The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Developed by The Astronauts
Published by The Astronauts
Available on PC, PS4
Sometimes an experience is all something offers and in the end it’s all something needs to offer. This has been the trend with story-driven indie game walking simulators for the past few years. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter attempts to tell its story in a similar fashion while surpassing its contemporaries in certain aspects and, conversely, failing at being something more than it ought to.
First off, the game is packaged beautifully and looks stunningly realistic running on the Unreal engine 4. The game takes place in Red Creek Valley, a small mining community nestled within a mountain region of forest and rivers. The valley exudes a certain eerieness to it which blends with a naturalistic welcoming tainted only by man itself.
Venturing through Red Creek, you’ll be tasked with solving murders across the valley which reveal the mysteries of the game. The murders act as puzzles and are the main gameplay element of Ethan Carter, unfortunately the puzzles don’t require much thought and can be completed in a matter of minutes. The puzzles were designed to make the game feel more like a game and add to the overall play time but most importantly they act as a catalyst for the progression of the narrative. The driving force behind Ethan Carter certainly isn’t its puzzle elements but rather its desire to embrace the player with its story.
You play the role of Detective Paul Prospero who traveled to Red Creek Valley after receiving distressing letters from a young boy named Ethan Carter. It’s up to Prospero to solve the mysteries of Red Creek, locate the whereabouts of Ethan Carter and lift the blanket of enigma from the once thriving mining town.
The story is told well through gameplay and will keep the player guessing until the very end. Ethan Carter, being a story-teller himself, leaves his fantasy writings throughout the valley, allowing Prospero to take part in them first hand, and giving the game a surrealistic touch to break away from the ultra realistic environment.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter isn’t pretentious and won’t hit the player over the head with unwarranted symbolism and obnoxious self-important text like other indie games of the same nature are guilty of. It tells its intriguing tale well, albeit that is all it does well. It offers its unique experience through narrative in its two hour entirety. However with such lackluster problem solving and linear adventure, the same experience could be had whether it been played or watched through a stream online.