An emotionally complex narrative adventure • AIPT

South of the Circle


Stories-based games are my favorite, regardless of whether they involve shooting aliens in space or picking up everyday household items. I’m drawn to story first and foremost, which made South of the CircleI find it a very enjoyable game, especially with the Cold War-era love story.

South of the CirclePlay as Peter Hamilton, a flirtatious, awkward, and always nerdy climate researcher. The game bounces between the present tense where Peter is fighting for survival in Antarctica after a plane crash and Peter’s past, which mostly revolves around his relationship with fellow Cambridge lecturer Clara. After meeting on a train, they form a bond that is the core of their story. South of the Circle.

While the narrative is mostly linear – you won’t have to worry about numerous branching pathways – there are still key moments where you, as Peter, can make decisions that direct the course of Peter and Clara’s relationship. The main conflict that arises is a classic dilemma plenty of couples will face – career or love? As a giant sap, I chose Clara to be the focus of my nearly three-and half-hours-long playthrough. I really enjoyed the game’s focus being on Peter and Clara’s growing romance and exploring the nuanced emotions they felt in 1960s academia.

'South of the Circle' review: An emotionally complex narrative adventure

While on holiday, Clara and Peter ponder their lives together.

There’s a lot of emotional intelligence in South of the CIrcleI was captivated by the characters’ wit and humor. I loved the scene in which Clara tells Peter about her brother’s death. It was one of my favourite examples of the emotional complexity displayed in the game. She is still grieving her brother’s passing but also expresses gratitude for his absence. With her now being her father’s only child, she was able to receive the love, attention, and passion for academics her father wouldn’t have given her had her brother still been around. It was a shocking revelation that State of Play had achieved a great deal in emotional storytelling. South of the Circle.

The setting of South of the CircleThe story of the game is influenced greatly by the characters. Even the simple study of clouds can be connected to the Cold War tensions in the 1960s. The recent discovery of the Cambridge Four has Cambridge on edge, with Clara’s friend Molly suspected of being a possible fifth spy. No one is safe from suspicion, and simple association between acquaintances can have lasting impact on the course of one’s life.

It is important to understand the gender dynamics of the period. South of the Circle’s story. Clara talks about the struggles of women, particularly at the intersection of professional and personal lives. She helps Peter develop his research method and work on his paper, but Peter’s mentor and friends make it abundantly clear that if he keeps Clara’s name on the paper – giving her her due credit – he may be stalling his academic career before it truly begins. Ultimately, it’s up to the player to determine how that storyline – the battle of career advancement versus enduring love – plays out.

'South of the Circle' review: An emotionally complex narrative adventure

While others at Cambridge find academic success, Peter struggles with his paper — until Clara offers her aide.

They bring the game to life. Gwilym Lee is best known for his roles in The GreatAnd Bohemian RhapsodyOlivia Vinall’s Clara stole the show. She gives such depth and emotion to the character, and the game wouldn’t be a success without her superb performance – and that of the rest of the cast. They truly carry the game because its art style – which I do like – doesn’t allow for much emotion to be displayed by the characters as they’re limited to very little facial expression. 

South of the CircleThis design has a sleek and clean look. It features bright colors, black silhouettes and great lighting that combine to enhance the emotion and story. This design makes use of empty space and creates loosely defined spaces. South of the CircleIt often looks like a stage drama, with actors performing in front of a live audience. The game’s look and sound were both great. Ed Critchley composed the score and it combines beautifully with the game’s artwork. Together they add emotion to the narrative and help tell the story.

'South of the Circle' review: An emotionally complex narrative adventure

Salvation? Or false hope

Discussing a video game’s gameplay so late in a review may feel strange at times, but I think it’s appropriate here. There isn’t too much to really DoIn South of the Circle. If you’ve played a Supermassive Games or Quantic Dream offering, then South of the CircleIt will feel familiar. You’ll stiffly and awkwardly walk through different environments, often the snowy tundra of Antarctica or the Scottish countryside, and interact with objects that sometimes elicit memories and other times simply grant trophies.

The key gameplay elements are dialogue and narrative choice. During conversation, you’ll have the ability to choose how Peter responds to what other characters say and feel. My nitpick with the game’s choices is that I wish what Peter was really going to say was more obvious. There are five emotions you can choose from. One to three of them may be present at once. They each cover a subset. Peter can be overjoyed, panicked, calm and stern. During the first act, I had to pause the game several times to refresh my memories of the colors/shapes. If I had chosen a green circle or black square to respond to Peter’s question, a brief description would have helped me understand his response.

Although I enjoyed the role-playing of Peter, I felt that many choices were only illusions. There were many occasions when I was only presented with one option. This took me out the role-playing aspect of the role. I felt like I was following a script and not influencing the story. It was difficult to tell the difference between film and cut scene. I wondered if I was just watching a film or interacting with a game. The narrative is still compelling. South of the Circle tells was so strong that I can’t complain too much if I wasn’t given much influence over it.

South of the Circle‘s narrative-first, gameplay-last approach may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those of us who love narrative-focused games, its a must have. A few minor gameplay quirks aside, South of the Circle excels at what it sets out to do — tell a beautiful and layered love story you’ll surely enjoy.

South of the Circle

‘South of the Circle’ review: An emotionally complex narrative adventure

South of the Circle

South of the CircleIt excels in what it sets out for — telling a beautiful, layered love story that you will enjoy.

The story is both emotional and engaging. It’s also grand and nuanced at times.

Actors who are skilled in portraying well-developed characters bring life to them.

Elegance and somber music are a great combination to enhance the emotional impact of the story.

I would have preferred more power to affect the course of events.


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