The Astronauts, a new studio created last year by People Can Fly veterans Adrian Chmielarz, Andrzej Poznanski and Michal Kosieradzki, has recently announced its new title, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. When a young boy, presumably Ethan Carter, gets kidnapped, it is up to you to find him. This is to be done through investigating certain aspects of a beautiful mountain area, starting off with the dead body of one of the kidnappers.
In terms of gameplay, there will be a large bit of investigating crime scenes with both modern technology and some use of supernatural powers. There will apparently not be an inch of combat. This is an enormous departure from these guys’ previous works, with Bulletstorm being the most recent example of their tendency towards creating ultra-violent shooters. So why are they the ones making this? According to them, it’s simply the love they have for games. With this project, The Astronauts will be focusing on narrative and on immersing the player into the world they create.
So far, we’ve been told that the game “is a game to be played at night, alone, and in headphones.” That is something we’ve heard before, with horror games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but not so much with games that take place in wide mountain expanses. Of course, the story of Ethan Carter intends to tackle horror from a different angle, being heavily inspired by the macabre stories of the early 20th century. This should mean less jump-scares and more atmospheric tension: something accentuated by sitting all by your lonesome at night and even more so by the devs’ commitment to making the game as immersive as possible.
While the inspirations story-wise and world-wise are quite obvious, it may be hard to find something to compare the core of the game to, as Chmielarz and his team are going for something quite unique. It has been compared to Dear Esther, with its first person perspective and its environments, although with the promise of it being a full game. Indirect inspiration is coming from games like The Walking Dead and Journey, which can’t be a bad sign. While the crime scene investigation seems interesting, it won’t actually be the main focus. That honor is reserved for exploration and the already mentioned immersion.
“It’s a game about exploration and discovery. We’re not abandoning the gameplay–on the contrary: we’re trying to strip it down to the bone and make sure it’s always meaningful and truly makes the experience better.”
The game will use Unreal Engine 3 as well as some other mystery technology not yet revealed. Oculous Rift Support is something being considered, as it would be a good match for this kind of experience, although the experience may end up scarring some for a long while from the realism reportedly coming from the virtual reality-based headset.
What this project ends up being is the oddest possible variant of a team of game developers getting back to their roots, with a game so diametrically opposed to what they’ve done before. Hopefully it’s good.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is planned for release sometime this year on digital retailers for the PC.