Building a mystery.
Close to the Sun is such a luxurious-looking game, dripping in faded wealth and shattered dreams, it’s hard to believe it was built by a 15 -person team. The comparisons to BioShock it’s had leveled at it are far from unfounded – Close to the Sun is also steeped in art deco, set in a dystopian reality at sea, and ruled over by an idealistic madman. But, there are certain things that set it apart. Let’s shine some light.
Set in the late 1800s, Close to the Sun sees protagonist Rose on a call to adventure from her sister Ada, who is one of the most prominent scientists aboard the Helius, a giant ship created by inventor and mechanical engineer Nikola Tesla whose wonders are attracting the greatest minds from around the world. This particular dystopia sees Tesla as a successful visionary, able to flex his creative genius without the interference of fellow visionary Thomas Edison, who famously screwed him over in our reality.
Aboard the Helius, Rose immediately notices something is amiss. The word ‘quarantine’ is plastered on the door, and Ada is nowhere to be found. The developers at Storm in a Teacup call Close to the Sun a ‘first-person horror adventure’, in that there is an atmosphere of horror but you’re not constantly scrambling for your life as you might be in an Outlast or a Soma. Though you will face threats – to keep a sense of mystery, I didn’t see any in my demo – there is no combat in Close to the Sun, and your only means of survival is to run and hide.
Action doesn’t appear to be the primary focus of Close to the Sun, though, at least in its beginning stages. Its central mystery is what propels it forward, and light puzzle solving while exploring the Helius’ various nooks and crannies is how you’ll be spending most of your time. The Helius is a deeply mechanical beast, so you’ll be powering elevators, turning off electrical currents, and flipping switches.
Fortunately, the Helius appears to be a gorgeous space to poke around in. The area in my demo was a museum celebrating the work of Tesla through big, ostentatious displays; Tesla is not a humble man. It’s a dilapidated luxuriousness, though: flickering lights, faulty electrics, and tossed furniture are constant, which lends an air of unease. Close to the Sun isn’t above a good jump scare, either, and I experienced several in my demo.
Further in, it becomes apparent that Close to the Sun will play with time. Rose is briefly pulled back into the past, while shadowy apparitions play out their stories in front of her. The rationale behind all this is still nebulous, but the mystery in Close to the Sun, it seems, is the point, and it wants to send you down a rabbit hole.
That’s all we caught in our brief hands-on, but Close to the Sun will clock in at around 15 hours when it launches exclusively on the Epic Games Store sometime this year.
Lucy O’Brien is Executive Editor of Features at IGN. Follow her on Twitter.