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Hotline Miami publisher’s new, 93%-rated FPS deserves more attention

One of the most unique new shooters of 2024, the latest from Hotline Miami publisher Devolver deserves more love, and we learn why at WASD.

Children of the Sun Steam FPS game: A young woman in a mask from Steam FPS game Children of the Sun

When’s the last time you played an FPS that felt truly new and original? Counter-Strike 2 is fluid and fun, but basically an extension of CSGO. More broadly, the entire multiplayer scene feels stagnant right now – after so many years, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, The Division, and all the rest are circling the same drain. Doom Eternal was a shot in the arm. Indie nostalgia trips like Turbo Overkill and Dusk are certainly worthwhile. But it’s now eight years since Superhot, perhaps the latest shooter to feel truly experimental. Speaking to PCGamesN at WASD, the developer of one of 2024’s most unique games, published by Hotline Miami and Cult of the Lamb label Devolver, explains the creation and reaction to their subversive take on the FPS.

First of all, Children of the Sun deserves a lot more attention. Released on Tuesday April 9, its highest concurrent player count on Steam is 224. That’s unjustly low. If you want a change from the FPS game mainstream and something entirely different to enjoy, Children of the Sun is well worth your time – it’s flawed, but it’s esoteric, novel, and cohesive, the rare example of a videogame with detectable authorial presence and drive. You play a young woman whose parents died at the hands of an obscure, Deep South-dwelling nature cult. Armed with a crooked old sniper rifle, you seek revenge across a distorted, oneiric landscape painted in rough, vibrant colors and strokes.

Movement is on rails, not dissimilar to Capcom’s cult classic Killer7, and the act of killing comes with a twist. You only get one bullet in Children of the Sun. When you hit your first target, you jump to the perspective of the lead lump itself, and must guide it, in slow motion, to hit every other enemy in a single combo chain. Collide with a hard surface and you fail.

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“None of this game was planned,” solo developer René Rother says. “It’s not like I made a game design document, and set out to make the best game possible. It was just like ‘this works, let’s continue.’ It was just like a natural process. Everything was kind of flowing. I always like rough visuals, like in paintings when you can see the brush strokes. I’m not a big fan of very polished things.”

Despite a striking aesthetic, smart subversion of typical shooting and killing mechanics, and a heavy push from Devolver, Children of the Sun, as of this writing, has just 29 players on Steam. This is Rother’s first game. The response, particularly on release day, caught them off guard.

“The day of release I was going out,” Rother explains. “I wasn’t really checking anything. And then I was coming home from seeing a friend and I started checking stuff in the middle of the night, and it was very weird to me, because what was being written about the reception didn’t really connect with my reality. Because to me everything was good. And then someone else was saying ‘oh, it’s not good.’

“For me it was still very positive, as an example of how hard it is to be discovered these days. The traditional magazines, they all gave it amazing reviews. But I think the one place where things could have gone better was with influencers. They didn’t do too much, and I guess they’re driving a lot of engagement these days. But I’m happy with the overall statement, the idea that this game is an example of what people would like to see more recognition for.”

Children of the Sun Steam FPS game: A wrecked car from Steam FPS game Children of the Sun

Short, subjective, and designed to satisfy a personal vision, in a time when literally dozens of new games arrive on Steam every day, Children of the Sun was always going to struggle to break through. But whether or not it makes it big, it still represents something the majority of videogame players would like to experience idiosyncratic, original ideas that have more soul and less filler. This is what Rother, as a developer, also considers crucial.

“I went home for Christmas,” they explain. “My sister was playing Breath of the Wild and was about 150 hours into it, and she asked me if I could help with the last boss. We had a great time. We did it together. And then it turned out it wasn’t the last boss, and now you have to collect these one million other things. Sure, it can be fun. But to me it’s just such a big commitment. It’s something I don’t want to do. This is a short game, a single-player game. It’s a very limited time frame. It’s what it is. I really value that.”

Children of the Sun Steam FPS game: A young woman with a rifle from Steam FPS game Childen of the Sun

Alongside Children of the Sun, you can try some of the best indie games, or maybe check out the best upcoming PC games so you can plan ahead for 2024 and beyond.

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Additional reporting from WASD by Nat Smith.