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  • Writer's pictureBarely Magic Mike

No Sun To Worship Review - Shadowy Intrigue Meets Intense Stealth Gameplay!


No Sun To Worship Review by Barely Magic Mike


No Sun To Worship

Steam/PC


I want to talk about something I rarely get to bring up – I am a huge, shameless fan of every single main entry in the Splinter Cell series. I rarely get to bring it up because it’s been a decade since the last one released, and I’ve been disappointed every single E3/Summer Games Fest/whatever the hell that comes up. Of all the single player AAA franchises big publishers have left to rot in the pursuit of a string of endless blockbusters, this one stings the most. Yes, I know they’re working on a remake. No, I’m not especially holding my breath that it’ll be good. Yes, I’ll buy it anyway, enough questions and stop judging me.

I’d be happy for you lovely viewers to prove me wrong in the comments, but even the indie scene hasn’t released anything I’d consider to capture the true feeling of Splinter Cell. Because to me, it’s not just any stealth game, but a type that was purist enough about stealth to make it a necessity and not a casually suggested option. While it became less the case as the franchise went on, in early Splinter Cell days getting caught would mean you’re as good as dead. But to prevent that, the mechanics you were given to work with were properly technical. Shooting out lights to hide yourself, surveying enemy patrols from the shadows, understanding how much noise you’d make depending on the surface you walk on – it was the feeling of a predator hunting its prey, just as fragile as they are but much more clever. And No Sun to Worship, the latest one-man project by Antonio Freyre, creator of The Chameleon, is the first game to give me that feeling in a very, very long time.


Now, I should clarify that despite the very high praise I just bestowed upon No Sun to Worship, in my eyes at least, nobody should go into this game expecting anything of the complexity and scope of a Splinter Cell game. No Sun to Worship is Splinter Cell’s minimalistic, low-fi, 3-4 hour long little brother, aiming to take some of its best qualities and strip them to their purest form.


solider in a green room
Splinter Cell fans will love this game

When you reach the game’s main menu, only 3 options are available – Settings, Quit, and Punish. Punish is the game’s campaign, and all you’ll be doing throughout it – you don’t know who you are or why you’re such a nasty little punisher, but each of the game’s six micro-open-world levels will task you with taking the lives of a handful of individuals in any order you wish.


Unlike its long-neglected stealth action brother, No Sun to Worship doesn’t give you much in the way of tools. You’ll get a silenced pistol, a not-at-all silenced assault rifle of sorts, the ability to crouch, peek around corners and mark enemies for tracking, shoot out lights and the peculiar inclusion of the power to drain your own health in exchange for moving in complete silence. Although it seems a bit random and it is, the trade-off of losing some health for the gift of a silent approach is a godsend, and the fact that your creepy little fellow can absorb his victim’s bodies for a health boost offsets that risk with a well-calibrated reward.


While I won’t pretend I don’t miss Splinter Cell’s sticky cams and night vision goggles, No Sun to Worship’s design is much more aptly described as minimalistic than as simplistic. Most modern stealth games give you so many tools and abilities that they become a bit easy, and don’t carry quite the same rush as a game where getting caught means a very likely death.


But No Sun to Worship is pretty damn hard. Although the game offers Normal and Hard difficulty options, Normal is no walk in the park, requiring careful study of enemy routines, sparing usage of your limited ammunition and a keen eye and ear for approaching enemies. Some levels I had to play a dozen times or more before I could dish out all my punishments and make it to the exit unscathed. While you can sneak up behind enemies and take them out in a sometimes spectacularly silly takedown animation, there’s no melee combat here if shit hits the fan, so you either use up your limited ammo in a janky gunfight or run like hell and hope you get far enough. These enemies are not pushovers and I’m happy to report that – they work together, flank you when necessary, and if your breach of their vision is egregious enough it will really take some effort to get them to leave you alone. The result is a tightly designed experience filled with constant tension and strategy, even if not much is seemingly happening on screen.


holding up a man with a gun
Even on normal the game puts up a stiff challenge

I will point out one potential major caveat to this for even those of you already deeply interested. In a somewhat understandable but nevertheless painful design decision, No Sun to Worship has no mid-mission checkpoints, and requires you to dispatch all of your victims in one fell swoop or else it’s game over and time to start over. Successful runs at each level take about 10-15 minutes so this may not be as bad as it sounds, but the patience the game required of me when I had one victim left and was suddenly caught by a guard whose patrol was wider than I thought was… a big ask at the time. So needless to say, No Sun to Worship won’t be for everyone.


And for those it is for, try not to be put off by its drab, blurry visuals. I get it – it’s a deliberately retro aesthetic and arguably not that far from what Splinter Cell looked like on the 3DS… or maybe the Ngage? Ok maybe not that bad. I can’t say I was a fan of all these simplistic, chunky greys and browns, but the environments at least mixed it up well enough to not get bored. Sound is in a similar boat, with a couple of brief, voiced cutscenes doing decent work, but an otherwise simple and pragmatic presentation. This one is not going to win any technical awards and it’s not trying to – but hey, at least it runs great on Steam Deck.


Difficulty and lack of checkpoints will be left to the eye of the beholder in terms of how much it bothers you, but I did have some other minor gripes. I encountered a few annoying bugs, like the couple of times I took down an enemy that somehow remained standing, or the incredibly annoying moment when I had to restart a level I was almost finished with because I got stuck in a vent with the exit button not working. Additionally, while the game does have light and sound meters to help detect how noticeable you are, I felt the light meter didn’t always match the visuals, making it hard to determine how hidden you are based on pure intuition alone.


red room and soldier
This one is a bit on the short side

No Sun to Worship does have a story of sorts, but its obtuse to the point of pretension, with the entire campaign being bookended by a pair of vague cutscenes and nothing in between granting a modicum of context. I think I ultimately got the gist of who you are and what you’ve done by the end of the game, but to call it all overly cryptic to the level of pointlessness wouldn’t be a stretch.


Otherwise, if your version of stealth action tilts firmly to the side of stealth and you accept the game’s limited scope for what it is, you’re going to want to pick this up immediately. With each of the six levels taking 10-15 minutes, you could beat it in an hour to hour and a half if you’re way better at it than I am. But the three and a half hours it took me to finish gave me exactly the right hit of nostalgia, and for Splinter Cell fans like me who have been starving off stealthy scraps for over a decade now, No Sun to Worship’s sneaky collection of levels is a platter of hors d’oeuvres that may be small but is ever so delicious.


Pros:

  • Splinter Cell fans will be happy

  • Tight, minimalistic design

  • Interesting risk/reward situations

  • Challenging (in a good way)

  • Surprisingly intelligent enemies

Cons:

  • Some will find difficulty too high

  • A few annoying bugs

  • Drab visuals

"A small, minimalistic Splinter Cell-like that confidently hits its mark."


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