The successful combination of everything in a logical sequence of events gives great satisfaction. The game manages to leave us feeling that the story is coherent and tense as it should be. It is also important to intersperse the whole with concise dialogues, which are characterized by a careful choice of words. The story of Ethan Carter looks elegant and thoughtfully structured. On the one hand, we have a well-understood story, and on the other - a large field of interpretation, whose existence is possible thanks to the well-thought-out selection of symbols and, most importantly, the attachment of the creators to the details.
Ethan Carter's disappearance is not a game about learning history. It's a game about discovering it. Astronauts have prepared a production that all the mechanisms and elements have to serve the content. As a result, we get a title focused on careful exploration, and every detail can eventually turn out to be the key to deciphering the story. Red Creek is one of the leading heroes here. And there is no exaggeration in it because the world has made my memory most definitely.
The award for exceptionally stunning forest fleece The disappearance is like a bank. The creators have successfully used photogrammetry (creating 3D models based on images), and from great looking objects have built extremely reliable sites. The Red Creek Valley is a place where you can genuinely "float away". There is no rush here, there are no goals. The authors even predicted places where intriguing exploration will reward us with simply breathtaking views. A lot of time is spent walking around, and listening to the chubby leaves under the feet and the water washing the stones is pure pleasure. The music of Mikołaj Stroiński is a perfect complement to this, which has managed to capture the feeling of uncertainty engulfed in this ubiquitous calm. During exploration, the studio game The Astronauts holds us really close. You will admire this wonderful world but walk carefully. In the air, you can sense a sleeping and inexplicable horror.
All Red Creek is a large, consistent place. You will not see charging screens here, but the creators have decided anyway for a kind of division that I think deserves praise. The game recognizes the individual "zones" of the map, and crossing the boundary between them is emphasized by the changing music. It is important to note that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a paradise for gamers who like to run every location. It is easy to say whether we "tired" already a given area and we can safely go further. This division is completely symbolic - it does not disturb the credibility of the world but allows for easier orientation in the field.
The fact is that the authors use space in one hundred percent. Like in the first Dark Souls, the characteristic points are connected in several ways. There is not only credibility but also the comfort of playing. With a standard manoeuvre for me, I moved very carefully to not miss anything, but all the inquisitive I calmed down: the game does not close any paths. After a few dozen minutes of wandering wherever you are, you suddenly arrive at a clever connection to the place where you were some time ago. So you can play freely and without fear that you will no longer be able to return.
As soon as the game succeeds in finding something, it is usually a riddle. The first type of puzzle is the detective, always based on the same set of mechanisms. We get to the crime scene and in order to find out the truth, we have to look for objects and combine facts into the logical order. There are some good ideas in this. For example, the game shows us a lost object with a fragment of its surroundings, so finding things is directly related to the orientation in the field. The involvement of the main character in the investigation was also solved cleverly because Prospero guided us to certain possibilities without ever indicating a concrete answer. Unfortunately, these interesting systems do not seem to be fully utilized. Items are very easy to find, and the game rarely requires in such scenes for longer periods of time. The only moment we have to show is to put the next stages of the crime into a chronological whole. These sequences serve as verification of our knowledge, although I admit that the final puzzles could be either extremely simple or give too little guidance to understand a given situation without testing the system with trial and error.
Such puzzles work as a cool way to gradually discover the course of events, but there is a clear challenge. Otherwise, it looks like the rest of the puzzles that govern their own laws. The great success of the creators is that they have created sequences, each of which uses completely new mechanics, and players are able to grasp without the obvious tutorial. Personally, I felt a great satisfaction understanding what the authors are trying to convey to me with purely visual messages. One of the puzzles seemed to suggest that I forgot something and at the last moment I understood how interesting the various hints were. This type of challenge is not much, but it compensates for their high quality.
Despite some shortcomings, all the puzzles have been well designed - in the sense that they do not slow down progress, do not frustrate, and instead increase engagement and are exceptionally seamlessly integrated into the exploration process. Completing Ethan Carter took me 6 hours with a hook (including ecstasy) and I must admit that this was a perfect time. I played at my own pace, doing what I wanted and when I wanted, and history did not drag a minute too long.
It's how I soaked in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter that I felt the most when I turned off the game. Astronauts have managed to create a beautiful but disturbing world, from which return is a wake-up call after an unusually advanced sleep. In addition to the unusual setting, it is probably worth mentioning the appropriate questions and careful construction. For the player to explore such a carefully-built world is an interesting experience that one can completely get rid of skepticism. No detail is accidental, no need to turn a blind eye. It's a well-thought-out production where the gameplay and storyline are intertwined, instead of marching side by side. And we and the creators wish more such games.