The Queen killed the sun, and the sky is now full of terrors.
January 31, 2019 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Sunless Skies, from the makers of Sunless Seas and Fallen London, has launched! Madness and arcane mysteries in the great unknown.

Sunless Skies continues in the same general mode that Sunless Sea occupied as a part rogue-lite and part interactive fiction. The universe is known for creating scenarios that haunt or delight, often both. Whatever you do, delicious friend, do. NOT. seek. the. NAME.

It’s careful to, through implication and aside, weave its many short stories into a more inter-connected world, with rules and squabbling factions and spiritual authorities and slowly shifting status quos and a sense of an aeons-old mythology. Furthermore, you don’t move only between lands in Sunless Skies, or only between worlds – you can move between planes of existence. This is a grand odyssey of the imagination, borne aloft by consistently curious and characterful writing.

The return of a successful formula aside, the broad similarities with Sunless Sea reflect how outer space has long been a literary cousin of the ocean, as scientists, engineers and sci-fi writers seek to express its immensities via the more familiar language of nautical miles, (solar) winds and constellations. In this case, outer space is also breathable, suffused with vegetation and thoroughly British, made up of references to particularly eccentric or blighted aspects of British culture, geography and history. The environment art rises to the challenge with aplomb. As with Sea, much of the thrill comes from the sight of your tiny vessel hurrying across a delicately layered vastness of painted backdrops, but the backdrops are far more detailed and animate, to the point that they almost upstage the writing. Almost.

Launch Trailer

Previous post about Sunless Sea.
posted by OnTheLastCastle (12 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I'm interested and will probably buy it when it goes on a holiday sale. I do love the Fallen London universe. But for their next game, I wish they'd be brave and just go full story / CYOA mode. The combat style in Sunless Seas didn't mesh well with the game's core purpose of telling a story. And it got in the way with death forcing you to replay stories over and over again.

Something in the style of 80 Days would be perfect.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 2:19 PM on January 31, 2019 [11 favorites]

a reckoning cannot be postponed indefinitely
posted by praemunire at 2:25 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've only played Sunless Seas, but there is something about the gameplay being so brutally hard that makes the storytelling hit home more. Probably because it makes you really invested in the turn of events.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 3:21 PM on January 31, 2019

Teegeeack nailed it. If there could somehow be a meshing of the art and story that, again I don't know how, did more than the Fallen London webgame does... That'd be tasty. That said, Sunless Seas was a lot of fun and good natured tenaion/nerves (oh shit, I'm going to run out if food/fuel, not good not good not good!) but ran dry for me before I could complete more than a few good swings, doubly so for the submaribe expansion.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've got about 20 hours in open access over the last few weeks. Here's what I have to say to those who played Sunless Sea.

- The economy is much easier. Trading will be your main source of income. Each port sells an item, and those can be sold at profit at the hub city on each map. You can also get special contracts to deliver certain items to certain places. The contracts you've accepted are shown on your hull screen , something it took me far too many hours to find. It's still a grind at least until you can get some real capital and ship upgrades going, but it's much much easier than trucking out to the Salt Lions a few times and then being forced to find something else.

- The ports feel further apart, and the first area is a little maze-like, you can explore dead ends with some frequency near the edges of the map. I was conservative with fuel and supplies in the early game.

- Your search bat drains your supplies very quickly! Use it sparingly. There is a lot of stuff out there that it will find aside from ports now, and much of it won't be particularly relevant. It has a long range and does seem to prioritize ports, so while you should use it when you are uncovering the map, don't be constantly mashing it like you could in Sea.

- Combat is fine. It's the same basically. Don't get in fights early on, and never fire your weapons while they are overheated. You usually can, but you will lose a big chunk of hull.

- You can turn off permadeath. I tried leaving it on for a while, but after starting over a few times in the early going because I got too fighty I embraced the change. Especially with games like these where stories can take a long time and many visits to complete, I don't want to be throwing away my work. I'm finally able to take real steps towards achieving a legacy and it's awesome.

- Lack of death and easier economy has meant I can settle in and feel way more confident in my play, which I like. I can strike out on surgical expeditions and not have to worry about stopping at every port because the port report means essential supplies. I enjoy this a lot but it definitely is a change.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:26 PM on January 31, 2019 [10 favorites]

And it got in the way with death forcing you to replay stories over and over again.

Several of the stories have to be revisited a few times to see them entirely. However, this backfired for me too. With the beginning being unforgiving, you would see the the few first and second rank port stories again and again. In vising the later, more distant shores I was both somewhat more secure and yet more cautious. I didn't want to lose everything and restart. I don't think it worked as well as the designers intended, and I don't think I got to see a good portion of the later content in Sunless Sea.

The randomness aspect of the map too, I think mattered much less than the designer's expected it to. It didn't matter much that a few of the tiles moved around. The fact that distances were a bit longer or shorter on voyages didn't really affect my gameplay choices much.

I'm also glad to hear that the economic model isn't completely useless in this game. They cheesed this somewhat in an update in Sunless Sea with the port reports, but I think they would have added much more to the game by building in a real trading model. I know they were trying to avoid the game being an economic/trading sim, but I don't think their answer of a partial narrative/economic model in Sunless Sea worked very well either. I would almost have preferred that they remove money and supplies as managed resources. Money handling was one of the least fun parts of it.
posted by bonehead at 3:44 PM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Downloading now! It sounds like they've fixed most of the problems in Sunless Sea, especially by having more stories carry over between games so you don't end up playing through exactly the same stuff again each time you die. And I *loved* the writing in Sea, so I'm really looking forward to this.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:56 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm really looking forward to this. I liked the feel of Sunless Sea SO MUCH, but the combat was just plain bad most of the time, and when you had to do a few meaningless runs back and forth between here and there to build up some money or resources, it felt like it was taking away from the fabulous imagery and storytelling. I quit maybe 2/3 of the way through regretfully and will happily take this up and turn off permadeath with glee.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:42 PM on January 31, 2019

I helped kickstart this, and played back in the beta. It was fun but really incomplete and I decided to wait until full release to play it again. I'm really glad to see the launch and really excited to actually get to explore more than the first area (it's been over a year since I put it down). I know that they had resolved to make it so that things changed more in the beginning so that with permadeath you wouldn't be replaying the same exact missions like you did with Sunless Sea. I'm not sure if they pulled it off, from the above description, but I'm looking forward to finding out.
posted by Hactar at 5:01 PM on January 31, 2019

Does it have the thing in Sunless Sea where trading would eventually stop working?

Looking forward to this, I have been scratching the FL void since going NORTH with some Cultist Simulator but it'll be nice to get back to.
posted by xiw at 5:22 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Loading up on laudanum for this weekend!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 6:13 PM on January 31, 2019

So I've been streaming this in Lineage (permadeath) mode, a bit, and yellowbinder hit the nail on the head for a lot of it. Early game is -way- more forgiving than Sunless Sea was, to put it mildly.

It does not have the trade problems of Sunless Sea, as trade options are a core mechanic. Every so often the hub ports of an area will offer you up two possible port options that will pay extra for a particular cargo, and most ports will also have a trade option they're selling cheap. There's also a bank available at hub ports that you can stash excess cargo in, which I've been using as arbitrage to buy low and sell high.

Combat is somewhat avoidable (the Reach, at least, has 'safer' lanes where you can mostly avoid trouble). That said, don't annoy London too hard if you like exploring safely. The second region I went to (Albion) is -super- dangerous if you've managed to push a certain reputation down to "shoot on sight" with them.

Death is in most ways more forgiving than it was in Seas. You get 50% of the character's money for certain, their locomotive (minus one random equipped item), and various bits and pieces of their collection of things, dependent somewhat on the captain's faction affiliations. I'm told it's possible to not get the captain's chart, but I'm on the eighth captain of a lineage and have not seen this happen yet.

At any rate, so far I've had scads of fun with it, and found it well worth having backed in the kickstarter.
posted by Archelaus at 9:36 PM on January 31, 2019 [5 favorites]

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