To solve the mystery of Ethan Carter’s vanishing you have to make your way through a beautifully rendered landscape full of Lovecraftian inspired murder scenes that need to be unravelled. The stark contrast between the serene environment and dark twisted stories makes The Vanishing of Ethan Carter so memorable.
The Redux version of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a 2015 re-release of this game. It is based on the Unreal 4 engine that makes the game even more photorealistic than the previously used Unreal 3 engine. It also fixed some bugs from the 2014 release. The Redux version is automatically included in the “normal” version of the game.
When you enter the game world the beautifully rendered forest and lake environments are the first things you will admire. It is a serene outdoor environment that even by today’s standards is impressive. In the course of your 4-5 hours gameplay you will also discover many different indoor areas, caves and even outer space. Everything in this game looks equally impressive.
Immediately from start the game tells you that you have to explore the area around you to uncover the story. From that point on you are on your own. You have to solve 10 different mysteries called scenes before you get to see the final resolution of the game. The scenes are scattered through the game world and can be tackled in any order you see fit. You will know that you are in a story relevant scene once you spot something that has “inspect” written near it. Many scenes require you to find clues in the environment to solve a murder, and there are plenty of murders to solve. Once you have found the clues you have to bring them in the right order to see how the murder happened.
Apart from the murders there are other mysteries to solve. But that dark brooding almost Lovecraftian mood can be found in every scene. The game does an amazing job to make you feel uneasy. You always expect something dark and unsettling lurking around the corner.
And here starts my only complaint with the game. Once you finished a scene and feel immersed in the story you have to find the next scene. And that can turn into a slog because there are no hints that help you even slightly. That is on purpose from what the developers say. But wandering around for 15 minutes breaks the immersion and tension from any scene you solved before. I occasionally peaked at a walkthrough guide when I could not find the next scene.
The settings of the scenes and their mysteries vary greatly. I really enjoyed the craziness of some of those settings and did not expect to see an astronaut nor a zombie. Difficulty of the environment puzzles is moderate. I only once found myself in a situation where the most important clue was not near the murder scene. Many puzzles should be solved with pen and paper at hand.
The icing on the cake was the sound as a whole. The soundtrack sounds like a dark version of Dear Esther’s soundtrack. It has violins and piano parts as well as dark synthesizer lines that support the unsettling feeling of the environment. Ambient sound of the woods, the lake or the riven are perfect. It sounds exactly like the small wood I tend to hike in occasionally. The voice acting of the main protagonist and in solved scenes is pretty good and always convincing.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux is a visually impressive environment puzzler. It tells a dark and twisted story that keeps you engaged until the end. Each scene is a unique mystery and solving it feels rewarding. Good voice acting and a great soundtrack make an almost perfect package. The only downside for me was the aimless wandering around between each scene. It is a great game and gets a solid single thumb up.