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Sunset Review

Sunset Review

Tale of Tales has achieved its objective of creating a holistic and artistic experience, but to appreciate Sunset one needs to take the "traditional gaming" hat off.


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Genre: Adventure (somewhat)
Release date: May 21, 2015

The Basics

Sunset is a new release from Tale of Tales and was conceived by Belgian artists Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn. Historically, this team has focused on creating “unique video game experiences” rather than developing for the mainstream gamer. Sunset is no exception and it required that I put on a different set of glasses in order to be fair when playing it for review

The entire game takes place in a penthouse apartment occupied by Gabriel Ortega, a wealthy activist and patron of the arts. You experience this world through the persona of Angela Burnes – a young black woman who has recently graduated from an American university. In pursuit of a better life, she and her brother have immigrated to the fictional city of San Bavon, Anchuria. There, the grass is not greener. Anchuria is a banana republic in the middle of a violent revolution against an oppressive regime. Angela’s brother joins the rebel forces and disappears to parts unknown. Angela is employed by the elusive (and absent) Gabriel. Her job is to visit his apartment on a regular basis, perform housekeeping chores for no more than an hour, and leave before sunset. Upon arrival each day, she has a list of suggested tasks but is free to use the time as she sees fit.

All in a Day’s Work

Gameplay consists of series of penthouse visits over a 10-month period in the early seventies. Angela experiences the world as one would expect, given her role as a housekeeper with a key. She talks to no one, sees no one, and busies herself in an empty landscape. Although the apartment is spacious, her options are restricted because only a subset of rooms are accessible on any given day. The sounds and sights of the city are experienced from a distance and the story is revealed through her “self-talk” – musings as she enters the environment and reacts to what she finds, and diary entries when she sits down to relax.

Sunset provides a sensory-rich experience. The penthouse is modern and elegant, with detailed artwork in all rooms. It has been beautifully created in a 3D environment that is navigated without issue. The sounds surround you on all sides and, on occasion, you have the opportunity to listen to selections from Gabriel’s record collection. In all cases, the music is remarkable and provides respite from the quiet of being alone.

The controls are simple and require only a few keys and a mouse to navigate and explore. Although you encounter different items and opportunities each day, you don’t physically interact with anything. If you encounter an item of interest (such as a bucket or a document), an associated action is available for selection. Selecting the action causes it to occur but you are not involved in the process. Instead you see or reflect upon the results after the action has been completed. Along the way, you are awarded “Steam Achievements” for clicking on the right thing or being in the right place at the right time. Overall, I found these to be distracting rather than reinforcing. Perhaps I’m just not a “merit badge” kind of gamer.

So, What’s Wrong with this Picture?

To appreciate Sunset one needs to take the ‘traditional gaming’ hat off. Tale of Tales has achieved its objective of creating a holistic and artistic experience. Playing Sunset can be likened to visiting an art gallery or watching a movie filmed from the perspective of a single character. In both cases, you are offered an immersive view of a world which may be very different than your own.

When you enter the elevator to Gabriel’s penthouse, you experience the game world through Angela’s eyes, ears, and mind. You see your reflection; you review the events of the day; you go about your job; and you engage in constant internal dialog. You are surrounded by the violence of a political revolution, yet you are cocooned in the safety of the penthouse. Events on the outside have a deep personal impact but are experienced vicariously. Your only sense of the outside is what can be viewed through windows, heard from the street, or discovered within the apartment. Although Angela remarks on life outside the penthouse, you are only privy to anecdotal evidence of this reality.

For me, the problem with Sunset is that it’s not an experience that captured my attention or fired my imagination. I want to actively participate in life. I want to touch and feel and interact with the world around me. If I had been Angela, I would have left the penthouse and joined the rebels. If I had that much “alone” time, I would have read books, knit sweaters or learned to speak Japanese. In truth, I might have avoided Anchuria altogether by using Angela’s engineering degree to find a job in the States.

But, that’s me… an educated white woman in the year 2015. Angela is an educated black woman in the year 1972. For her, not that many years have passed since the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the march to Montgomery. Her childhood was spent in a very different America than mine and, as such, I have no personal framework for her politics or point of view.

Drudgery at its Finest

Sunset is a well-executed game. It plays flawlessly and the attention to detail by Tale of Tales is impressive. The graphics are stunning and the audio is perfect. But, at the end of this journey, I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience. I visited the penthouse several dozen times and, as time progressed, I found myself hoping that each trip up the elevator would be my last. While Gabriel is in town (albeit not present in the game), the task list changes with each visit. Towards the middle of the timeline, there is a long period during which Gabriel is out of town and your task list is limited to ‘put the mail on the table and do what you want.’ Although an hour of game time equates to a much shorter period of ‘real world’ time, I found these visits to be interminable. At my core, I am too responsible to skip out early, even when my employer is a game character. And I’m enough of a Type A to be driven crazy when there is absolutely nothing to do but wander and sit, waiting for sunset.

My final complaint is the ending, or lack thereof. I suspect that the game might have shifted direction if I had made different choices or shirked my duties. I worked hard, was rarely late, and never left early. Thus, I expected to be rewarded with the “good ending” (if one existed). It should be noted that I can’t validate this hunch without restarting the game from Day 1 because Sunset doesn’t allow the player to save along the way.

As the story began to wrap up, the game gave me the sense that Angela’s personal journey was building to a significant ending. However, my hopes for her were dashed when the game was suddenly over. Perhaps I was supposed to infer what had transpired “‘behind the scenes,” but Angela gave no clues. I am left with a series of unanswered questions and the sense of having missed something important.

Grade: B-
Beautiful environment and immersive audio
Believable and complex character development
Interesting concept and a departure from the norm
– Passive gameplay will frustrate those who crave action and adventure
– Small game world and repetitive daily routines wear thin, over time
– Lack of closure in storyline leaves the player with a sense of unfinished business

System Requirements
OS: XP 32-bit 
Processor: Intel Core i5
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6970 (1GB VRAM)
DirectX: Version 11
Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
Additional Notes: IntelHD Integrated Graphics Chips may work but are not supported


OS: 10.6.8
Processor: Intel Core i5
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6970 (1GB VRAM)

Hard Drive: 2 GB available space

Additional Notes: IntelHD Integrated Graphics Chips may work but are not supported


Cindy Kyser

Cindy Kyser

Cindy’s love affair with gaming began when she opened a mailbox in front of a white house and took the first step in a long series of adventures. ‘Back in the day,’ Cindy was a regular contributor to JA and an active member of the online gaming community. She has attended several E3s and has had the pleasure of spending time in person with both Ray and Randy. Her all- time favorite adventures include the Tex Murphy series, the Gabriel Knight series, and The Longest Journey. She also enjoys RPGs and her list of ‘best ever’ includes Fallout, Asheron’s Call, and Planescape Torment. Â Frustrated with the cost of rising PC system requirements, Cindy decided to switch to console and tablet gaming. Although you can teach some old dogs new tricks, she discovered that console controller dexterity is a skill set that she is lacking. Her results with tablet gaming were not much better. With the exception of a few gems such as The Room and Forever Lost, there is a limit to how much one can play Candy Crush and Hidden Object Adventures. Having proved that pure escapism is worth the investment, she has a new gaming laptop and is back to her search for the perfect adventure. Â After spending most of her life in Los Angeles and Atlanta, Cindy escaped the stress of urban life and moved to rural Arkansas. To show that she has become a true Arkansan, she has taken up deer hunting, wears pink camo, and put a chicken coop in her backyard. On a stressful day, she can be heard yelling ‘Woo Pig Sooie’ when all else fails.

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