Genre: Sailing adventure, resource management, role playing game, survival, roguelike
Release Date: 2015
Developer / Publisher: Failbetter Games
Sunless Sea takes place in the Victorian-Gothic underworld of Fallen London. The Unterzee is the subterranean ocean that surrounds the great city. As captain of a steamship that is little better than a floating garbage barge, sail out for countless discoveries. Name yourself, name your ship, recruit a crew, take on missions for the Admiralty, buy and trade goods, battle corsairs and zee monsters, marry love interests, have children, educate your children, carry out university research projects, customise your ship, buy a bigger ship with bigger cannons, buy a new home, decorate your home, and above all go explore the Unterzee…
Playability: Smooth sailing but rough seas
A sunless sea is not ideal for smooth sailing but the game mechanics are fluid and the little chug boat that dreams of being a warship is easy to steer. Sunless sea is a tough odyssey to crack. A boatload of patience is needed to make any form of meaningful progress towards your self-determined goals (riches, knowledge, wisdom, fame and what have you…). You will soon run out of everything: fuel, food, coin… but there’ll be plenty of terror… tales of horror are whispered… The crew longs for home… Fortunately there is an option to save your progress if you opt out of permanent death.
Annoyance: Repetitive reading
Sunless Sea is first and foremost a reading adventure. And the writing is good. However you’ll pore over the same pages each time you dock at the same harbours to read the same stories about the same people, and predictably with the same consequences. I’ve enjoyed reading Homer’s Odyssey and I’ve occasionally read chapters again over the years, but I would not enjoy having to read even a good book repetitively over a short period of time. Repetitive reading is unavoidable in Sunless Sea as the game is difficult to beat and will require countless attempts to complete the adventure of a lifetime.
Beauty: As beautiful as your vivid imagination
Sunless Sea is an elegantly written yarn with a very British sense of humour. The animations, the drawings and the musical score create a mood for adventure. Without fanfare (don’t expect motion capture cut scenes or voice acting), your tale is woven. You are truly the hero of the story. It’s easy to feel the sea breeze on your face and to taste the brine on your tongue. Soon your imagination sails free, and you thirst for the next shore leave and new discoveries.
The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: A good but breezeless mariner’s rhyme 7/10
Sunless Sea is a distinctive sail through a strange world of untold secrets and hidden mysteries. Come closer… listen to your own epic journey! Atmospheric storytelling paints the exciting tale of one courageous captain and his loyal crew. The mariner’s rhyme is light-hearted and full of humorous British subtleties. Unfortunately the game’s difficulty will involve many shipwrecks and losses at sea, making the adventure a somewhat breezeless and repetitive slog.