Review: Close to the Sun
There's something special about horror games for me. I don't know exactly why, I guess it's because I like being scared, maybe? Every time I see that a new one is releasing soon, I get all excited about it, which was certainly the case when I found about Close to the Sun, Wired Production's new horror game that takes place on a quarantined boat, after a journalist receives a distress call from her sister. It's a very interesting as well as slightly different horror game to what I'm used to playing, but after experiencing some jumpscares, seeing an insane amount of dead bodies, and playing through it, I'm very sure of what I think of it.
Platform: Xbox One S. Introduction Close to the Sun begins with Rose, the protagonist, reading a distress letter sent from her sister, Ada, while narration by Ada is heard. Still sequences from when Ada boarded the Helios, the boat she works on, plays during it all and it ends with me seeing Rose sitting
in her room, holding the letter. In the letter, Ada apologizes to her sister for suddenly leaving to pursue her research on-board the Helios, but she also apologizes for what's to come, and that she really needs her sister to find her. Rose reads through it and gets out of the chair, leaving the controls to me immedietly, where I make my way to the top of the boat I'm on in order to commence the boarding of the Helios. The next part sees Rose getting off the boat, and stepping onto a very lifeless Helios, as there's no one around when she arrives.
A bit confused by the non-existant welcoming committee, she makes her way to a small opening via a door that hasn't been closed entirely, squeezing herself through it, only to find that other side of the door has a word written on it in huge and red letters, "Quarantine". Creeped out and even more confused, she sets out to find her sister. Visuals/performance Close to the Sun is one of the more pretty horror games I've played, and some parts can strike as looking almost photo-realistic, partly due to the great detail for reflections, as well as realistic looking textures. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of the visuals, but playing more and more of the game made me really find them gorgeous. It's slightly similar to the art style used in Pneuma: Breath of Life, at least to some degree, but it has its own unique look at the same time. An odd thing, however,
is that it doesn't seem to be running in native 1080p, a feat that should be easily handled by the power of the Xbox One S, though one that doesn't have any impact on gameplay at all, and it still let's the game look mighty fine as well. Storm in a Teacup has made use of some amazing visuals, high resolution textures, great looking effects, tremendous lighting, decent character models, marvelous reflections, huge open backdrops, and simply terrific looking interior design of Helios in a theme of 1897. Over on the framerate side, we see performance that doesn't fully meet its goal -
fluctuating around more than it should, all the way down to what felt like 50fps (maybe even lower) at times, but it's a tale of overall stability in the majority of the game's several hours of playtime, with there only being some parts acting up. It was hard to establish if the game was even running at 60fps, but I'm fairly certain that it is. No bug or glitch ever wandered into my playthrough, so as far as that goes, Close to the Sun is more than stable. Sound design is equally as great, with voice actors that do an amazing job at sounding believable. The voices of Tesla, Ada, Rose & Aubrey are the highlights,
and they're all amazing to listen to, something I honestly wasn't expecting to find in this game. Soundtracks as well as sound effects is also a very strong part of the game, where I saw music that fittingly played out at certain sequences, and effects that sounded like high quality work. Character models might look a bit off, though. Gameplay The gameplay can be pretty simple, and while the occasional puzzle parts aren't very hard to master, they're very interesting as well as fun to take part in. Exploration is encouraged in the game, and that's partly due to all the collectible pieces that are lying around,
but it's also cause of the beautiful places that I was able to find by doing so. It feels like a "walking simulator" as it does involve a lot of walking, but there's a lot of stuff going on all the time for me to feel like it's a different one, if it even is one. Throughout the game, I'm able to interact with some objects, though not with as many as in other similar games, such as keycards, collectibles, items needed to progress, and more. Rose goes through the Helios' many sections, looking for her sister, but is sometimes hindered from progressing due to puzzles, some needed her to find codes for safes,
decrease the pressure in a room, pull levers in a correct order, and I didn't really find them boring, or that they didn't contribute to the game. The game is seen in a first-person perspective, something that never changes in the game, and I couldn't help but to feel a sense of Outlast while playing, which is not a bad thing. It becomes more clear when the first chase sequence happens, as I am informed that I can hold the zoom button (RT) while running to look behind me at the same time, a game mechanic that is often used in the Outlast games. In general, Close to the Sun uses gameplay that mixes a lot of walking, being chased by enemies, exploration, hiding, zero combat, interaction with objects, overcoming puzzles, and more.
The game is divided into around 10 different chapters, with most of them lasting pretty long, but the game is overall pretty short, only offering around 4-5 hours or maybe even less, of gameplay, with not much replay value either. Some time into the game, I'm introduced to the chase sequences, where I am forced to run forward to an objective in order to get away from either Ludwig, a knife-wielding killer that roams the Helios, or the Temporal Anomalies. Rose goes through all kinds of situations, everything from jumping out of a moving train, being stabbed, falling onto dead bodies, chased by enemies, to being kicked in the head, losing something close to her, and meeting Nikola Tesla. This all helps in creating a horror experience that is unique yet also familiar, and while it might start off slow, it quickly ramps up the pace, putting me through a tale that I wasn't expecting.
Activities such as puzzles and exploration act as a way for the game to not become too much of a "walking simulator", and the end result is a very enjoyable game. It is pretty scary at times, too, and there are jumpscares, but I can't really say that it scared me enough for it to feel like a horror game that does what it is supposed to do, at least in a significant way. I mean, some parts were truly scary, like the chase sequences & the jumpscares, but other than that, it felt kind of bland at times. The general setting and the insane, INSANE amount of dead bodies lying around, helped, though. Story Among the best aspects of this game lies the story and the cinematic side of it. I'd say it's the strongest one, even though it has a plot twist that was predictable near the end. The year is 1897 - Rose Archer has received a letter from her sister Ada, a scientist that spends her time on Nikola Tesla's grand ship, the Helios, researching to change the world for the better. The letter tells Rose that Ada is in need of assistance, and that Rose needs to come to the Helios.
As she obviously can not turn down this request to see her sister that all too suddenly left their home for the sake of research, she travels far away to international waters to board the Helios in hope of finding her. It doesn't take long for Rose to sense that there's something that isn't right on-board the ship, though, as there's not a single person in sight once boarded. She quickly becomes one of the few sole survivors in an experiment that has gone wrong in every possible way, as she is contacted by Ada not long into the ordeal, with her revealing partly what has been going down. Further into the game but not too far, Rose learns the hard and frankly, horrifying way, that the situation is far more gruesome & serious than she thought, after falling face down onto a dead body, surrounded by more dead bodies, giving me my first glimpse of our protagonist experiencing a panic attack.
During these, she calms herself by saying "One thorn out...one leave in", but we don't really get to know the backstory to this. It's a really interesting story overall, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Throughout most of the game, Rose is aided by a fellow named Aubrey, one of the last few survivors, but it's only via communicating through a device, and Aubrey really is a mysterious character, especially since we don't really get to know much about him until later in the game, but the first impression of him is definitely that he's a unique character. Speaking of characters, I can't say that there's many of them, as I pretty much only saw Nikola Tesla, Aubrey, Rose, Ada & Ludwig, but they're all so different in personalities and their intentions that it makes for a very tension-filled game, as I was usually very unsure of who to trust as well.
There's no narration in the game, just characters talking to eachother, powered by some terrific voice actors, all doing a great job of making sure that the game feels cinematic. Rose is hellbent on finding her sister, and it's clear, as well as indicated by many sections in the story, that she'll do anything to reach her. It all becomes a matter of just surviving and getting the hell out of the Helios after a while, but Ada needs Rose to secure her research, cause it holds the keys to everything, according to her. I was sometimes tasked with finding journals that were located in different places, all hidden, resulting in me seeing all kinds of places on-board the Helios such as grand halls, huge theaters, labs, apartments & more, and the best part is that it was all insanely beautiful as well as highly accurate in terms of similar designs in real life. It's essentially "Bioshock meets Outlast", in a way.
The story involves time travel, which is actually the reason to why it all began, but it was pretty hard to fully understand what was going on sometimes. Rose, at several different occasions, witnesses flashback scenes, though in the way of looking back in time, as yellow and ghostly figures that fade in certain places, and they give the player a sense of what things were like before all hell broke loose. Close to the Sun's story is surprisingly very well done, and I really enjoyed what it offered. All in all Close to the Sun surprised me in a very good way. It started off slow, but quickly got a hold of a steady ground after really getting into the story. It wasn't clear right away whether or not I liked the visuals, but after witnessing the grand presentation of some amazing level & interior Helios design, highly clear & attractive textures, great lighting and almost photo-realistic visuals, I can definitely say that it's a very good looking game, despite a questionable resolution, and character models. Accompanied by stellar performances by the voice actors, Close to the Sun is a horrifying thrill to be had, offering a story that sees the player going through loss, frights, plot twists, meeting unique characters such as Nikola Tesla and Ludwig, but also one that is highly amazing from start to finish. The game might be too short for its price, however. Performance isn't perfect, yet it never affected the gameplay or story in any way. It sure is scary, and the jumpscares pack a punch, but I felt like it could've been more horror heavy. I've enjoyed Close to the Sun a lot, though, and I can fully recommend it to every horror game fan.
Close to the Sun is available digitally on the Microsoft Store for the Xbox One, and is priced at a price of $30. Are you interested in buying the game? That can be done here: Close to the Sun - Microsoft Store. A review code was provided by Wired Productions for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson, and is based on his honest opinion about the game.