When Rock, Paper, Shotgun claimed Fallen London delivered “The bestest best words in all of gaming” they set a lofty and eloquent benchmark indeed.
I had my doubts that Failbetter Games could possibly deliver a follow up effort that lives up to the hype. I was however, delighted to discover that the sumptuous environment and exquisite wordsmithery continues with the release of Sunless Sea.
LOSE YOUR MIND. EAT YOUR CREW. DIE.
Sunless Sea delivers an immersive, top-down, 2D RPG expansion of the award-winning Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London. It is a dark, haunting, marvel-filled world that Failbetter Games has lovingly crafted over more than five years.
The developers call out influences including the science fiction of H G Wells and C S Lewis, Art Nouveau, and the 1999 single-player RPG classic Planescape: Torment.
The gameplay is straightforward. You start by building your captain’s profile, selecting your motivation, and then set off into a dreary London morning. A few quick clicks and beautifully written paragraphs later you have picked up a crew, a quest, and leave port to begin your zee adventures.
This brings me to critical point one. Most of your game is spent roaming the sea, and once you leave port progress is slow. You’ll spend your days roaming the dark oceans in your little ship. You’ll partake in quests and find treasures and strange tales to trade.
Mostly you’ll be trying not to die because you ran out of fuel or food. Lots of times some beautiful zee creature will find your little vessel and if (slash when) you can’t flee quickly or skilfully enough, you’ll make your way to your watery grave.
You will die.
Hope You Like Reading
Playing for a few hours I learned how to avoid the easy deaths. It’s the silly deaths I suffer now; I can’t resist pushing my luck just a little too far.
Sunless Sea is completely text-based story telling. Chances are that since you are still reading this review you will not mind, but if just the thought of this causes your eyes to glaze over then seek your gaming pleasure elsewhere.
You want a fast flashy game with challenging combat, big guns, and lots of epic loot? This is not for you.
You want a game that slowly wraps you in an exquisite silken cocoon and gently lulls you into madness? One that quietly slips you below the gently bobbing waves to find yourself once more resting in the watery depths of an unforgiving zeeee?
You want the satisfaction that comes with surviving a deliciously tortuous IRL half-hour trip across the Unterzee, carefully balancing the limited fuel, pale lamplight on the prow, and escalating fear of your crew, to acquire a sparkly zee treasure or discretely deliver a cache of lost souls?
Set sail on a glorious adventure from which you may never return, and if you do you will not be zee same.
Do I own the game or does the game own me? I can no longer tell, and truth be told I no longer care.
Sunless Sea was reviewed on PC using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
Game title: Sunless Sea
Linguistic Treasures - 9/10
Defeating the horde - 5.4/10
Hours lost due to zee - 8/10