When The Sun Has Set, No Candle Can Replace It
Sunset is unlike any game I have ever played. Originally, I absolutely hated it. However, I stuck with it and suddenly the dominos started to fall and I was blown away. Sunset is incredibly unique, I feel like I should start by saying it isn’t a game — at least, not in any kind of traditional sense. Sunset is a story that is interactive rather than a game. The whole “game” is completely narrative-driven. It’s based back in the 1970s in a fictional but distinctly American dystopia called Anchuria. The game is confined to a large two-story penthouse suite.
You play a African-American woman called Angela Burnes who, despite her qualifications, ends up as a maid. She’s an easy character to empathize and I frequently found myself agreeing with even some of the more controversial things she was saying. I can’t stress enough how brilliant the voice acting is in this game, I think it is the best I have ever heard. Angela is the only one who really speaks in the game and it is kept as short clipped lines of monologue, usually as you first start a new day.
Angela is working for a very wealthy man called Gabriel Ortega, who is a man of unusual tastes. The game is simple: you have a list of jobs such as watering the plants or sending a letter. You can choose how you do a task and that will influence your relationship with the enigmatic Ortega. I have found that you don’t even need to complete your list of jobs because there aren’t any consequences.
I got bored very quickly when I first started playing. The actual gameplay is fairly monotonous and the lack of consequences eventually had me shirking all my duties and just wandering around. There is a time limit to how long you can stay. You get exactly one hour before sunset to clean up. Honestly, if I hadn’t on my explorations, sat in a chair with a dust cover on it, I probably would have rated this game very low. By sitting in this chair, you trigger Angela to start writing her diary. This makes things very interesting very suddenly. She might talk about the jobs you do, but she’ll add something that suddenly makes it seem a lot more significant. You suddenly get a lot more context to the story, but it’s rather unfortunate that the game is absolutely riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, especially when reading plays such a vital role in the storytelling.
Ortega is an art collector with a love of all the humanities it seems. Throughout his house, you’ll find endless stacks of books, expensive art and an overall air of high society. Angela occasionally writes about the new art he brings into his home. She’s a lot more grounded in reality and maybe a bit of a nihilist. However, sometimes the game comes across as pretentious, which is always something I find in games with a deep plot. It becomes very clear through Angela’s diary entries that Anchuria has banned art. The storyline reads a lot like a George Orwell book and it’s very unsettling.
Considering all you do is run around Ortega’s apartment doing chores, I must admit the game put me on edge. There is an air of helplessness while playing; things will happen outside the window, like a building blowing up and it can really send you into a panic. There really is nothing you can do to alter the main storyline of the game, but somehow through the little things you do in Ortega’s apartment, you manage to influence the outside world. It’s amazing how the little things you do can make such big ripples, but I shan’t say more for fear of spoiling it for you.
The game has plenty of achievements and they are thrown at you in a seemingly random fashion. The game is beautiful, it’s made that way so you can get really close and personal with the artwork. Unfortunately, even on my gaming PC, I had to turn the graphics all the way down and close all other applications. I think the real problem at the heart of the technical issues it causes comes from the changing light and the reflections. Both are constantly at play and, while they look amazing, cause movement to become very jerky and slow.
This game requires a lot of patience because it is very slow to start. It’s very thought-provoking and far from a lighthearted adventure. It feels a lot like a Point-and-Click Adventure game when you play it and sometimes I feel its high quality graphics are unnecessary. That said, it’s a game I would recommend to a very niche audience. I think if you are someone who reads a lot and enjoys a good narrative, this game would be for you. I think when buying it, you should treat it more like a book that you can play rather than a game focused on the story. I can’t really say it is “fun” to play, but it’s certainly interesting. I can’t deny it has its very unique charms and is intriguing. The game is a lot like a sunset: Some people won’t care about it, whereas others will be able to appreciate its beauty.