It seems that horror games are a dime a dozen lately. With so many of them releasing so frequently, and with several sharing the similar themes and mechanics, it’s difficult to truly find a few that clearly are worth playing through. However, over the years, there have been some excellent horror games, like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the Outlast series, and Soma, but I haven’t quite really played one that has a compelling narrative — that is until I played Close to the Sun.
At GDC 2019, we got to explore the upcoming story-driven horror game from the 15-person development team, Storm in a Teacup. At first glance, we immediately could tell the game was inspired by the likes of BioShock in terms of its dystopian, art deco theme, but after getting to take a stroll, well, a tense stroll at that, we soon realized that Close to the Sun is far more than just a BioShock-inspired game.
Set in the 19th century, Close to the Sun has players take on the role of the main protagonist Rose, a young journalist who steps aboard a giant ship called Helios after receiving a rather strange message from her sister, Ada. What’s special about this world, in particular, is that it’s an alternate world where Nikola Tesla, who was a real, notable inventor from the olden days, sees a rise to prominence instead of being overshadowed by the likes of Thomas Edison, who, essentially, stole all of Tesla’s limelight. Tesla in Close to the Sun is on the Helios in order to conduct groundbreaking research, and so the player joins him along for the ride — but it’s not a smooth one, by any means.
It’s aboard the Helios that players will quickly discover that things aren’t all as they seem, that the ship itself is full of deep, dark mysteries that need answers. With that said, gameplay in Close to the Sun revolves around uncovering clues to solve the many mysteries that lie within Helios. Doing so is a matter of wandering about, examining objects like letters and posters, opening new areas, and solving some light puzzles as players make their way across the ship. While this all sounds rather simple and plain, it’s the downright eerie atmosphere that surrounds the player that makes playing Close to the Sun such a terrifying and mysterious adventure.
During every minute of playtime, players are going to be shaken by simply exploring the world around them. Unlike the Outlast or Soma, as I mentioned previously, Close to the Sun isn’t an overwhelming, insane, quick-on-your-feet experience. It takes more of a slow-and-steady, exploration approach, but since combat isn’t an option, players will need to run and hide at times to survive when faced with certain threats. This approach works in favor of Close to the Sun’s brilliant world, however, as it’s filled with intricate detail and deep lore to explore. Some players, especially those that want a more action-packed experience, may find that the pacing of the game to be a little to slow, though.
What will get your heart racing is the many terrifying moments that you wouldn’t expect to happen. Since there isn’t anyone else abroad the Helios, players constantly get this feeling of loneliness and a false sense of security. There aren’t screams of terrors, monster looming about, or dead bodies scattered about, it’s only you, as Rose, and the Helios. Every time I did anything, whether it was reading a letter or opening a door, I constantly had goosebumps that I just couldn’t shake off. There are many instances where everything seems fine-and-dandy, but then, all of a sudden, something goes terribly wrong — making matters worse. Solving all the mysteries within Close to the Sun is both a test of your investigation skills and a test of true bravery.
Close to the Sun has captured our attention as it seems like it’ll be a riveting adventure with a compelling narrative and a mysterious, captivating world to explore. I think there’s a good chance it’ll end up being one of the most engaging games of this year.
Close to the Sun is set to launch later this year on PC via the Epic Games store and consoles for $29.99.
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