The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
|The Vanishing of Ethan Carter|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
Unreal Engine 4 (Redux)
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is set in an open world environment, in which the player can roam around and explore at will; in its opening the game notes that it "does not hold [the player's] hand", and as such features very little by way of explanation to the mechanics.
To piece together the story, the player must solve the deaths of the Carter family. Upon finding a dead body, the player can use paranormal abilities in order to recreate the events: first it must sense where important objects are located and restore the scene to its original state, and then reassembling the timeline of events tied to a certain death.
The game also features additional "stories" that must be fully uncovered for the game to receive its final ending; some of these are puzzles, others are more akin to a stealth game which cause the game to be over if the player fails.
In 1973, paranormal investigator Paul Prospero receives a fan letter from 12-year-old Ethan Carter, inspiring him to journey to Ethan's hometown of Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin. Upon arrival, he learns Ethan has gone missing and begins encountering unsettling paranormal phenomena, as well as evidence of recent violence in the tiny mining village.
As his investigation progresses, Prospero learns the Carter family's dark secret: Ethan had released a malevolent spirit known as the Sleeper through witchcraft, threatening their lives. When his uncle Chad and mother Missy tried to sacrifice him to appease the Sleeper, Ethan escaped with the help of his father Dale; Missy then killed Chad when he attacked Dale, and Dale later killed Missy. Dale then committed suicide in an effort to not become a vessel of the Sleeper as Ethan's older brother Travis now was. Travis turns on Ethan, forcing his grandfather Ed to kill Travis. Ethan and Ed try to destroy the Sleeper's chambers, but Ed traps Ethan inside the chamber and waits to die outside as Ethan sets a fire within. Prospero finds Ethan, but he suddenly vanishes after they both realise Prospero was too late.
If Prospero has uncovered all of Ethan's stories around the world, then using an elaborate mural created by Ethan, Prospero discovers that he is in fact a figment of Ethan's imagination. The cult of the Sleeper was an invention, as were the deaths of the family members during Prospero's investigation. Ethan had built a sanctuary inside a mansion in town to escape his family, particularly his overbearing mother, and abusive brother and uncle. When his mother accidentally sets the mansion on fire, trapping Ethan in the room with no way to save himself, he summons Prospero to provide comfort as he's consumed by the smoke by enacting a fictitious series of events. Having fulfilled his purpose, Prospero tells Ethan to let go, and that a new story awaits before both of them fade from the world.
The game was developed by three former People Can Fly employees, who had previously, with the company, worked on first-person shooter video games. The team was interested in moving into more story-heavy games. They almost released one, titled Come Midnight, as a collaboration with THQ, although ultimately this was canceled. Upon forming their own company, The Astronauts, the team had the freedom they needed to work on such a game.
From the start the game was always going to be focused on horror. In dissecting the genre, lead designer, Adrian Chmielarz, discovered the genre of weird fiction and from there the story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" which he took inspiration from. Although he stated that he had the basic idea in mind prior to reading it, the story helped certify the concept in Chmielarz mind.
Feeling that settings in games inherently felt "a bit artificial", the team instead were inspired by nature to create a more natural-feeling world. The setting in particular takes inspiration from the Polish Karkonosze mountains with Chmielarz describing the game as being "shot" there. The team used photogrammetry technology in order to create the in-game environment and make it look like the mountain range.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter received positive reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PlayStation 4 version 82.46% based on 26 reviews and 81/100 based on 32 reviews and the Microsoft Windows version 81.27% based on 41 reviews and 82/100 based on 65 reviews. The game sold 60,000 copies in its first month on sale. As of December, 2017, the game has sold over a million copies.
Julian Aidan from Hardcore Gamer praised its well-designed open-world, visuals and story, but criticized the gameplay for being too linear, as well as finding the narrative aspect of the game weak. Shaun McInnis from GameSpot praised the simple yet enjoyable puzzle-solving, captivating story, outstanding graphics and breathtaking environments, but criticized its weird and vague auto-save system. Christopher Livingston from PC Gamer also criticized the save system, but praised the decent voice acting, enjoyable puzzle-solving, as well as the intriguing, satisfying, and wonderfully restrained story.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was ported to Unreal Engine 4, and was released for the PlayStation 4 on July 15, 2015. The Unreal Engine 4 port was released for the PC on September 11, 2015, under the title Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux. Apart from the new engine, the revised version includes a new save system, and eliminates the backtracking from the ending sequence of the game.
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- "The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux Out Now!". 11 September 2015.