Close to the Sun is a Bioshock inspired walking simulator that explores an alternative timeline in history. It looks magnificent, is eerie and atmospheric and one of this years more interesting games.
From the very first moment of this game I was sent back to 2007 when Bioshock released, instead of being on a plane I was in an automated transport boat and instead of ending up a lighthouse I arrived a floating city called Helios.
In Close to the Sun, you play as journalist Rose Archer, she is contacted by her sister Ada, who lives on Helios and needs your help. Inside the letter is an earpiece that will allow you to communicate once you arrive. When you arrive, it’s clear that something isn’t right and as a huge door labelled ‘quarantine’ slams shut behind you, your worst fears are confirmed.
As you begin to explore you immediately notice the beautiful Art Deco environment and you feel like you are walking round a new level in Bioshock. The game starts off slowly, you’ll explore the level, finding lots of collectibles that reveal more of the story, there are glimpses of life around Helios, but they are fleeting and really help set the eerie atmosphere.
The build up is really effective, if a little predictable, gases shoot out from pipes just as you pass them, or opening a door will reveal a fright. If you have played this sort of game before you aren’t likely to be caught out. Just as the atmosphere builds you are let down but frustrating chase sequences, there is no combat, you just need to work out the right route to escape, being ready to execute button prompts when needed. Take a wrong turn, missing a button prompt or just taking too long results in your death and having to restart. It’s frustrating but checkpoints in the game tend to be kind.
It’s a shame that these sections pan out as they do, having been chased on games like Outlast or Resident Evil 5 where you really do feel like you are in danger, Close to the Sun fails to capitalise on its atmosphere and excellent environments to give you a feeling of imminent death. The character models and animations of the people you discover could have done with some more work while the way Rose interacts with her world is excellent, you only get a first person view but it feels like you are there with her.
What the game is good at however is telling an excellent story. Helios was built by Nikola Telsa, who in this world has managed to get the better of Thomas Edison except his inventions haven’t quite gone to plan and are now causing more issues than solving them. As you move around you’ll uncover the ghostly past of the Helios with previous events unfolding in front of you, a bit like Murdered: Soul Suspect.
The game is supported by some truly awesome voice acting, especially Rose and Ada, their relationship builds just stronger over time and reminded me of Firewatch. Coupled with the gorgeous environment and level design you can’t help but enjoy this game.
Close to the Sun was a really enjoyable experience, it did a great job of building up the atmosphere even if the finale was a bit predictable, the puzzles were enjoyable to solve and the presentation overall was excellent. This is a well paced game and is worth 6-8 hours of your gaming year.