[Review] The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC)

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has been sitting in my Steam library for a few years, and as I have been into walking sims lately, what the hey, let’s fire this one up.

You are Paul Prospero, Supernatural Investigator who is looking for clues as to the whereabouts of a young boy named of Ethan Carter. You begin at the mouth of a railway tunnel in the middle of a forest. As you exit, you narrowly miss getting hit by a flying booby trap. Being psychic, you are then invited to inspect the trap using your medium capabilities; this is a device that is used throughout the game as you go exploring, gathering clues and using your psychic powers. As you collect clues, you discover Ethan and his family were involved in something violent.

The environment in this game is beautiful, and is what is truly enjoyable in Ethan Carter. You start the game in the bush, and almost want to pitch a tent there. Beautiful screenshots abound here, and there were a lot of parts that reminded me of growing up in Northern Ontario. Because of this, I spent a lot of time just walking around…

Ethan Carter lets you know at the very start that this game will not hold your hand. Initially, I thought: GREAT!  After having that stifling experience with the Beast of Lycan Isle this past Winter, I welcomed the freedom to go it alone a little to make my own discoveries. The game is open-world, so you can go anywhere and do anything out of sequence. But, this freedom ultimately was my downfall with this game.

Alright, here is the deal: I didn’t finish Ethan Carter. I walked around that gorgeous landscape looking for clues and would randomly find a piece of paper here, an object there and wonder…hm. Am I going the right way? What is going on? No hand-holding, so I’m going to expect this game will let you go any which way you want in any order and solve things as you go.

It turns out, as games go, you do have to follow a certain order to trigger happenings, simply so the story makes some damn sense. I discovered this while getting totally lost (because, OF COURSE, I DID!). I took the confusion as it came for a good long while. I even went back to old haunts when I was stuck to see if I could restring the thread… But I got fed up and reluctantly broke my momentum to check a walkthrough. Sure enough, I missed some integral stuff over there yonder that was supposed to tell me something enlightening to progress the story. BLAST!!

That’s ok, honestly, what I played of the game (over 3.5 hours worth) I found unsatisfying. I am discovering that these open-world directionless but story-filled games are not really in my wheelhouse… I don’t find I get what others get out of them. That said, I might return to the Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but I think I’ll let Ethan stay vanished for now.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
The Astronauts
2014

9 comments

  1. I tip my hat to you for sticking with it for that long, Sarca. I’d have been too frustrated to keep going with this one if I had no clue what was happening. Would likely have given up after an hour regardless of how lovely the scenery is!

    Liked by 1 person

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