In the end, there isn't much here that feels fully developed. While The Caligula Effect: Overdose has some interesting ideas, none of them really work. I suspect that after some time with The Go-Home Club, players will be longing to go home to the cozy comfort of a classic JRPG. Better to avoid this simulation from the start.
Maybe the most damning thing I can say about Close to the Sun is that the main story it’s so interested in telling—the story that everything else on the Helios funnels you back toward—just isn’t the least bit surprising. All of it borrows pretty heavily from the BioShock playbook, and all of the plot points it trots out have been done better (and far more shockingly) elsewhere. The portrait of Tesla it presents seems conflicted—and I hoped Close to the Sun would attempt to close the distance between the egomania that would prompt a man to build statues of himself and the gentle humanity Tesla shows elsewhere — but the game doesn’t do anything to dig into those contradictions. That’s the consequence of all those chase sequences. Close to the Sun just doesn’t have the time to dig into anything. It’s got somewhere else to be.
My own lack of emotional investment doesn’t negate what Observation does so well. No Code has created something truly unique. It defies easy “x meets y meets z” categorization. While there are recognizable component parts—the map of a ship-builder, the numerous small mechanics of a microgame collection, the rubberneckery of an immersive sim—I have never played anything quite like Observation. But, I’m guessing it would be awfully familiar to the AI in my pocket.
Void Bastards, unfortunately, stifles creativity at times. No matter how you approach the game, much of your time will be spent rifling through drawers. It succeeds at evoking the best of comic book art, but will need some work before its emergent narratives approach the heights of explosive comic book storytelling.
Complaining about Outer Wilds inscrutability is a little like criticizing Rome because you don’t know which sights to see. Do a measly Google search. Mobius Digital has, at times, erred on the side of giving players too little information. But, as a result, they have created a world that casts you as Isaac Newton. They are eagerly waiting for you to discover its gravity.
The story and characters and shooting that make Wolfenstein shine are still all here. But, the structure has shifted those elements around, producing something that just doesn’t feel like Wolfenstein anymore. If you like loot-shooters and would like to play one with a Nazi-killing coat of paint, Wolfenstein Youngblood is basically that. But, if you come to Wolfenstein for well-realized characters and pulpy stories, Youngblood is defined by their absence.
That said, The Church in the Darkness is a smart stealth game that impressively warps to reflect your actions. It lets you get in and break out as you see fit. While failure still feels like failure, success is sweet and varied. Once it gets a hold of you, you may not want to break out, at all.