Close to the Sun
Gameplay 6
Graphics 8
Sound 7

Close to the Sun puts you in the boots of Rose Archer, a reporter exploring the quarantined depths of the Helios research ship to find her sister. The Helios is the creation of Tesla as a haven for the greatest scientific minds, but right from the start it is clear that something went terribly wrong. Close to the Sun is inevitably going to draw some comparisons to the Bioshock titles, but it is more of a walking simulator that has a few puzzles and chase sequences sprinkled in for good measure. It’s not a bad game, but does feature a few annoying bits and never reaches the heights it could have.

Gameplay: Slowly walk through beautiful surroundings while solving puzzles and running away from the occasional foe.

Graphics: The levels look great, but the character models and animations let things down slightly.

Sound: Decent music and the voice acting isn’t too bad either

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Close to the Sun

Developer: Storm in a Teacup | Publisher: Wired Productions | Release Date: 2019 | Genre: Action / Horror / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Epic Games Store

Tesla might have been a better scientist than Edison, but the latter was definitely better at marketing himself and his inventions. However, time has definitely been more kind to Tesla as his legacy lives on in pop culture. There have been numerous games that feature the scientific genius in some type of cameo or even lead role, which is more than can be said of Edison. Close to the Sun is the latest title to star Tesla and, since it takes place in an alternative history version of 1897, he managed to beat out Edison to become the foremost inventor of the time. To ensure that nobody interferes with his work, Tesla constructed the Helios, which is a massive ship that was supposed to be a haven for the greatest scientific minds. Close to the Sun opens with a reporter, named Rose Archer, receiving a letter from her sister, who is a scientist aboard the Helios. Rose is urged to come to the Helios, but the letter does not reveal why it is so urgent for her to do so. It’s only when Rose arrives and sees the massive ship deserted that she begins to worry. The stench of rotting flesh in the air and the word “Quarantine” scrawled everywhere doesn’t exactly put her at ease either. With the aid of players, Rose must uncover what happened to the Helios and hopefully rescue her sister in the process.

Close to the Sun is the work of an indie studio called Storm In a Teacup and as unfair as it is to do so, there’s no getting around the fact that it feels very much like a Bioshock title. On the one hand it is quite an accomplishment for a small team to come close to the Irrational Games classic, but on the other hand it just makes the flaws in Close to the Sun stand out even more. Like Bioshock, Close to the Sun is a first person title that is set in Art Deco meets steam-punk environment where things have gone seriously wrong. In the case of CttS, it is because the scientists on-board became a little too ambitious when they started tinkering with time. However, unlike Bioshock. CttS doesn’t feature any kind of combat, which means you’ll mostly be slowly walking through the Helios while taking in the sights and sounds. It’s not a complete walking sim, though, as you are also required to solve the occasional puzzle. Finally, the game attempts to ramp up the horror and scares by throwing a couple of chase sequences at you, but unfortunately these are easily the weakest part of the experience.

Starting with the positives, Ctts is an extremely good looking game. A lot of time and effort has clearly been lavished on the different environments while the Unreal Engine 4 has been put to good use in terms of texture detail and impressive set pieces. Throughout the ten chapters you’ll find plenty of things to marvel at and, this being a game involving Tesla, you’ll also see plenty of electricity related contraptions with impressive particle effects. You’ll also come across a few dull areas that are little more than dark corridors and locked rooms, but the impressive larger areas, such as the theater make up a bit for the blander parts.

Unfortunately, the great visuals doesn’t quite extend to the character models that can be found in the game. Most of the people you encounter in the game are dead, so it isn’t too big of a deal that their character models look a bit mangled, but you also run into a few who are alive. Not only are the detail on them not as impressive as we would have liked, but the animations are not that great either. Occasionally some ghosts will also pop up to show visions of the past, but none of them are exactly scary. We don’t want to spoil anything, but the game also features a few not so human enemies that you are supposed to run away from. Unfortunately, they are not really that scary looking, which detracts from the experience.

Speaking of the enemies, Ctts doesn’t feature any type of combat, but occasionally you will be required to run for your life while someone or something chases you. These scenes are supposed to be very tense, but instead end up feeling extremely tedious. This is mostly due to the fact that it can feel random at times whether or not your pursuer catches up with you or not. We’ve had multiple times where the route to the exit is fairly straightforward, but we got caught out of nowhere, which results in a long-winded death animation. Making it even more comical is the fact that your character runs extremely slowly and you can look behind you while running to see that your enemies are plodding after you at an equally leisurely pace. The game at least auto saves before each chase scene, but they still end up feeling repetitive.

Although the Helios is a massive ship, you only get to explore it bit by bit in each of the ten chapters. Your route through each chapter is also very linear, which means it’s impossible to get lost really. You can discover a few collectibles if you pay attention to your surroundings, but these serve no practical purpose and consists mostly of notes and schematics. Your character also doesn’t have an inventory, so all the puzzles revolve around flipping switches, or finding and memorizing pass codes to open doors. You also don’t get to make any choices that could influence the story in any way, which means CttS doesn’t have a lot of replay value. This is a pity as the game is quite short and can easily be completed in an evening or two. In addition, CttS doesn’t feature any type of multi-player mode, which is understandable considering its gameplay style, as does the fact that it doesn’t have any difficulty settings.

Close to the Sun does a decent job with the audio and at no point did the music or voice acting become annoying. The background tunes are nice and atmospheric, which is a good fit for the dark and somber look of the game. The characters also sound believable, apart from a few lines that are delivered in an over the top manner. Most of your communication with other characters occurs over a communications device, which definitely adds to the Bioshock feel of the game. You’ll mostly be communicating with your sister, but eventually you’ll also encounter a character named Aubrey and Tesla himself also pops up towards the end of the game. The controls are fairly straightforward and the lack of combat means you only have to worry about walking around and clicking on things to interact with them. The game will display an icon to indicate whether or not you can interact with something, so there is no guesswork involved. These button prompts don’t always feel like they are registering properly, though, which can be very annoying during chase sequences when you run into one indicating that you have to climb over or under obstacles, but your character just stands motionless while you click away. Thankfully, this only happened a few times, but it is still extremely irksome. The game was stable enough for the most part, but one or two crashes did make us very wary about the fact that the game only auto saves at the end of each chapter and the checkpoints during these chapters are very sparse.

Overall, Close to the Sun is not a bad game, but better titles in the genre, such as Bioshock, definitely casts a very large shadow over it. The story starts out very interesting, but doesn’t really go anywhere, which feels like a bit of a waste. Also, despite the setting being out in the middle of the ocean, you never really get to see your outside surroundings, which detracts somewhat from the experience and can make it feel too generic at times. The game does contain a couple of frights, but these are most of the cheap jump-scare variety and, like we mentioned earlier, the chase scenes quickly go from exciting to tedious. There’s no denying that CttS is a very ambitious title for an indie title and the developers got many things right, but there is nothing here to truly set it apart from similar titles on the market. It is a fun, albeit short-lived experience, but not a title that is as memorable as it could have been.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: Core i5 / AMD FX 2.4 Ghz
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX Series 7 or AMD Radeon R9 with 3GB RAM
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive: 50 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible sound card
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: Core i7 / AMD Ryzen 7
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD RX 470
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive: 50 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible sound card

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