The demo for The End of the Sun is a short gameplay look at the upcoming new game by The End of the Sun Team. The game has been in development for a least five years. Has it been worth the time and effort?
In The End of the Sun, you play as an ashter (a Slavic sorcerer). The nameless sorcerer has the ability to travel through time and manipulate smoke and fire to solve puzzles.
The game is heavily inspired by Eastern European (Slavic) cultures, beliefs and legends. The demo doesn’t say when the story takes place, but I assumed it was a fantasy world, possibly medieval-inspired?
Seasons play a big part in the story, and within the demo, you travel from a village in spring to a farmstead in the winter season.
From what I have learned, you will be able to help and experience the lives of a few of the same characters. See them when they are young and then later as they are old.
Some will call The End of the Sun a walking simulator. You will walk around quite large areas, exploring and examining objects. While true, the game features a run button, and the sprint isn’t a slog. The gameplay is more active than a lot of similar story-based adventure games.
Fire and light are core parts of the game’s story and gameplay. It is used to help you solve puzzles. In the first area, you can light a campfire. This sends smoke trails towards three puzzles you need to solve to progress.
The first puzzle involves finding missing wood logs to stop a log pile from falling over and blocking the door of a house. The second puzzle directs you to find a large grindstone. The third and final puzzle requires you to find a gift for the male (Nadimir) to give to his partner. All of which can be solved in any order.
You solve the puzzles by examing points of interest, such as blood, footprints, or something as innocuous as flour. The right mouse button zooms in, so this can be used to look in closer and see objects further away.
Points of interest will give you tips that you can use to solve puzzles. Certain items can be picked up and examined. Once an item is picked up, it disappears into the void, which means you better remember what you have collected.
A neat mechanic of the puzzles is the “Trail of time,” as they are called. These trails are short animated sketches of what has happened. For example, you might see Nadimir walk to a tree stump. He will then wonder where a gift could be. If you find it, he will now walk to the tree stump and pick up the gift you have placed.
The puzzles make you feel like a detective and remind me of Cryostasis and Return of the Obra Dinn. They both have similar investigating systems.
In the second area, some of the puzzles became annoying. This area story pivots around a house spirit that has been causing mischief. It involves solving a rope puzzle. It isn’t practically hard but is tedious to solve. This is because it takes ages to turn the crank, and with one incorrect click, you have to listen to the little bugger blabber on.
The developers have made the gameplay feel engaging. The game could have involved only looking and exploring, but in The End of the Sun, the gameplay matches the story and pacing.
The graphical fidelity at The End of the Sun is impressive. They apparently scanned buildings and objects to put into the game. When you pick one up, you can see all the little details in an item. Unfortunately, some have clearly had more effort put into them than others.
You will feel like you are back in time investigating some remote Polish village. The wooden building, flowers and painted walls all are sharp and striking.
…in the distance, birds tweet away. Meanwhile, the campfire is slowly roaring away.
Inside buildings, little details like spoons, bowls, towels, candles, food, and other items are added to make the places feel lived in. All have a Slavic-inspired look.
Another nice touch is the seamless transition of the time of the day. You won’t notice as the afternoon daylight gets darker before becoming nighttime. Once it gets dark, you can use candles as a personal torch. These only last a short time, but you will find it hard to see what you are doing without them.
Birds fly overhead, clouds gently row past, and the trees wave in the wind. All of which look realistic.
The character models in places aren’t as detailed as the rest of the game. However, they look good enough and give the game an Eastern European charm.
The audio is suitably Eastern European, and the musical tracks are soothing and also creepy at the same time. The music is subtle and comes and goes, almost like the wind.
Talking of wind, you hear it blow through the trees and leaves, and in the distance, birds tweet away. Meanwhile, the campfire is slowly roaring away. Footsteps make different noises. For example, grass and dirt have separate walking sounds from wooden floors. This all adds to the atmosphere, immersion and loneliness in places.
I like the subtlety of it. The sounds give clues and enhance the player’s experience. Often developers used noise as a constant overbearing racket track.
One main problem I have is with the voices. The English ones aren’t the best, which is a shame. I enjoyed playing the demo more when I used Polish voices and English subtitles.
It might be me, but I prefer to listen to a language that the game is set in. If it is set in Japan, I want Japanese voices. If in Russia, then Russian, and in this case, Polish. However, I still need English subtitles though.
The End of the Sun suffers from the same downfall of all adventure and story-based games in that once you know: what will happen or how to solve it, there isn’t much there to come back to.
You could replay the demo and soon the game. Yet, you would only do this if you are a real die-hard fan or it’s been several years since you last played it. This comes with the territorial with these types of games.
The demo gives a good look at what to expect. Hopefully, the game will offer some variety to the puzzle-solving and not stray into obtuse territory with the harder ones.
I enjoyed my time with the demo. There is about an hour’s worth of gameplay in there. It is fair in its challenge. You don’t need to be an adventure expert to complete it.
I particularly enjoyed the demo as I am a fan of the setting. I have always liked Slavic culture and its mythology. Which I guess you would call paganism nowadays. I am interested in pagan beliefs in general (even with being an atheist).
The setting is unique enough that others will likely enjoy the atmosphere provided. If anything, The Witcher series shows people have an appetite for that sort of backdrop.
The demo makes me want to have the game running as a screen saver. It is relaxing to stand and hang around in. I had it running in the background while I wrote this review.
Developer: The End of the Sun Team.
Publisher: The End of the Sun Team.
Release: 24th January 2023.