The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Gameplay Trailer — Too Many Bread Crumbs?

By | August 22, 2014

The Astronauts’ Adrian Chmielarz walks us through 13 minutes of gameplay in the new trailer for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

The first-person mystery game (released September 14 on Steam and GOG) combines elements of noir, CSI, and even some X-files.  It was “inspired by the weird fiction (and other tales of the macabre) from the early twentieth century”.

The trailer shows a beautiful open-world landscape.  It looks like a Kincaid painting.  Late summer sun, a lake, trees, and so on.  But of course, we get our first clue that it’s not as serene as it appears.  And then a second, and then a third….  There’s an old wooden rail bridge on the verge of collapsing.  There’s also a sign that says “Keep Out”.  And if that’s not enough to tell us things ain’t right, there’s internal monologue that actually tells us it ain’t right.  And of course, we get our first blood sighting.  The game’s title itself tells us there’s something that ain’t right.  So, why the bright flashing neon signs?  Based on the trailer, I get the feeling this game is full of them, start to finish.

The commented trailer continues and we get to a bloody railcar.  There are two things you can do – inspect it or enter it.  When you inspect, it doesn’t tell you exactly what you need to do, but it asks questions, which is what detectives do, but the problem is that the questions are not really questions but answers with question marks.  So what’s the difference?  Again, these are signs that guide the player in the direction the game wants you to go.  It’s an open world that’s not really open.

Essentially, the puzzle is this: reconstruct the scene from the past, and once you’ve done so, it’ll replay and you get a piece of the puzzle, which ultimately will lead to the big picture.  The protagonist is “occult-minded” and can interact with the dead.  The trailer didn’t fully flesh out what that really means – it seemed more like a CSI guy or profiler reconstructing the crime scene in his or her head.  The occult aspect could be cool – just didn’t see it in the trailer.

There are also some side missions, it seems, to value-up the game.

Overall, it’s a beautiful game and I love the concept.  The trailer makes me believe it’s too easy, though.  Just follow the yellow-brick road.  I want games like these to have a huge payoff with each discovery.  Gamers are smart.  We’re patient.  We want to be detectives, not just play them.  So create a world, and simply let it happen….

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