Children of the Sun – Preview

Children of the Sun is a lethal and mechanically fascinating revenge shooter from Berlin-based developer René Rother.
Children of the Sun

In almost every shooter, I gravitate towards the sniper rifle. There’s just something about the distance, the precision, the exactitude of the gameplay that draws me in. For someone who isn’t particularly patient, it’s an ironic choice – but I really enjoy the process of lining up the perfect shot. So when I was given the opportunity to check out a preview of Children of the Sun, I was immediately intrigued.

Created by Berlin-based solo developer René Rother and published by Devolver Digital, Children of the Sun is a gorgeous and mechanically fascinating third-person shooter which centres on THE GIRL – a lanky, determined escapee of a cult, determined to wipe out the existence of those who’ve wronged her. Armed with a sniper rifle, she scopes out her enemies from a distance – but this is not a case of showering a hail of bullets while recklessly dodging return fire.

This isn’t your regular sniper

In Children of the Sun, you have one bullet per level. Once it’s left the chamber, it’s up to the player to redirect the bullet, selecting the right order and correct angles to wipe out enemies in a single shot.

When you first start, your bullet can only redirect if you make direct contact with an enemy. Each enemy is placed strategically, creating alternative pathways and angles for you to navigate – but not all pathways are viable. Some enemies are seated, with buildings or structures impeding the bullet’s view to the next target – and if you can’t find a way through, that spells the end of your run.

Children of the Sun

Image: René Rother / Devolver Digital

Over time, players develop the ability to gently alter the direction of a shot once taken, and even redirect in thin air. These abilities are gamechangers, but that doesn’t mean that levels suddenly become a breeze. Nailing the angle and order of your shots is pivotal – mess up the order just once, and it could be the difference between finishing the level and accidentally sending your bullet screaming off into the distance.

Replayability is king

Easily the best thing about our preview of Children of the Sun was how replayable it felt. My first run of each level was a tentative exploration of the zone – locating enemies, scouting potential routes, checking blind spots – and it was only after two or three goes that I would land on a desirable path. From there, I’d do one successful run-through in the simplest formation I could come up with, check my tally, and re-run to maximise efficiency and style.

Each action you take in Children of the Sun will score you a certain amount of points. A headshot scores very differently to a leg wound, or an arm wound (and yes, you will earn a certain amount for ‘dick shots’), and you also get points for timing, efficiency and more. All this adds up to an overall ranking – and a leaderboard that displays rankings at the end of each run.

As someone who thrives on competition, this leaderboard served as great motivation to replay the runs, building on my original score and realising new, interesting paths for the bullet to take. Given the preview build was limited to a certain number of players, I found myself latching on to a random Steam username from the leaderboard and stubbornly trying to ensure I was above them on each level. I don’t know who they were or where they were from, but come hell or high water, I was determined to beat them.

Read: For Devolver Digital, developer freedom and creativity is key

Try the path less travelled

Lately we’re seeing more and more games provide opportunities for players to share their results on social media, often in unconventional ways. Studio Folly’s Gubbins, for instance, allows players to share a postcard with their successful words. Children of the Sun is the latest to feature this kind of shareable option, with the Capture Path function.

Capture Path enables players to share simple but effective depictions of the path your bullet takes to complete each level – similar to how a running app might trace the path of your training session. And no, before you ask, Rother didn’t anticipate that there would be a subsection of the player base who might use this functionality to draw crude images – but he’s not opposed to it.

“I absolutely wish I took it into account,” he said. Though the enemies were not placed to facilitate such creative illustrations, Rother encourages players to experiment with their paths – and if they can make it work, it’ll be a happy coincidence.

Despite their simplistic design, the Paths are eye-catching and effective, matching the almost psychedelic palette of the main game. With hues of deep purple and vivid yellow setting the mood, Children of the Sun has a striking art style that complements the off-kilter cult storyline.

Children of the Sun

Image: René Rother / Devolver Digital

“What was most important to me was the atmosphere,” said Rother. “That moment of booting the game up, and seeing the person play – what’s their first reaction?”

Having previously worked as a graphic designer and 3D artist, this curation of mood and atmosphere was integral to the creative process – while some decisions were a product of happenstance, the energy of the game was always a consideration.

All in all, our preview slice of Children of the Sun was a feast of unconventional sniper mechanics and strikingly atmospheric vibes which unlocked competitive parts of my brain that I wasn’t anticipating. I’m already tempted to go back in and find more hints toward the devious nature of the cult’s leader, and to scope out new paths to maximise my point score.

For Rother, releasing the demo will be a big touchpoint. “It’s somewhat like putting a stake in the ground on the path up to Mount Everest,” he said. “Seeing it as something that exists … seeing it out in the world.”

From today’s trailer premiere as part of Steam Next Fest, to a full release slated for sometime this year, we’re excited to see what is to come for Children of the Sun – we’ll see you on the leaderboard then.

Steph Panecasio is the Managing Editor of GamesHub. An award-winning culture and games journalist with an interest in all things spooky, she knows a lot about death but not enough about keeping her plants alive. Find her on all platforms as @StephPanecasio for ramblings about Lord of the Rings and her current WIP novel.