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Sunless Sea rating

sunless sea review

My ship was swallowed up by the dark black ocean. It should have been a simple trade run, bringing lost souls and spider silk across the subterranean sea back to Fallen London, a Victorian metropolis that was dragged underground by bats. But I am overwhelmed, travel too far in search of goods and now have no more fuel or supplies.



As is so often the case in Sunless Sea, my crew is now insane, throwing themselves overboard, screeching and fighting, and the brain cannot analyze the existence of stars underground or the monstrous sea creatures they have seen. Either by mutineers or mad men, I will die and it will be permanent.



This almost, but not entirely inevitable, climax, death, appears in the sandpit of the Failbetter Games on every nautical trip. Any text adventure-style search always begs the question: is this the one that's going to send me over the edge?



What should we do with a drunken sailor?

What should we do with a drunken sailor?

What should we do with a drunken sailor?



The answer, of course, is to eat their meat and sacrifice the rest. The cavernous ocean of the sunless sea, the Unterzee, is a cruel, expansive nightmare populated by the mad and damned, the secret and mercury and myriad underground monstrosities and capricious gods. It is a world that has been worked out over several years in the brilliant, predominantly text-based browser game. Fall London. But Sunless Sea gives him new, animated, lively, and unsettling stories.

It's a game created by people with an irrepressible love and possibly hunger for words and stories. The lavishly written adventure has enough text to fill two books that are full of strange slang languages ​​and strange people (as well as some strange non-humans). At first it seems to be about a new captain who wants to get rich, write an epic piece of literature or discover his father's bones, but the great sub-sea quickly bothers with a multitude of threads that dissolve into bizarre quests.

Docking at a port opens "The Gazette," a log of quests, ship and storage information, and character stories. It also shows a list of potential activities and plot points with small painted symbols. Sunless Sea may be livelier and more engaging than its ancestor Fallen London, but it still has the quirks of a text adventure.

These harbor activities range from random things like a puzzle game or an evening circumnavigating the docks to much larger series of quests with objectives dotted across the sea. Entering into an activity has consequences. Some of them are good, like skill upgrade, small RPG numbers go up, but captains rarely get anywhere without giving up first. Sacrifice is the name of the game. Almost everything has a cost, whether it is a secular currency or the threatening acquisition of terror.

The time of her sailing is drawing near;

Farewell, pretty May, I have to say goodbye to you;

Farewell to old England and everything that is dear to us there,

Tied up in the dreadnought, we head west.

Just being at sea or at sea creates terror. The darkness, the strange animals, they plant a seed in the hearts of sailors, and that seed grows into a tree of fear with roots that spread all over the ship. And the more afraid the crew is, the more rounded the curve will be.

A ship can be torn apart by a crazy crew, and when one leaves the deep end it infects the others. Terror is the only currency in Sunless Sea that is abundant but undesirable. And even after its healing it persists in the form of nightmares, which can only be put to rest over time by relaxing evenings out of the ocean, safely in an inn or at home. There's a pause, but it's easy to overstretch and land far from home, sink into madness, or just go into the water.

While the zee is undoubtedly an enemy, most of the time it is also the source of many treasures. some stolen from defeated enemies real-time combat where lighting up enemies in the dark and smart positioning are the keys to victory and some are found on the many islands that pepper it. It is a unique pleasure to map and fill the black with coastlines and landmarks.

There are many secrets in the sunless sea, but that on the front line is the secret of what's out there in the mare incognitum. In the middle of nowhere, north of Where The Hell Are We, implausible things can pop out of the fog. Large frozen cities, ancient imposing Leviathans, and strange fortresses come into view, promising more curiosities and occasional fights or bizarre residents and curiosities to trade for. They are like lighthouses and invite the captains to dock and explore.

I am a deep water sailor who just came from Hong Kong

You give me some whiskey, I'll sing you a song

Whiskey? How about some mushroom spirits instead? Maybe with a bowl of bat wings? There is little that is ordinary in the Unterzee, and everything that seems normal at first glance soon turns out to be somewhat distorted.

The weirdness of Sunless Sea, the way it uncomfortably plays with words and expectations, even affects the well-worn aspects of the game. For example, trade is a simple affair where different ports have different prices and goods. So the trick is to just buy cheap and sell high, but it's twisted by fiction. Souls can be sold to unscrupulous species, romantic literature can be relocated to the black market, and an uneventful journey with cargo and passengers can end in a drunken sword fight with a mummy (they are fondly called grave colonists).

Since everything is so strange and strange, the unexpected is never far away. This makes the numerous decisions that are made at each port or in the middle of a voyage extremely risky. Below the text are convenient symbols and explanations that indicate the cost of an action and some of its possible outcomes, but are intentionally vague. The ramifications of a decision can come when it is least expected, surprising with a stroke of luck, or some rather terrible news.

Amid the chaos and dangers, however, there is optimism. Sunless Sea takes up the romantic notion that a life at sea is liberating, where every man or woman can make something of themselves, something better. The captain's backgrounds chosen at the beginning of the game provide information on various skills and give the ship a free, unique officer - special sailors with their own stories and bonuses - but all are explorers and try to improve themselves in some way. That adventurous spirit and derring-do is something to hold on to when the zee gets chopped off.

I love a maid over the water

Yes, yes, roll and go!

She is Sal herself and yet Sally's daughter

Spend my money on Sally Brown.

Back on land, between the moments when the Zee calls, relationships can flourish. They can also be cruelly wiped out because happiness is not guaranteed in the sub-sea like in life. But if that special girl or captain's handsome guy stays around, the relationship can bear fruit in the form of an heir, a chance for a piece of immortality.

Death is inevitable. And it's probably near. Mismanaged supplies can starve an occupation and spark a mutiny. If the motor is pushed too hard, it can explode and burn the ship and everyone inside to ashes. Anyone could just go crazy. Most captains will die horribly without accomplishing anything great, but they leave a legacy and give others, like their child, the chance to succeed where they have failed.

Again, Sunless Sea plays with the romance of a living on the deck of a ship. A child stuck at home with their mother or father always at sea and briefly coming home with incredible stories about impossible places; a teenager who runs away to follow in the footsteps of his distant parents and to shape the world.

An heir who runs away at sea takes the place of his dead parent and may receive his old map, some of his secrets, and, in the case of iron clothes, an estate. Death is not pleasant, but not the end. Even without an heir, a captain can pass something on to his successor, be it a rival or an old friend, perhaps with new goals. However, all of this can be tossed aside in favor of a completely new start with a new, random card.

What should we do with a drunken sailor?

What should we do with a drunken sailor?

What should we do with a drunken sailor?

This closes the circle. With each life that ends under the stone sky, another comes in to take its place. But there is always a sense of progress. A better knowledge of the islands sticking out of the dark, more combat skills, a shrewd mind - all of these things can be passed on. And scenarios that come up again can be approached differently. What should we do with a drunken sailor? Maybe this time we'll just let him have fun. Maybe the whole crew deserves some shore leave.

Failbetter has developed a game that persists even after quitting. Not only with questions that need answers that are still being searched for, but also with the way in which the beautiful writing and haunting music linger. As fantastic and confusing as it is, it has been so expertly constructed that it is utterly compelling.

However, Sunless Sea demands a lot from its captains. Most of all, patience. It's a slow, deliberate game where traveling across the map can take ages and where secrets are revealed in no rush. But the ocean offers a wealth of rewards and absolutely the best writing in any video game in, well, as long as I can remember.

10/10

Sunless Sea Early Access Rating

Sunless Sea is a nautical sandpit. Get a bird's eye view of a beautifully illustrated map of an underground ocean. A small steamboat is your avatar, carrying cargo and sailors to destinations where Choose Your Own Adventure stories shape the bizarre underground world. It's Sid Meier's pirates over Lovecraft, where exploration reveals secrets and new harbors.

There are stories to keep you posted and characters to offer quests to send you to distant islands, but how you find your way around the world as a fresh faced captain is up to you. Trade in fine silk or intelligence, battle the horrors of the depths in real-time combat, become a supplicant of an elder god - the game is ambiguous and vague and lets you set your own course through the murky waters. And all through this impressive map and a diary that contains all the text-heavy menus and dialogues of the game.

The story of this seafarer does not begin at sea, where giant crabs frolic and invisible horrors lurk, but where all nautical adventures begin: on land, especially in the gloomy city of Fallen London. It is the center of Sunless Sea and also its origin. A surreal, Gothic metropolis that has been drawn into a world by bats - yes, bats - Fallen London is the setting and the name of the browser-based text adventure from Failbetter Games. It's also now the end of the developer's first PC game.

They share attitudes and themes, but Sunless Sea brings trade, exploration, and combat into the mix, extending it well beyond its browser cousin's textual adventures and beyond the streets of the sprawling city. It's a completely different fish kettle. It got its hooks on me - or, given the nautical theme, maybe that should be a pair of pliers - for the same reasons as its predecessor: the clever and often cruel script and the impossible world in which it takes place.

I am a scholar of nature with an adventurous disposition and a light-hearted top hat. I'm also the captain of a charming steamship with a crew from Neer-Do-Wells and an unfriendly ferret for a mascot. Fame and fortune await me in the terrible darkness of the subterranean sea, but everything that plays second fiddle to the real reason for this adventure: knowledge.

There is certainly money changing hands in Fallen London and the various ports around the ocean, but the main currency in Sunless Sea is knowledge in the form of secrets, stories, maps and information that lead to favors.

My brain is full of worldly tatters. I know where to get good deals on certain goods and the fears and hopes of harbor masters and seafarers, but there is also priceless knowledge. I sell the Admiralty's espionage reports, drink tea with mysterious oracles, and bring home stories of Leviathans and terrible sunlight in places where there is no sun.

It's stories that drive Sunless Sea. There is a lot of text. According to Failbetter, the game currently contains around 100,000 words. By the time it launches, they expect that number to grow to 250,000 - two novels. So there is a lot to read and no spoken dialogue. The roots of the text adventure are as clear as the lights of Fallen London, burning up the fog and darkness. And every phrase, every word, they all have a purpose, each of them builds the fantastic world.

There are words that have to be learned and sentences that make little sense at first. The sea is the Zee, the huge cave is called Neath, and there are factions, slang and history that are drip-fed during the nautical romp.

And the only way to get familiar with Neath is to explore it. While there are missions and narrative arcs that will push you out to sea & hellip; zee, Sunless Sea is a watery sandpit, and exploration is its own reward.

Captains start with a small ship, an equally small crew, and a small number of Echoes, Neath's simplest currency - essentially cash. It's easy to step off the Fallen London docks and sail into the abyss to control the ship in real time. There is a lot of sailing back and forth, usually pretty slow, but while it threatens to repeat itself a bit, Failbetter has made sure that there is always something unexpected on the next wave too.

It could be a fight. Pirates and sea monsters cavort on the Zee, hungry for prey or the taste of human flesh. Combat looks turn-based at first, but it isn't really. Actions are queued and have cool down, so they're somewhere between action-based battles and turn-based junk.

All violent conflict is based on the simple but shrewd premise of enlightenment. It's dark in the Neath, so targets must be lit before they can be attacked. When you get close to an enemy, you can spot them more easily, but you also invite them to board parties and melee attacks, while the shooting of torches into the sky illuminates the enemy, but also your own ship.

Battles tend to play the same way every time, with each pirate ship using the same tactic and each giant crab acting like the last large crustacean you fought. They don't take long and get shorter with the purchase of bigger ships and stronger weapons, although I would give my right eye for an auto resolution option when fighting things like bats, which have near zero chance of failure.

Far more interesting are the less tangible threats encountered with zee. There are three resources to manage on the ship: fuel, supplies, and terror. The first two are self-explanatory - ships need fuel to keep moving and supplies to feed their crew. However, the terror resource is something special. There are no worlds but Amnesia's madness knife. The more bizarre and strange the crew, both on the islands around Neath and on the Zee itself, the more terror they have.

High terror manifests itself in a number of ways.During a long voyage of dropping a couple of coffins with the not-quite-dead in order to make a decent profit, the crew and I decided to continue north instead of returning home. The light from the settlements and buoys faded, and in the dark we became frightened. When the crew started acting strange, I turned the ship around, but it was too late. One of the sailors covered himself up with pots and pans from the kitchen and threw himself into the water. It sank and we couldn't find it. And then there were the nightmares, terrible Lovecraft things that have no place in the sleeping mind.

There are ways to reduce terrorism by frolicking in harbors, relaxing at home, or listening to pleasant stories. However, if the terror from you and your crew was already very high, it will cause permanent damage. The nightmares are my constant companion now because I didn't know when to turn around and return to London.

The sunless sea is naturally tense. Accidental misfortune can doom a ship, and horror and madness lurk everywhere. This is only increased by the option to play it like a roguelike. At the moment it can be played with Permadeath, but the static world means that some of the random elements of the subgenre are missing. This is about to change. In a future update, the Zee will shift, making every game different. Without this, however, there is still plenty of room for unique experiences. Make different choices, like the officers you hire - who come with their own skills, stories, and secrets - or the goals you work towards as the game progresses, and change the history of your ship and its crew significantly.

Sunless Sea is not in Alpha. It's in late beta so it's already in pretty polished condition with a significant amount of content. Jumping in now brings the promise of countless high-zee adventures and the chance to push back the darkness and explore a world that really feels alien. Fallen London is free so play this, and if you enjoy what you read then be sure to buy Early Access cousin.

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