South of the Circle | Review – An adventure at the edge of the world
We reached the end credits of South of the Circle after about three hours of abundant gameplay completed in one go.
Please don’t dwell on the brevity of this narrative adventure developed by the State of Play and don’t fall into unnecessary controversy – trust us, there have already been enough on this topic recently – but focus on the fact that we could not take our hands off. from the pad for the entire duration of the story, a sincere attestation of esteem to what has turned out to be one of the best expressions of the genre tried in the last period .
After spending a couple of years as an Apple exclusive, South of the Circle finally lands on other platforms and thus expands the audience of players who, we are sure, will be captured by its history.
Salvation is scattered among the snow
The start of South of the Circle is certainly not the best. We take on the role of Peter, a young Cambridge professor who specialized in the study of meteorology who, after an unfortunate landing, finds himself lost in the icy lands of Antarctica together with his pilot, who was injured and stuck on board the aircraft.
The situation immediately appears desperate and already from these first bars emerges the ability of the work to build well-rounded and well-characterized characters.
The protagonist is fearful and frightened by the need to separate from his colleague, who must forcefully push him to abandon the sheets of the plane in search of help, fuel, and medicine, a way of salvation that is lost in that white expanse all the same.
Peter’s expedition is also immediately exploited as a time travel back in the past of the protagonist, of which we will gradually learn about the obstacles encountered in the drafting of his scientific publications, and we will get to know a ruthless academic environment governed by old men conservative solons ready to put a spoke in the wheels of the new generation and we will reach the difficult and traumatic childhood of the young researcher.
One of the central themes of these flashbacks is the relationship that binds Peter to Clara, also a researcher in difficulty who decides to help the protagonist in the writing of his paper and to follow him in his studies up to the Scottish countryside.
It’s hard to talk about South of the Circle without falling into easy spoilers. The entire work of State of Play is based entirely on the narrative sector, of which we especially appreciated the intertwining between the most intimate part, made up of personal relationships, childhood traumas, and growth paths, and the most historical in an absolute sense
A novel in its own historical way
The story is set during the alternative 60s, but it differs little from reality. In this timeline, the Cold War has taken an even more belligerent turn and nuclear disarmament is only a distant hope, a mirage that fades as the USSR, the United States, and the United Kingdom wrangle over dead-end diplomatic treaties.
This historical framework frames many of the temporal leaps perfectly, it presents us with an always tense atmosphere made of suspicions and informers, which are contrasted by the hopes of young people, ready to demonstrate peace and a better future.
Peter himself lives in a constant precarious balance, divided between his duties as a professor, his bond with Clara, and her internal uncertainties, even from a difficult childhood.
These memories become more and more confused and add further tension to a present on the brink. All the scientific bases marked on Peter’s maps are empty and a sinister air hovers between the radios, the beds, and the instruments that do not foresee anything good.
Without burning the concluding bars, know that South of the Circle kept us on our toes until its end, thanks to growing tension and an ability not to add useless pieces that tasted of filler, an element which benefited above all the rhythm, never burdened by downtime.
In short, everything is in the right place, except for the final moments that did not clear all the questions that arose in our heads during the adventure.
The quality of South of the Circle does not end in the story itself, but also includes how it is told. The stylization of the characters is contrasted with a fluid and realistic animation – not surprisingly, motion capture was used – capable of giving expressiveness to the faces, the artistic effects always add a dreamlike touch to the scene, which all of a sudden brings us back to the icy reality of Antarctica when our face is whipped by the snow.
Even the acting is of the highest order and all the lines become credible thanks to the skill of the actors, who perfectly represent the various moods of the characters.
The icing on the cake is finally the direction, with cuts and shots that accompany the various moments of the past and the present without smudging, united in a single flow thanks to perfectly calibrated transitions.
Unfortunately South of the Circle is also a delicate toy, which broke several times in its most dramatic moments due to obvious technical stumbles.
For example, we witnessed a quarrel between our virtual parents floating in midair, lying one meter high from our bed as we heard screams coming from beyond the door. Difficult to take issues like education and domestic violence seriously while being off the ground.