The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review
There seems to be an increasing number of games being created where exploration is the main priority and holding the players hand is completely thrown out the window. These games were once a bold release, attempting to gain an audience of a gaming culture that is thriving on fast paced action and team orientated competitive multiplayer experiences. Although most of this newer genre, which I like to call ‘Walkathons’, are created by indie developers the sheer increase of releases proves there is a market for them. The main reason for their success is the originality within the world and story that is presented. It is within this genre that we find The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
You take on the role of super natural detective Paul Prospero who is investigating a disturbing case, “one that I know will be my last”, in the fictional town of Red Creek Valley. After receiving a disturbing letter from a young boy named Ethan Carter, Prospero sets out to find Ethan who has vanished in the wake of a brutal murder. The closer he comes to the town, the more he realises that things are much worse than he imagined, with a dark and powerful energy present within Red Creek Valley.
The first thing that stands out in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is the graphical quality. For an indie game that costs under $30 I was in awe of its beautiful environments. Red Creek Valley is a small town that comprises of only a few buildings set within a mountainous forest on the shores of a huge damn. The place is stunning to look at and coupled with a tremendous orchestral sound track you could be forgiven for falling in love with the area. This makes the task of exploration much more enjoyable. There were a few small frame rate issues when running, but overall the production is of extremely high quality.
Besides exploration your time will consist of investigating crime scenes. This has a puzzle element complimented, with the crime scenes needing to be reset to their original format. Once the elements used for the crimes are returned to their original positions, Paul can use his powers of supernatural inquisition to see the crime play out with visions of those involved playing out. These visions generally happen in five different times which needs to be arranged by you in chronological order. Once completed you witness the crime and are rewarded with a missing part of the story of the boys vanishing. It sounds complicated but works extremely well.
Realistically that is all that the game promises of; exploration and solving cases with Paul’s supernatural ability, which is never exactly explained. In fact explanation is quite sparse throughout the story. At times it feels as though you have no idea of what is going on. Solving cases can explain something yet raise questions about something else; there are even sections that seem totally unrelated to anything within the game. But this is The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’s strength. The fact that you are given little assistance throughout the game and that the explanation of the story is so open to interpretation is what makes the game so good.
After completion I was baffled as to what actually happened at Red Creek Valley, who Paul Prospero is and many other aspects of the story, including the ending. I have actually had three different perceptions of the events and what actually happened and am sure that there are many other theories among other gamers. But that is what a high quality mystery should do, it should leave you questioning your own thoughts on what have transpired, and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter certainly delivers that!
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