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South of the Circle - Review - Xbox

South of the Circle was developed by BAFTA winning State of Play (makers of Lume, Kami and Lumino City) and published by 11 bit studios. It is described as an emotional narrative experience with a deep multi-layered story. Originally released as a mobile game on Apple Arcade, its now found its way onto consoles and PC!

South of the Circle's story follows Peter, a Cambridge academic who finds himself fighting for survival in Antarctica during the 1960’s Cold War. Peter flashes back to his life at the university and his relationship with a fellow lecturer, Clara. As this game focuses heavily on the narrative story I don't want to go into much detail as it is best experienced first hand, but the game finds Peter and his co-pilot crash landed in the snowy Antarctic, as he searches for rescue for himself and his injured friend, he flits back to his past memories in a variety of flashback scenes. As Peter battles against the harsh conditions and his attempts to escape the ice become more desperate, the lines between his past and present begin to blur.

The game plays very much in the vein of a walking simulator or narrative game similar to what you would find on offer in a Telltales game. You will navigate the world on foot or by vehicle and will be able to interact with a variety of objects in different locations. The way the game flicks between past and present suddenly is really interesting and help build up the back story to exactly how Peter ended up at the point where we find him in the game. At points in the game you will have dialogue options that help progress the story. Unlike other games that give you multiple text responses to answer with, South of the Circle presents you with a selections of symbols which correlate to your varying emotions for responses. If you fail to make a selection the game will choose one at random for you. It's a simple system but you will feel at times like you're not entirely sure what you are actually selecting.

The game itself features a beautiful aesthetic that really makes it stand out from other games. It's simple, but it portrays everything perfectly in a watercolour painting kind of way. The animations of the characters are fantastic and look very lifelike thanks to the use of full 3D motion capture, which is a bonus as it compliments the absolutely spot on voice-acting that the game presents.

Unlike many other walking sim/narrative games where the voice-acting comes across stilted or wooden, the portrayals found in South of the Circle from the likes of multi-Oscar winning Bohemian Rhapsody (Gwilym Lee), The Woman in White (Olivia Vinall), The Crown (Richard Goulding), Game of Thrones (Anton Lesser), Chernobyl (Adrian Rawlins) and Downton Abbey (Michael Fox) really draw you in to the story.

Overall its a thoroughly engrossing game from start to finish. There are few complaints, such as the short run time of 3-4 hours to complete (which can be forgiven as this is technically a mobile game) and there doesn't seem to be much overall consequence to your choices on how the story plays out. But the game is one of the better narrative story driven, walking sim style games I've had the pleasure to experience. If your looking for an escape in a game where you can get lost in the plot without worrying too much about gameplay mechanics then this is a must play!

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South of the Circle was released onto the Xbox store on the 3rd August 2022 and is priced at £10.74. You can buy the game HERE. The game is playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S consoles. It supports smart delivery.

A copy of the game was provided for this review. A huge thank you for that.

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