At first glance, Close to the Sun looks very much like a BioShock clone. However, it’s quite a different beast.
Developer Storm in a Teacup is so keen to eschew comparisons that the review guide even includes a list of what Close to the Sun is and isn’t. According to the devs, Close to the Sun is a first-person, single player, story-driven horror adventure.
What it isn’t is hardcore, FPS or BioShock. It’s easy to see why the comparisons have been made. Close to the Sun is set on Nikola Tesla’s research ship, the Helios in an alternate 19th century. The Helios sails the seas and gives scientists the freedom to experiment beyond moral guidelines and is captained by a mysterious and enigmatic leader.
Close to the Sun Review
Beyond these similiarities, the Helios itself is an art-deco monstrosity and stands as a shrine to Tesla. It also seems to have undergone some awful events in the lead-up to your arrival.
As much as Storm in a Teacup wants to separate Close to the Sun from BioShock, there’s an awful lot the two have in common. However, Close to the Sun doesn’t include any shooting or combat of any kind.
Instead, Close to the Sun is more akin to SOMA, Outlast and even Firewatch. Players are cast as Rose who has boarded the Helios to find her sister after receiving a cryptic message. As she explores, the story is told mimetically through discovery.
What starts slowly gradually builds over the course of the game’s four or five hours as secrets are revealed and the reasons behind the horrors on board are explained.
Throughout these hours, the tension and atmosphere onboard the Helios ramps up and up and up. The old adage rings true though, and what goes up must come down. Sadly, Close to the Sun suffers a similar fate as many horror/thriller games and movies.
Once the enemy/monster/bad guy is revealed it becomes far less frightening and the tension is all but lost. To its credit, Close to the Sun tries to maintain the intrigue and fear, but it only succeeds for so long before the story hobbles over the finish line.
It’s a real shame because up until the third act, Close to the Sun is a tightly scripted, atmospheric horror show.
Nearly, but not quite
It’s hard to talk about the narrative in Close to the Sun without ruining anything, so I won’t. Suffice it to say, it features science fiction, horror, plot twists and some great characterisations. Both Rose and her sister hold the entire weight of the plot, with Tesla appearing only as minor support.
The few other characters who appear are two-dimensionsal for the most part and mostly exist to further the plot.
Aside from these few issues, the game looks great and sounds even better. Thanks to the Unreal engine, Storm in a Teacup has been able to craft an (almost) AAA experience — at least visually — which runs buttery smooth and plays just as well.
It’s quite a linear experience, but these types of games always are and by making it so, the developer has complete control of the scripting to make it tight, fraught with terror and incredibly detailed.
Close to the Sun is all of these things and is a hugely ambitious title from such a small team. It doesn’t quite stick the landing but it’s a (mostly) great experience and one that sci-fi horror fans will enjoy.
Close to the Sun was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Close to the Sun
- Incredible Atmosphere - 8.3/108.3/10
- Fascinating Setting - 8.6/108.6/10
- Story is wonderful... - 7/107/10
- ...Until Act 3 - 5/105/10
- Some Wonky Moments - 4.1/104.1/10