South of the Circle Xbox Series X Review

South of the Circle is an excellent illustration of the type of game that is more akin to an interactive narrative.

By Rayan, Posted 07 Aug 2022

As an Apple exclusive for a few years, South of the Circle has now made its way to other platforms, broadening the potential audience for gamers who would be intrigued by its rich narratives. Developed by State of Play Games back in 2020 and published by 11 bit studios, the game was loved by many after its release. Given that it features such an unbalanced gameplay ratio compared to its narrative, it is obvious that not everyone will like it. The limited gameplay mechanics available are actually just anecdotes; in fact, even the options system does not lead to distinct outcomes, contrary to what is typically expected in this type of game. However, while the game's art style is visually arresting, the speech choices are only made worse by the game's use of overly stylized scenes. Yet, the moment the game started with a plane crash in the icy deserts of Antarctica, I was drawn towards the narrative and couldn't move until it ended.


South of the Circle|Xbox Series X, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Gwilym Lee, Olivia Vinall, NoobFeed
 

South of the Circle starts with an emergency landing in the Antarctic snow; a climatologist professor from the University of Cambridge called Peter is forced to find a route to a neighboring research station on his own. Since the pilot was still recovering from a broken leg, Peter had to leave in search of rescue while the pilot remained in the cockpit with his broken leg. This dangerous journey led Peter to remember memories attached to his entrance to Cambridge, his studies on climatology, and his challenging relationships with the dean. And most importantly, he remembers his first encounter with Clara, a professor with whom he would develop ever stronger connections. At the same time, the Cold War and England's suspicions of Russian espionage lurked in the background.

The game's narrative is split into two parts, the first deals with Peter's struggle to survive after the accident at the pole, while the second takes place in flashbacks to Peter's earlier life, where the audience is confronted with the decisions that led to Peter's journey to the pole. These recollections focus primarily on Peter's time spent in school and his attempts to complete his research. Still, we are often shown clips from Peter's childhood and his strained relationship with his father. For all the similarities between then and now that are being drawn between the events that took place during that period and those that are currently taking place, it does not feel pleasant to see the environment of the 1960s portrayed in such vivid detail in these flashbacks.


South of the Circle|Xbox Series X, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed
 

South of the Circle is primarily an interactive narrative focused on the tale that unfolds throughout the game. The majority of the time spent playing the game will be spent watching and reacting to the game's cutscenes. The game can be completed in as little as four to five hours. You spend most of your time traveling around the world in South of the Circle, exploring new regions and interacting with various items to get insight into what is occurring in the present time. On the other hand, it also includes interactive cinematics, most prominently embedded into the flashbacks. The narrative reaches its full potential as a result of them, with the reader not only gaining insight into Peter and what he has been through up until this point but also being confronted with decisions that will have repercussions.

The game's dialogue system is unique because it doesn't provide us a choice of lines to answer; instead, we respond through feelings. You will be asked to select between five different symbols that best reflect how you feel about proceeding with the story. The game presents us with colored icons that symbolize determination, fear or negativity, affection and concern for the interlocutor, and positivity. These icons are shown to us in a manner that varies depending on the circumstance. A sun symbol reflects an enthusiastic reaction, and a green circle indicates caring, honest, and open reactions. In contrast, a red dot indicates confusion, panic, and concern reactions. Sometimes you won't be able to select the feeling you feel, and when you do, if you don't choose one, the game will select one at random. In contrast, the opportunity to say nothing is not an option here, unlike similar games of this genre.


South of the Circle|Xbox Series X, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Gwilym Lee, Olivia Vinall, NoobFeed
 

South of the Circle is not limited to its intriguing story; instead, it also covers how the story is conveyed. Within its audiovisual work, the game offers a proposition for an experience that is simple, playful, dramatic, and emotional. Motion capture was applied to record the movement of the actors' faces and bring forth their emotions, while the visual effects always provide excellent quality to each scene. The game immediately grabs your attention with its captivating minimal art style, which is also nicely animated, giving the impression that the world and its people are alive and that it looks great overall. However, the excellent dubbing sticks out even more, which features a star-studded cast and makes it difficult to determine which actor or actress gives the finest performance. The role of Peter is perfectly adapted to Gwilym Lee, and Olivia Vinall played his ideal counterpart. The entire cast is just fantastic, and their great acting is backed by music of a high standard.

It is difficult to talk about South of the Circle without avoiding spoilers. The plot is what really gets under your skin, even though you have a fantastic cast and staff to support the story. At the beginning of the game, the story seems to be searching for a subject to focus on, then it keeps jumping to several different topics. However, the ending was the part that let us down the most. Although the game's decisions hardly ever stray off course, there aren't many alternative paths to take. The conclusion is shockingly linear and entirely disregards the few decisions made throughout the gameplay. Because the characters and even the narrative don't fully portray how doing things right in these cases might pay off, one may wonder if those are the intended takeaways from this game.



 

South of the Circle is the ideal game for anyone who wishes to enjoy a sophisticated and engaging narrative without exerting excessive effort. As long as it's viewed as nothing more than an interactive narrative in which we may adjust the emotional nuances and little aspects, it creates an exciting and intriguing adventure that will appeal to fans of this genre. It would have been fun to play through the game multiple times without, and it would have piqued our interest if there was an opportunity to reach diverse conclusions. Nonetheless, given how effectively the game reveals its tale, South of the Circle is an excellent illustration of the type of game that is more akin to an interactive narrative.
 

Azfar Rayan (@AzfarRayan)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC, Mobile
Publisher(s): 11 Bit Studios
Developer(s): State of Play
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 2022-08-03

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