Award-winning narrative exploration game Dear Esther will be made free on Steam for its tenth anniversary, per a press release from UK-based developer The Chinese Room earlier today. The game (normally priced at $9.99 USD) will be available to download from its Steam page from February 14 to 15. The release is also being used to promote The Chinese Room’s upcoming game, Little Orpheus, due out on March 1.
Originally released as a free-to-play Source engine mod, Dear Esther was officially released on February 14, 2012. The game sees players wandering an island they are given no name for, only tasked with finding letter fragments around the island written by an unknown man to his equally unknown, but deceased, wife. Each letter fragment corresponds with the area in the map it was found in, grounding these fictional memories with visual elements for players to experience themselves. As the game progresses, players get to see more of the story between the couple and other residents of the island, with the game ultimately leaving the player to figure out what happened for themselves, with multiple playthroughs of the relatively short narrative being rewarded with different audio fragments providing different perspectives on the same event.
The original mod and final version of the game are both award winners in their own rights, with the mod winning the Best World/Story award at IndieCade’s Independent Game Awards, and the final game capturing several awards, such as Excellence in Visual Arts at the 2012 Independent Games Festival and Best Use of Narrative at the Develop Awards, as well as five BAFTA nominations the same year.