Dear Esther was this beautiful exploration game that came out way back in 2012 for PC and later for consoles in 2016. The artwork in the game was stunning for the time and deserved all the praise it received. It helped launch The Chinese Room into an indie company to watch as they would later create the highly praised spiritual successor to this game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. One of the hallmarks of the first game was the soundtrack, which set an eerie mood for the things to come as you made your way through beautiful landscapes and dark caves.
As we patiently await the company to create the Landmark Edition out sometime this year, we now get the soundtrack on Black Screen Records, as recorded by Jessica Curry. If you’re not familiar with Curry’s work, she’s composed works for other TCR titles like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. A lot of her work is more on the sad side of things—the kind of works that haunt you and make you feel feelings for days to come, and are designed to stick with you long after the game has ended. I would equate her music to some of the tracks from the TV show Lost, where a single tune in a moment can be defined by the music you hear.
First, let’s discuss the packaging, as this is a fine album to check out. There’s nothing too fancy about it, simply a well-designed package with some great artwork inside and on the sleeves. The artwork is some of the best I’ve seen in a video game album as it depicts little facets from the game that kind of leave you in mystery and wonder, and they’re great for making people interested in what they’re about to play. The vinyl itself was awesome to see as it was gold colored! Well cut, no problems with the grooves, actually had a unique sweet smell to it as I took it out of the sleeve. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that, but ut was nice to have.
The music is unlike anything else you’ll hear in a game. The piano score is well done and takes you places mentally you may not want to go. “Standing Stones” sounds like the music you’d have walking through a gentle rain storm, “Moon In My Palm” is the perfect setting from looking over the city from a rooftop to your home below, “The Very Air” has you looking for something on a dark ocean shoreline, and “I Have Begun My Ascent” is the kind of dredge you’d expect to hear as you enter the hallowed halls of a church. Everything about this music screams dark passion as you walk through the cold streets of some suburban city in a long coat, looking for something you just can’t obtain. It was an amazing album to listen to in full outside of the game.
The soundtrack for Dear Esther is brooding and sad but has a kind of emotion that you don’t get from a lot of soundtracks along the same lines. It isn’t going to get you pumped up, it isn’t going to prepare you for anything, and it’s not going to make your challenges easier. It is a mournful tone that will resonate with you for a while, but it has to be experienced. If you like your music just a few shades gloomy while still powerful, this is the soundtrack for you.