Welcome to Red Creek Valley, where nothing is what it seems. Before I even began my journey I got a very important message: “This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand.” Oh boy was that true. Within the first 10 seconds of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter I was already alone in a shaded forest. Alone with no tutorial, no inventory, no map and no weapons. It seemed Paul Prospero, this temporal alter ego of mine who was a supernatural detective, was also quite a courageous man.
I was on my own, me and myself, the player and Prospero’s thoughts. My goal was, of course, to solve the mystery of the vanishing of Ethan Carter. The problem was I didn’t really know who this person was. Good luck, goodbye. I started walking.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, developed by The Astronauts, is a very unique gaming experience that responds to no exact genre description. Yes, it’s an exploration game more than anything, but it’s also a detective game and an adventure. Players have to discover everything, and this is actually great since the story unfolds at the player’s own pace, depending on how good his/her capability to find clues and items is.
The game gives a feeling of total freedom which, even though apparent, accomplishes its objectives. It always felt like I was the one choosing where to go first and even at the end the game asked little of me concerning discoveries and items. Players can definitely miss things (and I certainly did) but the story will still unfold perfectly.
Anyway, as I walked around I found notes, items and a dead person. This is one of the many mini cases I got to investigate. Paul Prospero has a legendary-level intuition as well as a supernatural sense. He is able to see the past and has an almost magical way to relate and even find items. It’s based on this that the game allows players to fit the pieces of each case on their right place.
As I checked the surroundings I was prompted with the detective’s insights and some clues to what I needed to find next. Eventually I was able to find an interesting set of clues which led me to the most important of Prospero’s detective powers: I had to rearrange the events in their proper order to see what happened in the past and understand how the person died. This is but a small part of what The Vanishing of Ethan Carter‘s story has to offer though, and the rest is worth being discovered.