Ok So, you’re a Paranormal Investigator, and you received a letter which brought you to Wisconsin. This letter comes from 16-year old fan, but when you get to this quiet little town, you notice that something isn’t quite right.
Welcome, to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, an open world, mystery exploration game created by The Astronauts where the player is freely able to walk and explore at their own pace. The game starts out with a quick monologue explaining who you are, detective Paul Prospero, and how a fan reached out to you and brought you to investigate mysterious happenings going around the small town of Red Creek Valley.
Upon gaining controls, the player quickly learns they have the power to look back into time while observing certain objects. By using this power, the player must go around and piece together certain events chronologically. In doing so, the player realizes that there is a much deeper mystery going on within this small mining town.
Plot of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Personally, I am always a fan of games that have a heavy focus on narrative. I love exploring a world that has a deeper context than what is already given. I enjoy walking around and checking out small details that developers have put in just to enhance the experience of a game. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter creates a world that is seemingly trivial but rewards the player for straying off the beaten path. As you progress through the game, you will stumble upon certain articles to read and to use your powers on to get a better understanding of where you need to go in order to progress.
I really applaud The Astronauts for how they go about telling the narrative for this game. The bits and pieces that you acquire are just vague enough for you to want more but give enough information to let you find the next piece. However, because this game is open world I will say that it is possible to miss certain parts but thankfully the game requires you to go back and search by supplying a map near the end in case you miss something.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter does a supreme job at setting the tone for the entire game. Since you play as this paranormal detective, you would think that the game would have this mysterious, almost spooky feel, to it. The way that the game initially presents itself you immediately know that something is not right in this town. The little bits of story that are given help strengthen this feeling and also offer insight to the narrative as a whole. I remember playing this game initially, and the entire time I was afraid of some sort of jump scare, or be startled by some random noise. The game gives you enough information to be curious and cautions, but since it is open world, must make sure that each bit is universally cohesive.
That is where the game really shines. As you explore this mining town, each event that you piece together is started by solving or finishing a certain puzzle. These puzzles are themed in certain ways and are explained when you complete them and are given small short stories. The short stories also serve as jumping off points to the main plot line as well and give certain context about Ethan and his family. Besides solving these puzzles, you are also given the task are putting together certain events and trying to figure out what has happened to the Carter family and get to the bottom of this mystery.
Apart from actual gameplay, the game also uses visual and musical cues to its advantage. The game’s music sets a tone of mystery and caution as you explore this seemingly abandoned mining town. The music in certain areas and events within the game gives this feeling of dramatics that enhances each moment as if you’re watching something from a movie. With the sounds and narrative that Paul brings the context that is given is very much of “An outsider looking in” perspective.
Overall the game is very well-designed from the visuals of the world and events, to how the music ties into the overall theme, and how captivating the story of the game is. Solving each puzzle is simple yet enjoyable, and the game presents itself as a linear experience but can still be explored at one’s own pace. With an average completion time of 4 hours, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter provides a truly stunning narrative experience that will leave you wanting more mystery and intrigue in your gaming life.