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 lecturer at Cambridge whose studies led him to the middle of Antarctica during the Cold War. After your plane crashes, you begin 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 doesn’t drastically impact overall choices or conversations, which was a huge bummer. Otherwise, you’ll travel using the thumbstick and sometimes an on-screen prompt. Since the game was initially developed for Apple Arcade, the minimalist gameplay makes sense. However, if you’re not attached to the narrative, there’s nothing here for players.
Fortunately, the story is one of the biggest selling points. Peter is an academic at heart, and seeing his journey and professional relationships develop better paint him as a likable character. Additionally, his connection with Clara, another Cambridge lecturer, and 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 three hours.
South of the Circle features a unique art style. Everything from backdrops to animations is 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, you have an effective recipe for success. There are moments of sudden pop-in via hiking levels, but it’s nothing that detracts from the experience. The less-is-more art style grew on me and made for some fantastic transition shots that I would love 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.
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 masses. 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.
South of the Circle is available now on Apple Arcade and on August 3 on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam and GOG for $12.99.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for South of the Circle.