By Nick Woodard
For this review, I’ll be checking out The Vanishing of Ethan Carter on the Xbox One. From publisher The Astronauts, this is a first-person story-driven mystery game that is all about exploration and discovery. No combat, no explosions., you heard me right. So, let’s get into the game!
Right off the bat, the game tells you that it is a narrative story that doesn’t hold your hand. That is very true but so far, so good. The game has some amazing graphics. The forest you start in looks amazing and takes you right into the game. The controls are really easy to get the hang of so you can jump right in. There is a lot of space to explore in the forest and it’s easy to get lost. The forest holds many secrets though so it’s best to watch your step as you explore.
You play as Paul Prospero, who receives a letter from Ethan and is then inspired to travel to Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin. Paul states that finding Ethan will be his final case. To find him you have a sense function at your disposal. This helps you locate clues and other various items throughout this game world. These various clues help you find out what has happened to Ethan and his family. From trains forgotten by time to the tree house that looks like a spaceship, you’ll find that everything in this town looks incredible.
From the forest, you come upon the family home, which if you stay and listen to a while will reveal its own secrets. Behind the house is a big church with its own cemetery. Every locale is eerily abandoned and you are there to find out why. Even further from the church, you find an old mine shaft. Its dark depths hold more and more secrets that eventually make you walk through boiling water to the final stage of the game. The river bed and a secret house at its edge. It all looks amazing!
In each stage of the game, you can solve mysteries to help you better understand what has happened to Ethan and his family. These mysteries also help you to figure out who the elusive Sleeper is. They are divided into two types, stories that Ethan has written and solving the murders of various members of Ethan’s family. Each challenge is fun in their own right. For the stories, you find a seemingly normal object that when found, transports you into the world of Ethan’s story. Then from that point you sort of live out the story. It’s a pretty cool aspect of the game that takes you from outer space to the bottom of the sea.
For the murders you have to solve, you happen upon the crime scene. After compiling several clues you “touch” the body and the game takes you back to the time of the murder. You then have to put a sequence of events in the correct chronological order to finally understand what really happened. All of the games achievements are tied to these two challenges. If you are an achievement hunter such as myself you are going to need to find all the clues. Complete all the stories and solve all the murders and the achievements will be within your grasp!
All in all, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a well-rounded, fun narrative experience. The whole ordeal took me about 3 and a half hours to complete. This can easily be stretched to 4 if you stop and enjoy the scenery. The final reveal made this game worth the almost 4 hours spent in its forests and mine shafts worth it. I won’t spoil anything here but once you find out the fate of Paul and Ethan it will blow your mind. The story, setting, and gameplay are all a blast and it makes for a very fun little distraction from all the Call of Duties, and Battlefields and such.
Rating: 9.0 out of 10.