Close to the Sun is a first-person horror adventure game from the Italian video game developer Storm in a Teacup and published by Wired Productions. Close to the Sun sets itself deep in international waters during the late 1890s, putting players in the shoes of Rose Archer, a journalist in search of her sister, Ada. Rose’s sights are set on the great Helios, an intricate and marvelous ship straight from Nikola Tesla’s mind. The Helios was created as a haven for the greatest scientific minds around the world, allowing for boundless invention to occur away from the prying eyes of society. Although a research utopia, Helios now stands still in dark waters.
After receiving a letter from her sister inviting her to explore the mysterious Helios, Rose boards the ship. But things are immediately off. Beyond the expensive finery, effigies of gold, and intricate technologies of a newly electric-powered age, there is no one to greet Rose’s arrival. When Rose stumbles through a set of intricate doors, she is met with a single word painted across the exit: QUARANTINE. What does this mean? Where is Ada? All Rose can do is delve further into the bowels of the ship to find her answers.
The premise of Close to the Sun is one that instantly grabbed my attention. A gaggle of the greatest minds living together, away from the restrictions of society, could mean a great story of innovation or, in this case, a great horror story. The references to well-known scientists, such as Nikola Tesla, only cemented the world of the Helios and gave the premise more power.
In fact, the creators were sure to bring Tesla’s various ideas to life, exemplifying them in the various blueprints laid out across the Helios, along with the use of towering statues (apparently Tesla hated portraits but really enjoyed statues) to decorate the massive rooms. Pigeons litter the halls of the Helios because, apparently, Tesla really liked pigeons.
On top of this, the voice acting is great. Although spotty here and there, overall, the voice actors had some very commanding and moving performances. The attention to detail was similarly impressive. There’s a lot to explore and you’ll find various passports, letters, and notes left behind by the occupants to give you more background on what happened on the Helios before Rose showed up. Some of the rooms you explore are private quarters and the personalities of the scientists who live in them shine through the smallest details.
The game has a great setup, but the plot falls short. There is not as much intricacy as I expected or wanted out of this game. This possibly was a result of the relatively short chapters. There are 10 in total, but I found that quite a few could be completed in less than 15 minutes, leading to a noticeably short game. The game also only saves when you complete a chapter. So, if you turn the game off in the middle of a chapter, you’re forced to restart that chapter from the beginning. Although this sounds annoying, it is not such a huge hindrance due to the relative shortness of each chapter.
Another instance where the game just didn’t meet expectations was the horror aspects of the game. Much of the horror comes from jump scares. Although these scenes do cause a jolt to the system, I expected the use of atmosphere to create more stress-inducing situations. There are plenty of areas where the creators tried to set up a creepy scene through just visuals and audio, but these ultimately fall short.
There is no argument that a large amount of thought was put into creating the visuals of this game, but there was an odd blurriness to the graphics that was very distracting. Many of the objects in the background lack the sharpness you would expect of them from a certain distance. I’m not sure if this was just a problem with my PS4, perhaps the graphics are better on PC, but it was certainly distracting.
The animations are a bit off as well. The few NPCs you see, including the ones that are supposed to strike fear into the player, are very stiff. The juxtaposition between the gorgeous graphics and the clunky movements really dampens the scare factor. The inability to emulate life is also evident when the NPCs speak to you face to face, which is not a common occurrence. When these characters do speak to you, their mouths either don’t move or move so little that it’s not believable. For a game with so much thought put into the intricate backgrounds, the lack of fluidity in NPC actions really takes away from the game.
Overall, Close to the Sun has a great premise and gorgeous graphics. However, the execution falls short due to the short plotline, use of jump scares, and clunky movements.
Close to the Sun is available now on all platforms.
Close to the Sun
Close to the Sun has a great premise and gorgeous graphics. However, the execution falls short due to the short plotline, use of jump scares, and clunky movements.