Sunless Seas was an innovative adventure game from an indie developer that had been on my radar for years. Fallen London (Previously Echo Bazaar) and the follow-up nautical exploration made waves with their deep and intriguing narrative style. Sunless Sea is one of my favourite games from the past few years, so I am very excited to check out Sunless Skies, recently available as a playable beta.
Players eager to plumb the mysteries of London below, only in a much more astronomical setting, are welcome to pay to get into this madness, but I will warn you, Sunless Skies feels like it has a long way to go until it is complete. Hopefully, what is there will be enough to sate fans until the full game finally releases next May.
In Sunless Skies the player will explore the starry void in a strange space train, ferrying passengers here and there, delivering consignments of oddities, and generally exploring the great beyond. Sadly, at this stage in development, space seems to contain more void than the bizarre adventures I was expecting. Sure, the occasional city nestled in popping celestial mushrooms is around, and a collapsing space circus is nice to visit, but these discoveries are fairly limited, far from randomly coming across a civil war between rats, helping one side and ruling over them as a man-shaped god among rats (Sunless Sea was a really good game).
Apart from that, the game feels extremely easy at this point. My crew seems stalwart against the terrors of deep space, even as they’re having tea with a frigid space spectre, and seldom miss a meal themselves. The horrors of London above seem to have seen fit to spare my men the fear that they’re due.
Functionally, it plays similar to its sea-bound predecessor, save for a few tweaks. Your locomotive starship is far more agile than previous tugboats, now with the ability to make sharper turns and even strafe, simplifying ship to ship combat significantly. A little practice and deep space piracy will be second nature to you.
After exploring enough of the world and dealing with enough interested parties and you’ll surely level up, this is an RPG after all. Rather than adding tallies to a character sheet or slotting spheres into some elaborate grid, Sunless Skies presents the player with several possible stories from your character’s past that improve a number of your loosely defined qualities.
All in all, Sunless Skies feels like a great empty void just begging to be populated by the impish fops and devilish ladies of Fallen London, but it seems like most of the colourful characters have not yet arrived. I can’t imagine that Failbetter Games will fail to deliver the bevvy of interesting content that has become their trademark. For now, I’ll have to continue to steam through these empty stars looking for more adventure until May.
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