Last week, I had a chance to play a war game unlike any other I’ve played. Called Sunset, the game puts you in the shoes of a housekeeper. You clean up after a rich bachelor who seems to be a part of a revolution — and you seem keen on being a part of it too.
What I tried was a short preview build provided by developer Tale of Tales. Though I’ve only played through 20 minutes of the game, it already seems fascinating.
You play as Angela Burnes, and she’s the first thing you see when you start the game up:
Every day, you have a couple of tasks left to you by Gabriel Ortega, your boss. They’re usually really simple, almost ridiculously so. Really, being a housekeeper is an excuse to be able to explore this place:
It’s lavish, the sort of thing only someone wealthy could afford. But, part of the apartment’s beauty comes through because of the great art design, too. Just look at this:
While you could theoretically beeline to your objective and simply tidy up, as you’re told to do, if you risk being nosy, you start seeing a narrative unravel. Your boss clearly has a role in the conflict. Or at least, you see things like sensitive documents and maps pointing out strategic locations lying about. What could they mean? Wondering about things beyond your control is part of the game’s appeal. It’s all in the intrigue.
That’s not to say the story is very overt, though. Often, it’s in the background. You can miss it entirely, if you’re not careful. I remember a moment when I turned on the radio, and I could hear Spanish chatter about why you could hear shooting in the background. It was a nice touch, but one that many players might not understand.
Initially, the game makes it feel as if you’re in a sanctuary, where nothing can go wrong. Sure, you’re the housekeeper, and the apartment is in the middle of a conflict zone, but you can also try to ignore all of that, and just sit by the fire or something. Enjoy the art around the house. Put on some music. Relax.
But that’s a ruse. Even if you’re not out there in the streets toting a gun, there is a war going on around you. At one point during the preview build, there was a huge boom in the distance. Everything shook. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was as safe as I thought I was. But all I could do was stare out in the smoke in the horizon. It was a moment that made my vulnerability palpable.
Though I never saw my boss in person, he did leave notes around the house. Sometimes, he chastised me — and rightly so. One night, I didn’t actually do the one thing he asked me to do, because I was so busy exploring the apartment. But a couple other notes I found seemed more playful, like he was trying to reach out to me. I could ignore the notes, if I wanted. Or, I could respond to them. The game gave me two options: I could be neutral, or I could be flirty. I wasn’t really sure what was appropriate, so I switched between both. My boss seemed receptive — or at least, his notes seemed weirdly personal. One night, his list of chores ended with “if only you could clean up inside my head.” Saucy!
Between the potential romance, and the incredible apartment, it’s easy to forget what you’re really dealing with in Sunset. At one point, I was dazzled because it seemed as if it was snowing outside. How pretty, I thought. Then I realised it was all ashes.
And that the city was actually going down in flames…
I didn’t play enough to get a sense of how your choices play out, or if Angela influences much of what’s going on around her. I don’t need Sunset to give me Bioware-like choices, where the fate of humanity rests in my hands, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that, as you play, Angela’s inner thoughts are very political. She’s an activist! The only reason she’s a housekeeper in the first place is because it’s an easy way to take eyes off of her. I get the feeling that, one way or another, she might get her hands dirty. But who knows! What’s clear to me right now is that, even in this early stage, Sunset seems like a game worth keeping an eye on.