It is becoming more apparent lately, that we see new games surface that don’t hold our hands with a tutorial; Rust or DayZ to name just a couple. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is no exception to this reemerging way of immersing the player. The game even begins with the warning, “This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand.” The independent developer, The Astronauts, has released this mystery adventure game with the hopes of creating a beautiful, explorable world that lets us use our brains a little bit. I think they’ve succeeded. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is set in a gorgeous fictional area titled Red Creek Valley. This story heavy game centers around a detective, Paul Prospero, with supernatural abilities. He receives a letter from a boy named Ethan Carter who seems to be in danger as the Valley’s inhabitants get themselves into violent situations resulting in murders. As the detective, you have the power to visualize these scenes and slowly unravel the secrets behind Red Creek Valley.
As you progress through the vast forest you’ve been thrown into, playing through the first sets of puzzles reminded me of the old classic, Myst. Much like Myst, not everything is in plain sight. As you emerge from a tunnel to begin your adventure, it becomes evident that exploration is key to solving all the mysteries presented in the game. The major note to make, though, is that they do not have to be finished in any particular order. Finding clues littered through the forest eventually results in the use of your sense ability that reveals the truth behind the scenes and gives you clues on where to go next.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is not only inventive but also very beautiful. The time and effort spent into making the lush forests and mountains shows how far we’ve come even for smaller studios. Playing it on my 3 year old gaming PC was forcing me to drop down the graphics settings a little bit and miss out on the full effect of The Astronauts’ landscaping skills, but I still had a lush environment to explore and submerse myself in. The gorgeous music in this game that perfectly suits each area, is by composer Mikolai Stroinski, who is also the composer on the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The music changes when leaving a crime scene and evolves into calmer, exploration music that leaves a lingering yearning for hearing more. As I adore Mikolai’s pieces for The Witcher 3, I cannot express enough how the you should take the time to listen to these amazing pieces of music he has designed for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
Overall, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a great new experience, full of intrigue, and hunger to progress through this very suspenseful story. The Astronauts have really impressed me with their use of story telling and logic based puzzles. I am having a difficult time finding weaknesses in this game as it is different and imaginative when most games seem to be following a pattern. I also commend them for letting me use my controller on the PC!