Sunless Sea Review

Title screen of Sunless Sea

No matter what you say, in the pursuit of cinematic and spectacular gameplay, the most important thing is lost – a sense of involvement in what is happening. Seasonal blockbusters are alien to such a strong immersion that all worries are put aside and give way to a whole fantastic world, in which dozens, hundreds of hours are spent wandering the corners in search of the tiniest bits of content. The appearance of each such gem is akin to a great holiday in the circles of avid “adventurers” – so with the release of Sunless Sea, we had a celebration of colossal proportions, if you will.

However, the setting here is not characterized by friendliness. The 19th century is not turning out to be the most successful for London: bats kidnap the English capital into an underground kingdom, where instead of the sun, only the real prospect of getting a beating from the inhabitants of the boundless ocean shines. Surviving in these new conditions, people predictably split into factions and lead their existence as best they can. Before you say anything about the peculiarities described above, it is worth mentioning the presence of giant crabs and talking rodents in the game. By the way, there are zombies too.

Screenshot showing London within the game

The verbal descriptions of the Sunless Sea universe may seem like sheer madness, but in reality, this mixture instantly arouses interest and captivates with its uniqueness. It feels like a simultaneous influence of pirate themes, steampunk, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, mixed with the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne – not just as references, but as ideological vectors. Paying homage to a massive cultural layer transforms into something unique, and that is what impresses the most.

Our difficult fate as the captain of a steamship is to wander among disconnected colonies. Why? Well, apart from the banal survival, the goal depends solely on you: when creating a character, in addition to the portrait and defining background characteristics, you are allowed to choose, roughly speaking, the conditions for victory. It can be simple enrichment, the desire to write memoirs, find the remains of a relative, or something else – a remarkably interesting opportunity to personalize your own story, giving it a special flair. But no matter the meaning of your journey, there will be plenty of problems along the way.

Albertine: Another scene from the game

The player’s lesser concern becomes maintaining the ship’s crew and the machine itself in a suitable condition for travel. Without fuel and provisions, a careless captain risks perishing in the middle of the ocean, consuming his comrades. Therefore, before setting sail, it is advisable to ensure that there are enough supplies to reach the destination. In Sunless Sea, one cannot economize on survival.

Numerous enemies are eager to spoil the voyage. Not so much because they often pose a real danger, but because of the horrifying primitiveness of the combat system. Certain tactical maneuvers are present in battles, and yet they usually turn into a ridiculous dance of “who can keep whom in their sights,” and the modest reward for defeating an opponent does not justify the risk. By God, let those crabs swim off to the side – not to mention more serious pests. The optimal solution would be to escape as quickly as possible.

Well-forgotten old.

In fact, Sunless Sea is a spin-off of the browser game. Fallen London From the same Failbetter Games in the same universe. Although it doesn’t have an open world, it provides a clear understanding of the game world and serves as a standalone text adventure. We recommend familiarizing yourself with it in advance – especially since it’s free and comes with perks for linking your account.

Arriving at the next port opens up the most significant part of the game. Any inhabited place is a source of unique textual stories, from which we build our own adventure. Many quests offer multiple options for the development of events and often rely on sacred randomness to determine the outcome of your actions, which makes getting involved in local adventures even more interesting. Even the possible consequences are carefully warned about, so that everything can be carefully considered.

Description of the story elements

The plots themselves are undeniably excellent in concept and execution. There are pirate hideouts, an island where people’s memories are turned into “edible” form, factory cities, and… Well, we won’t reveal all the trump cards. The main thing is that it is presented so vividly and elegantly, as it could possibly be embodied in written form. Every quest is a literary masterpiece.

In such moments, Sunless Sea delivers an abundance of pleasure. It is in the small window of the port, through spontaneous and planned events, that all the magic happens, bringing the Fallen London world to life and pushing the story forward. There, the game becomes cozy, interesting, and deep – in terms of warmth of feelings, it can only be compared to the second “Space Rangers”. Unfortunately, from this perspective, the steamship-exploration aspect of gameplay looks rather dull.

Shoot fiercely, uh, ice block

We shoot down the fierce, uh, ice chunk.

First of all, surviving in the ocean is extremely difficult. There is barely enough money for supplies, and the supplies barely last for reaching distant lands ready to delight with a new batch of quests. Somewhat serious enemies easily defeat the standard vessel, upgrades for which cost insane amounts of money. The only way out is grinding, an activity that is known to be boring and not very atmospheric.

Secondly, if during the process you are lucky enough to die (not particularly brave), and you will have to die multiple times, the game will essentially start over. The previous captain will be replaced by an heir with a chosen bonus, the generator will shuffle the islands on the map – and release you into the exact same world with the same tasks and texts. At first, it’s cool, of course, but reading the same thing over and over again becomes tiresome by the tenth time.

And yet, if you have patience and accept all the hardships of life in alternative London, Sunless Sea will captivate you for a very long time. It doesn’t always manage to be a good game – but it succeeds in being a good book. So good, that after about the second hour, without a warm blanket and a cup of tea at hand, continuing the playthrough seems impossible.

Sunless Sea
Adventure, RPG, Indie
Failbetter Games
Failbetter Games
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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