In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, players will trace a horrific trail of corpses as they try to solve the mystery surrounding the fate of a kidnapped boy.
The PC game, set for digital distribution this year, is the first from recently formed studio The Astronauts, a team made up of former People Can Fly veterans. Adrian Chmielarz, Andrzej Poznanski and Michal Kosieradzki left People Can Fly and Epic Games last summer to form their own studio.
The developers say they want to use this, their first title, to help evolve immersive storytelling in games.
"What we care about the most is that the players feel like they're really there. Immersion is our number one priority, said the game's designer, Adrian Chmielarz. "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, in development on Unreal Engine 3, centers around the work of a detective with the supernatural ability to "visualize scenes of lethal crimes," according to the press release. While investigating the abduction of Ethan Carter, the detective finds himself in a beautiful mountain area where he discovers the severely mutilated body of one of the kidnappers.
Using both his paranormal skills and detective tools, he works to uncover the truth behind the corpses he discovers in the valley, and the "roots of an ancient force ruling the area" while hunting for the missing child.
Chmielarz is reluctant to describe The Vanishing of Ethan Carter as an adventure game, but he tells Polygon that while it shares some elements with adventure games it's "not like any adventure I know."
"We struggle with that question ourselves," he said. "Sure, it’s 'adventure,' but then so is Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, and Journey.
"It’s not a point and click adventure. It’s not a Myst-like adventure. If you really, really need to give it a label, then it’s more of an 'interactive drama' than what people usually think when someone says 'adventure'."
Chmielarz struggled to even find a solid comparison.
"The thing is, I don’t know of a game like this," he said. "Not that we’re inventing a completely new genre — we use many established solutions — but the final mix is quite unique. If I really, really had to give an example, I’d say imagine an R-rated Dear Esther with gameplay."
He said the studio decided to work on a game with such strong ties to narrative because of their love for video games.
"We believe that games have the potential to be the ultimate art and entertainment form, and we want to join other developers in the quest to realize that potential," he told Polygon. "Our choice is to explore the escapist side of games, hence the focus on the story, the immersion and the atmosphere."