I’ll be honest and say I’m a part of the crowd that in some capacity, compared Close to the Sun to BioShock. Further, I have to give props to Storm in a Teacup’s press kit including a list of what the game is and isn’t, and listed clearly on the ‘isn’t’ side is the word ‘BioShock’. Always nice to see devs with a sense of humor and acknowledgment. To the point though! Close to the Sun definitely has me interested in the first three chapters we were allowed to play. This preview on the PlayStation 4 has a lot going for it in the early stages.
Close to the Sun follows Rose aboard a colossal sea-faring ship known as Helios. She receives a heartfelt, yet still mysterious letter from her sister, Ada, urging her to board the gigantic craft. Once our heroine arrives she is met with blood strewn hallways and corpses instead of a utopia with the finest minds the world has seen. When some semblance of bearings is attained, Rose makes contact with her sister via a radio earpiece. It’s not quite clear what has befallen the ship, but we are told there is fatal danger everywhere. Also, what appear to be time echos just waltzing about in golden light. Definitely nothing wrong with that and the interruption of time.
This all takes place in an early, alternate 1900s where Nikolai Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower was a success and the dream of free energy led the way to many of the famous scientist’s other creations. This created a huge power vacuum with the socio-economic politics of the world and inspired Telsa to create the Helios. So the best and brightest minds could all confer in one place without the money men or unaccepting. If you’re thinking to yourself that sounds a lot like Andrew Ryan’s plan you’d be right, whether the developers like it or not. In fact, there are quite a few similarities and some have been mentioned already. Some digging around for the in-game collectibles even reveal multiple groups conspiring against Nikolai. Plus, some blackmail and abuse of power for good measure.
Gameplay is more sci-fi horror-centric without weapons, at least for the first three chapters, so it does tread its own path in this regard. Rose can interact with selectable objects to open doors, power or depower machines, and inspect items. General light puzzle-solving to move past obstacles blocking your way. I also assume that running away from enemies will be an aspect of gameplay. It’s just not in the first three chapters of what I was able to play. The same goes for the horror in these early stages. Don’t get me wrong as there’s an intriguing and intense environment at play here. It’s just the scariest thing so far is a bloodied character banging on a just closed elevator that’s making its way up. There was some off-screen NPC psychotically chanting, “The cycle must be broken,” over and over again. So yea, we’re dealing with influencing time. Bioshock Infinite anyone?
Kidding aside there were very real problems with the preview code. If it wasn’t for Close to the Sun’s primarily linear gameplay structure, a lot of “puzzles” would be confusing to solve. Then there’s the case I went through about 75% percent of the way into chapter three. After solving a puzzle to open up Ada’s secret room in her apartment, Rose is supposed to get a prompt to bend over and crawl through a vent. That prompt did not appear, but rest assured we were told by the developers this is a known bug and will be fixed. It’s just that I was about to get some answers to what’s truly going on in the next scene and I want to know! Another, but less grave technical problem, was that the draw distance wasn’t great. Items and objects would pop in unexpectedly. Not something you’d expect from a linear game, then.
Graphics and voice acting are impressive and I truly can’t wait to experience all of it. For now, the first three chapters are a mostly horror free, albeit tense walk through a titan concept of a ship. There’s some mysterious time plot to unfold, psychotic NPCs to contend with, and tons of dead bodies to wade through. Close to the Sun shows promise and I can’t wait to try the full experience when it releases for the PlayStation 4 sometime next month.
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