If you are a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan (which I am) this game will surely get your attention. Sunless Sea is a game developed by Failbetter Games set in the Fallen London universe. Fallen London is a browser game which I wasn’t familiar with it until now, but from what I was told I should give that a try also. It’s set around the 1800’s in a Victorian-Gothic London with surreal, dark and in some sorts steampunk elements.
The game is a story driven game in which your decisions will dictate everything that is going to happen next in the game. The choices that you can make are plenty, the developers stating that over 200.000 stories and secrets that are getting continually updated. I have the game for about a week and I already updated it 3 times, so regarding the content of the game, you have from where to choose.
You start out from the port in Fallen London as a captain of a mediocre steamboat. You choose your past, what are your goals and what are your motivations in your life on the sea (or zee, how it is called by the inhabitants). You can start going onto the sea to find out what happened to your old man, or just out of pure curiosity to see something else on this earth. You will start off with a crew of 8 people, the maximum number of them on your beginning ship being 10. I didn’t manage until now to see if this number changes according of what type of ship you have, but I assume that it does. You will have to manage a few resources so you can survive out on the sea, like fuel, supplies so your crew won’t starve to death and start eating each other (yes, it happens) and the overall structure of your hull so you won’t sink to the bottom of the sea.
Beside your crew you can hire 5 officers and the mascot of your ship that will increase your stats, which are used throughout varied challenges in some stories, such as: Hearts, Veils, Pages, Mirrors and Iron. All of this will increase your chances in succeeding in a quest and can be increased by trading secrets with your officers.
The events and the map are randomly generated so if you think that you will find the same island in the same place twice, that won’t be the case, and beside that this is the beauty of the game. It makes you want to explore even farther from the starting area and I can’t even remember how many times my engines exploded because I was trying to get away from a pirate frigate which would have sunk me in a matter of seconds. And this happened only because I had to get to a port which was on the other side of the map, and on the way I encountered giant crabs, bats and jellyfishes. This I got resolved by gathering enough Echoes which is the currency of the game, and buying a new and better engine.
Echoes are gathered either by visiting the ports of the Unterzee and making port reports that you can deliver back to the admiral in Fallen London. But this is a tedious job and you miss out on the exploration and the lore which gives you bigger rewards.
The part at which this game won me is the writing of the stories and from this comes my initial statement in the beginning of the article. It gave me the same terrifying atmosphere that Call of Cthulhu gave and the art contributes to this feeling very much. It’s a universe of which you know that it’s full of danger and you can be killed or go insane at any moment, but it makes you curious enough that you want to head on and explore it even further. And if your first captain dies you can leave a legacy for the next which you can extend until you manage to conquer the sea.
Rating: GOOD (shite, cash grab, mediocre, good, excellent).