Close To The Sun is a game that on paper has a lot of promise to it. The game is set aboard the Helios; a massive complex built by Nikola Tesla that promised to be a safe haven for the best of the scientific community. Home to the greatest minds in the world, the Helios served as a place in which research could be conducted without the scrutiny of governments. Their purpose was simple. To push research as far as it could go, and make the biggest scientific discoveries imaginable.
Our game begins with our protagonist Rose boarding the Helios after having received a letter from her sister Ada, who is a researcher aboard the Helios. The letter seems innocent enough, if not a tad cryptic. The letter invites Rose to the Helios, so that she may connect with her sister who left suddenly. There are notes in there, such as Ada mentioning that it’s now her time to protect Rose, that pique your interest from the beginning. So you board the Helios, however not everything is as it seems.
The bodies of the scientists scatter the Helios, and blood runs through the halls. You learn that creatures lurk in the Helios, and have butchered almost everybody on board. Ada’s research holds the key to fixing everything, and so begins your adventure. With the help of her sister, and a stranded survivor named Aubrey, Rose sets off.
Along your journey you will see these, almost people. They are orange and made of a strange mist. These are in fact ripples in time, caused by the experiments on the Helios. They allow Rose to see into the past and give you insight into what happened aboard the Helios, and at times even lead you to your next objective. It was a very clever way to give background to the story, and something that never become dull to see.
At its core, Close To The Sun is a walking simulator. You walk the halls, from objective to objective, learning the story by interacting with the world and solving puzzles. This is all well and good if the environment you find yourself in has the right atmosphere. Outlast springs to mind when thinking of horror walking sims that did it right. A good plot with an eerie atmosphere; it works. The issue is for me, Close To The Sun lacked that atmosphere. On it’s site, the game promises “First-person horror adventure where surviving is everything”. I took this to mean something akin to Alien Isolation, but unfortunately that isn’t case.
There were very few instances in which Rose was in any immediate danger. The creatures which lurk the Helios are only there in the presence of exotic energy; a strange blue mist which fills the air in certain parts of the Helios. It isn’t like Alien Isolation, where danger could come at any point. You actively know when you will be in danger, which really took a lot out of the atmosphere for me. There is Ludwig, a knife wielding psycho that seemingly roams the Helios. However he rarely makes an appearance.
When he does, a chase sequence follows and once you’re clear of him that’s it. He’s gone for a fair chunk of the game. It would have been nice to have randomly come across him in the halls while walking around. Even if he didn’t give chase, it would’ve added to the atmosphere that little bit. Even then, the chase sequences leave a lot to be desired. Again it’s an atmosphere thing for me. I didn’t feel that dread of “Oh crap I can’t let him catch me”, it was more “Huh, I’m being chased”.
Close To The Sun doesn’t shine any better when it comes to the puzzle solving side of the game. The puzzles require little thought, which is disappointing enough in a game with puzzle mechanics. Even more so because the game is set in an environment home to the greatest minds in the world. I was expecting challenging puzzles, but the puzzles were rather simple and were easily solved by following environmental clues. This could have been a saving quality for the game, and it’s a shame that the puzzles didn’t require more thought to solve.
The last potential part of the game that could save it is the plot. Close To The Sun should in theory have a great plot. Experiments gone wrong, bloodthirsty creatures, a knife wielding psycho. Yet the plot is predictable. Supposed plot twists are easy to see coming, and so the entire plot lacks the element of surprise. The game’s ending also raises a big question and doesn’t actually answer it (no spoilers here though). I was expecting some kind of cutscene at the end of the credits, showing what happened, but alas there wasn’t one.
Which leaves us all in all with a game that on paper should have been spectacular, however in practice didn’t live up to it’s potential. I will give it this; the game looks and sounds perfect. It looks like what I would expect the Helios would’ve looked like had Tesla built it. Unfortunately there are too many other major areas in which the game is let down. The lack of atmosphere, puzzles which are simple to solve, a predictable plot and chase scenes which fall flat. It all adds up to a disappointingly lackluster game, and one that you probably don’t need to be grabbing for full price. Wait for that sale if you’re insistent on playing Close To The Sun.
On paper Close To The Sun should have been an amazing game. While it certainly looks the part, the game suffers from a number of issues which pull the player out of the immersion of the game. A lack of atmosphere, no real sense of danger and a predictable plot really take a lot away from the game.