I finished The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It’s a noble failure. Best graphics I have ever seen. They perfected a new technique that translates photographs of environments into game art. They call it revolutionary and I can’t argue.
The problem is not with the story. It’s well written and solidly delivered, with reasonable voice acting.
The flaw is the game itself. At the start they state that the game doesn’t hold your hand, which is just a disclaimer for bad game design. They wanted to have an open-world, but they failed to explain what to do. You will almost certainly have to backtrack to the start of the game once you realise the right approach. Small spoiler: at the start of the game there are several man traps if you go off the path. Do not do the natural, intuitive thing and stay on the path. Find every man trap, even though the game doesn’t give you any explanation why you would want to. It’s typical of the opaque game design and it’s not the worst example. I had to resort to a walkthrough to finish, in other words the game failed me.
It seems a game with a linear story requires a linear structure to frame it. I’d rather play Dear Esther, even though it’s not quite as pretty and the story is far less sophisticated.
Having said that, if you can get the game cheaply, it is still worth buying simply to experience the environment. I kept stabbing F12 to take screenshots.