Close to the Sun
The only two redeeming qualities of this game are the sometimes good dialogues and the standout art style (including the world design) that together can create some fun and enjoyable moments that are able to elevate the product from the absolute mediocrity.
However, the striking visuals can’t negate the obvious shortcomings and problems of the title. Problems that run far and deep in terms of gameplay, storytelling and also in terms of technical aspects.[STORY]
While there are some good moments that come from the strong line delivery from the voice actors and from the sometimes good dialogues, in the end, ultimately the story simply crumbles under it’s own weight. There are a lot of cool concepts and themes that the game throws up carelessly, such as time-travel or paralell dimensions (sort-of), only to never bother enough to actually delve deep into any of these. Basically, the title is full of unexplored concepts and ideas in terms of storytelling and world building.[GAMEPLAY]
Close to the Sun is the perfect example of why games in this genre are commonly get labaled as “walking simulators”, even if some are much more than that. Firewatch, Soma and Observer are definitely act as the golden standards in the genre of first person immersive story-driven titles, because aside from telling a strong and effective story, they managed to include some level of player choice, along with a higher level of player interaction and with some meaningful and satisfying exploration.
Which game has none of those? Well, a couple of games, such as Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Virginia, and yeah, you’ve guessed it, Close to the Sun. The game’s level of interactivity is pretty meaningless. It’s not as bad as in the case of Virginia but that doesn’t say a lot considering the player was basically a passive inspector of the events in that game. In Close to the Sun, there are certain things you can do. You can open some doors using wall panels, pick up items at certain points of the game and sometimes solve puzzles (although saying those are puzzles requires a ton of goodwill from me). Oh, and you can jump too. But the reality is that all of these are nothing more than artificial obstacles that are just there to extend gameplay length and give you, the player a false sense of interaction and choice.[TECHNICAL ASPECTS]
Oh, boy. If you thought the gameplay and story was bad, just be prepared for an even bigger disappointment. From a technical standpoint, Close to the Sun is a massive trainwreck. FPS drops and stutters were quite frequent during regular play, but there were areas (usually bigger, more open areas, such as the one before the entrance of Helios in Chapter I) where the FPS simply hanged around 40-50 FPS, regardless of the settings. Even on the lowest graphical settings with 20-30% GPU and 10-15% CPU utilization, I wasn’t able to achieve more than that. Scripted running sections were even worse. There were times when my FPS simply tanked and went way below 30.[CONCLUSION]
I really wanted to like this game, but I stood up after finishing it severely unimpressed. The more I thought about it after that, the more it became obvious how disappointing it was. It has some stronger moments in its narrative thanks to some good dialogues and voiceworks before the story completely falls apart, while the world design from a visual and artistic standpoint is remarkable and it makes you want to keep going forward to see new stuff, despite the lackluster gameplay. But really, that’s all the good things I can say about it. Close to the Sun was a cool game in theory and it had good ideas, but it didn’t do anything with them and it turned out to be a massive disappointment from a story, from a gameplay, and from a technical standpoint as well. I do not recommend playing it.
– Standout artistic direction and world design
– There are some better moments in the story (only in the earlier parts)
– Sometimes quite good atmosphere
– The story is predictable, feels pointless at the end, and crumbles under it’s own weight
– Minimal gameplay elements are present that only give you the illusion of choice and interaction
– It’s an absolute trainwreck from a technical standpoint