Dougie and I were knackered after the work day on Saturday, so we spent most of the rest of the weekend sitting aboot playing The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. This is a relatively new game, just a couple of months old, and is the first release from Polish studio The Astronauts.
It’s difficult to write anything of substance about the game without littering this post with spoilers. You play as a detective with paranormal abilities who is summoned to Red Creek Valley to investigate the disappearance of Ethan Carter. You reconstruct crime scenes, gather clues, and replay past events. That’s about all I can tell you, and really all you need to know. One thing I can say with complete certainty and without risk of ruining anything is that this is the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. The immersive, open world environment with its expansive views, highly detailed scenery, and ethereal flashbacks is stunning.
The Astronauts’ use of photogrammetry is an absolute triumph, but by the time we finished playing I was very much of the opinion that this game was more of a techniques showcase than anything else. Actual brain-using gameplay is a little sparse and consequently The Vanishing of Ethan Carter borders on being a walking simulator, albeit the best looking walking simulator you’ll ever play. It’s very short – we finished it in six hours – and the ending is so ridiculously clichéd and lazy that it almost ruined the game for me. Almost.
If you’ve got a spare afternoon, you could do much worse than devoting a few hours to this. It’s wonderfully eerie, unheimlich, sprinkled with deliciously dark narratives that recall the weird fiction stories and other tales of macabre of the early 20th century, as The Astronauts promised. It’s utterly engrossing, and the allusion to a certain tentacled old one made me smile. Ignore the annoying ending and enjoy the feast for the eyes.