Title: Close to the Sun
Developer / Studio: Storm in a Teacup
Publisher: Wired Productions
Genre: Adventure, Horror, Indie
Available on: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch
Official Site: http://www.closetothesungame.com/
Release Date: May 2nd, 2019 (Epic) / May 5th, 2020
Over a year has passed since I was first introduced to an upcoming Indie game called Close to the Sun. Let’s rewind to PAX East 2019 to explain why I am reviewing it now. At the time, I was representing Maroonersrock during the event. Like any games themed event, we had scheduled press appointments for the conference. Sadly, due to conflicting schedules and other appointments running too long, I was late for my appointment with Roberto from Storm in a Teacup. Thankfully, Roberto was understanding and got us into the demo quickly. Regrettably, because of running behind and not wanting to keep falling behind on appointments, I was not able to experience the full demo that the team had prepared.
In a way, that limited experience made me more excited for Close to the Sun than I might have been. The rationale behind the previous statement is due to the fact that I am not a massive fan of horror games. From the demo, I perceived Close to the Sun as a Steam Punk time manipulative adventure game. The game reminded me of Bioshock mixed with Steins; Gate. Each of these two franchises has a Steam Punk theme mixed with time manipulation. Close to the Sun combines these two elements with ease.
Deep in international waters, Tesla’s Helios stands still. An unbound utopia for scientific research, Rose Archer steps aboard in search of her sister, quickly to discover not all is as it seems. A single word covers the entrance… QUARANTINE!
Close to the Sun is a first-person horror adventure game developed by Storm in a Teacup and published by Wired Productions. The game was developed using the Unreal Engine and was released in May 2019 for Microsoft Windows on the Epic Game Store. The game then released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in October of 2019.
The Narrative in Close to the Sun
In Close to the Sun, the player controls a journalist named Rose Archer. The game takes place in an alternate reality set in 1897. A technological arms race is currently underway led by two renowned inventors Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. These two men are fighting for the technological dominance of the known world. The game starts out with Rose receiving a letter from her sister asking her to come to The Helios, a colossal sea cruiser. The boat is controlled by Tesla and welcomes some of the most brilliant minds around the world to ride on a majestic voyage uninhibited by any country’s laws or regulations.
Unfortunately, Edison looks to destroy all that Tesla has created and sends spies onto the ship to sabotage different projects. The game starts with Rose traveling to the Helios after receiving a letter from her sister. The letter tells Rose to come immediately without providing much detail. Upon arrival, Rose discovers that the whole ship has been thrown into quarantine due to a failed experiment. She is then tasked with saving her sister, Ada
Throughout the game, Rose uncovers what has transpired on the Helios while making new friends and escaping from dangerous predators. In the end, Rose escapes The Helios having some of her questions answered but some remain a mystery.
Overall, Close to the Sun‘s plot leaves the player questioning what has truly transpired. The story uses time-travel as a way to explain what has transpired so far, but the plot does not come to a close in the end. The plot twists within the game are not completely obvious but some will come as no surprise. Although the story was enjoyable, it felt unfinished. The amount of questions left unanswered makes you feel like you might have missed something. Yes, it could be considered a decent cliffhanger that leads to a sequel but could also be considered an unfinished narrative. Based on context clues within, we would likely bet on a sequel.
The game’s chapters are a decent length but some sections seem to drag on; this feeling of dragging on could be potentially due to a lack of fighting back combat. The feeling might also have been from the mass amount of exploration that we did.
Close to the Sun is an adventure game with horror elements. Each chapter features at least one jump scare ranging between a variety of different levels of intensity. Between the jump scares and graphic content, it is easy to understand why the game falls under the Horror genre. Unlike other adventure horror games, Close to the Sun has not actual combat.
At first, the game gives off the illusion that there might be combat but instead has the player run away from all dangerous situations. This form of escape out of combat gameplay can be rather infuriating since one wrong step or turn can lead to the player’s death. At times, it feels like these chase sequences are meant to punish the player for minor errors. Throughout a few of the escape sequences there seem to be checkpoints; if the player dies close to a specific checkpoint, they are loaded to that point even if they did not reach it previously. We have seen this before in other Unreal Engine games, where you are just on the edge of a checkpoint. Ultimately, it can be a saving grace.
The game also focuses predominately around puzzles. The game in itself is a puzzle. The player must discover what has occurred on the Helios through limited context clues. The game features a variety of puzzles, but most can be easily solved. Once you understand what the puzzle is looking for, the game moves quickly. No puzzle is extremely difficult as long as you search around for the answer.
Close to the Sun‘s Graphics are definitely one of its most defining features. The game definitely showcases the beauty that the Unreal Engine can provide. Throughout the game, we were astonished by how much detail the developers put into each item; even the plants featured a spectacular amount of detail. At no point during our playthrough did we see any object with a low resolution. This made the game even more amazing knowing how much detail they put into everything.
Surprisingly, while playing on the highest settings, we did have a video issue on one of the later chapters. The issue was not game-breaking, just felt like a lot was going on all at once and the game had to catch up. This came as a shock since the computer being used is an I7 with an NVIDIA Geforce 2060. It is possible that the Unreal Engine required a lot of VRAM for that section more than the computer was willing to allocate. Since it is a gaming laptop that could be a potential factor
The Sounds and Effects for Close to the Sun
This game creates an immersive experience that pulls you into the narrative. The games aerie music sets the mood perfectly catching you off guard right before the jumpscare; it can also keep tensions high throughout the level. Close to the Sun does feature a few musical compositions that rival Mass Effect 1‘s ending theme M4 Part II and comes close to Halo 3‘s theme. The song is called Close to the Sun by Porcelain Pill.
Most of the voice acting in the game felt authentic. This is wonderful since some Indie games and even AAA titles have actors that do not always connect to the character. Even the monster’s sound effects came off terrifying. If the game had continued, we could expect the characters to still feel realistic.
Verdict: Close to the Sun definitely surpassed our expectations going in, but left us feeling slightly disappointed upon the ending of the game. Not because the story was unenjoyable but because it felt like we had more questions coming out than we did going in. The game’s graphics are wonderful and exceeded our expectations; if you have yet to hear or look at this game, it would definitely be worth checking out, especially if you love Bioshock or Steam Punk. If you are not already a fan of Steam Punk you will be after Close to the Sun! Would you kindly play Bioshock and Close to the Sun then?
Close to the Sun can be purchased on Steam for $19.99; at the moment, it is currently on sale for $14.99 USD and is definitely worth picking up.
- Believable Voice Acting
- Stunning Graphical Experience
- An Immersive Soundtrack
- A bit too Short
- (Half Con) More Questions Left Unanswered than Answered
- Not enough Time with Major Characters