you.

Image

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first person game told through the eyes of Paul Prospero who seems to have been summoned by Ethan to solve a series of murders in Red Creek Valley. As you begin walking along abandoned railroad tracks and a rutted road, you will be struck by scenery that takes your breath away. I found myself staring off in the distance at the lake and other scenes many times. The graphics in the game are nothing short of stunning.

In this game, you should explore everywhere. And what I liked is that you can actually do that. Unlike the limitations of a point and click game, you can go almost anywhere. The game uses the WASD keys for movement and the mouse for direction and panning. I am very used to using this method while playing RPG and FPS games, so it was natural for me. But even if you are not used to it, it’s very easy to pick up.

The game is very minimalist as far as dialogue with no dialogue trees or dead ends. There is a bit of a Myst feel because Paul is completely alone in his quest to solve what happened in Red Creek Valley. There is a clever Touch sense which increases each time you solve a part of a murder. When you finally solve what happened, the Touch sense completely opens to a cut scene which will start building the story, which also seems to involve some kind of mysterious Sleeper.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is not overtly scary, but is disturbing and very eerie. I believe the developers refer to the atmosphere as “clammy unease.” However, the mines are extremely creepy with several scares. I would highly recommend playing at night with the lights out!

This is not a long game – I spent about 7 or 8 hours playing. Expert gamers have said it was a short game only taking about 4 or 5 hours to play. But my opinion is that if you rush through and think of it as just a “game,” you will miss the opportunity to just transport yourself to Red Creek Valley and become Paul Prospero for a while.

All this being said, the game started out with a bad decision to use infrequent auto-saves instead of a manual save system. I’m sure infrequent auto-saves are fine for those who have several hours at a time to devote to gaming. However, for those of us who are only able to grab an hour or maybe even less now and then, it simply doesn’t work. I had to play parts of it over and over because I had to quit before I reached an auto-save after solving a murder or a puzzle. It totally ruined the efforts of the developers to make the game completely immersive. I would have even relished an auto-save upon exit from the game.

I say the game started out with the infrequent auto-save system because the developers very quickly released 3 patches which vastly improved the save system. It’s still not great, but it’s doable and I finished the game with much less frustration at having to replay parts because I had to quit. I must give KUDOS to the developers for listening and responding to the players so quickly.

The Astronauts is a small studio consisting of only eight obviously dedicated game developers. If The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is any indication, I will eagerly anticipate future games from them. It is efforts like this that put the lie to the “adventure games are dead” statements.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is available from STEAM and GOG. I got mine from GOG as I prefer their DRM-free games. I burned the download to a disk before installing so I wouldn’t have to re-download the nearly 6 GB file. Because of the exceptional graphics, you will need a fairly hefty video card. Integrated graphics will not work on this game. I played the game on the system I built about a year ago:

Core i5 3470, 3.8 GHtz
Nvidia GTX 660Ti
8 GB RAM
Windows 8.1 64-bit

Minimum system requirements are:

Windows XP SP3 / Vista / 7 / 8
Intel Core2 Duo or equivalent AMD
4 GB RAM
Video card with 512MB of VRAM
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Hard Drive: 9 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX9c compliant
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Re: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, A Brief Review

Postby LadyKestrel » Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:59 pm

Nice review, Drac! I really like the look of this game, but unfortunately, they didn't port it to Macs.
Winter is an etching, spring is a watercolor, summer is an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. -Stanley Horowitz
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draclvr
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Re: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, A Brief Review

Postby draclvr » Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:29 pm

Hopefully, if this small studio is successful, their budget will allow porting to the Mac in the future. This game is such a great addition to the future of adventure gaming.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys.
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Re: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, A Brief Review

Postby Rosaboobie » Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:24 am

Great review :cool:
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Re: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, A Brief Review

Postby draclvr » Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:44 am

The Gamescon trailer really gives you a good idea of the feel of this game.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys.

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