South of the Circle is a narrative focused game developed by State of Play and published by 11 bit studios. You play as Peter a lecture at Cambridge whos studies lead him to the middle of an article during the cold war. After your plane crashes, you begin to seek help. Meanwhile, memories of the past overlap, exploring previous decisions, relationships and much more. There’s very little gameplay in South of the Circle, the majority of the time you’ll be choosing Peter’s responses which range from shy or concerned to enthusiastic, honest or strong. Dialogue does not drastically impact overall choices or conversations which was a huge bummer.
Since the game was initially developed for Apple Arcade, the minimalist gameplay makes sense, however if you’re not attached to the narrative then there’s nothing here for players. Fortunately the story is the biggest selling point for South of the Circle. Peter is an academic at heart and seeing his journey and professional relationships develop better paints him as a likeable character, he also had a connection with Clara who is also a lecturer at Cambridge, to see the struggle between his career and their love was magnificent. Unfortunately, the ending felt a bit rushed and doesn’t truly pay off. Still, I did enjoy the narrative direction and felt like I was watching a strong independent film blossom over the course of 3 hours.
South of the Circle features a unique art style, everything from backdrops and animations are minimal yet meticulously crafted, no need to render in huge locations as everything is scaled back and features enough scenery and tone to grasp the intention of each scene, paired with the excellent voice acting and you have an effective receive for success. The less is more art style grew on me and made for some fantastic transition shots that I would like to see featured in more modern titles. Additionally, the sound design is surprisingly well crafted, depending on the scene and location, you can hear the difference in room tone and reverb, blended well with intense moments where the music swells, it was a blast to experience via speakers or headphones. This is an area where the game really overcomes its Apple Arcade origins, the sound design felt like the cherry on top making the title feel a bit more cinematic.
Overall, South of the Circle is made for gamers who love narrative focused titles, it features a heartwarming love story that ultimately connects to Peter’s journey to Antarctica. With the gameplay being minimal it may not appeal to the mases, however if you’re seeking a relaxing narrative experience with fantastic voice acting and a touching storyline, you shouldn’t miss out on this game.