Life is Strange meets The Sims in deeply moving Steam Next Fest demo for Closer the Distance

Life is Strange meets The Sims in deeply moving Steam Next Fest demo for Closer the Distance


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It’s not often that a game – well, a Steam Next Fest demo – has such a profound impact on you that you need to take a breather afterwards. But then again, maybe I’m just not used to playing the type of game that Closer the Distance is. A cross-pollination of two genres, simulation and storytelling, Closer the Distance has, so far, set itself up to be something very special.

From the get go, Closer the Distance has a beautiful soundtrack and a solemn tone. Developed by Osmotic Studios, the developers invite you into the sleepy town of Yesterby, where tragedy has struck and the whole community is feeling the effects of it. This tragedy takes the form of an accident involving Angela, a girl who is described as having been the heart of the community, and it’s plain to see that the loss of her is shaping up to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for some of the people of Yesterby; this is a town in crisis and in conflict, but it need not be like that.

Conny works at her sewing machine in her bedroom at night in Closer the Distance
Image credit: Osmotic Studios

Taking on the role of Angie – from beyond the dead – it’s up to you to influence the decisions of Yesterby’s remaining inhabitants in an attempt to heal the community and restore some form of happiness to the town once again. This is where the simulation aspect comes in; starting with Angie’s sister, Conny, who can hear Angie’s insight from beyond the grave, you can determine what course of action people take. Will Conny do some sewing today to help distract her from her sister’s passing? What about a family friend, Galya? Will she help Angie’s father dig his daughter’s grave and tend to his farm, or will she leave him to it? And later in the demo, we unlock Angie’s partner, Zek, who must decide what type of headstone to carve for his lover. It’s all very somber.

As your controllable characters complete their tasks and tend to their needs, you can also spy on what other characters across the town are doing, in true The Sims style. Sometimes they’re reading books, gardening, and watching TV. Lots of typical stuff. Other times, you see Pia – Angie’s mother – mourning her daughter while everyone else in Yesterby sleeps, or taking long, middle of the night walks to ease her grieving. Closer the Distance is very thoughtful and real, displaying a whole range of sincere emotions and reactions that accompany loss.

Zek can be seen sat smoking on his porch in Closer the Distance, his wishes and needs are displayed on the left-hand side of the screen
Image credit: Osmotic Studios

And, well, with the aid of Angie’s voice, a responsibility is placed upon Conny to bring the town together again. While simple at first, there’s a level of strategy required in Closer the Distance. There’s only a certain amount of time to complete some actions, and these actions can determine the feelings of other characters; this gets increasingly complicated as you unlock and manage more characters. Fortunately, there is a pause function, and the game makes sure that you never miss out on important moments of dialogue by notifying you when events are unfolding. Your choices can develop relationships, and while I didn’t experience this in the demo, I imagine that you can damage them, too.

The main goal of Closer the Distance is to endeavor to do what you can to help this community heal, and I imagine it won’t be easy. After all, navigating grief – and people’s experiences of it – is fluid and, well, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes down to it. Closer the Distance certainly displays that in its brief opening, and it’s easy to make mistakes – especially when emotions are high – so I can see that happening plenty here, and that’s part of the hook. You so desperately want to help this town by the time you’re done with the demo, and I can’t wait to see how the story of Yesterby unfolds with Angie’s aid.

Don’t get me wrong, by the time I’d finished the demo, I was also eager to give my emotions a break from just how bittersweet Closer the Distance is. But that’s a testament to what Osmotic Studios has achieved so far here; a game that feels physically distinct from others while borrowing elements from The Sims, Life is Strange, and more, while also being incredibly sincere in its story. And its inclusivity!

Closer the Distance was previewed on PC with a demo code provided by the publisher. It is expected to release during 2024 on PC via Steam, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.

Check out the other featured games in VG247, RockPaperShotgun, and Eurogamer’s Wishlisted event at the hub page – including a nice, meaty video that shows you why we’re so into the collected games.

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