The world of Sunless Sea is teeming with unique personalities, thrilling adventures, and dark mysteries just waiting to be unearthed. With its well-written tale, Failbetter Games’ creation captivates and enchants, although it repeats many parts of the web game from which it is inspired. It also loses part of its distinct atmosphere with time.
The action takes place in the nineteenth century in an alternate London populated not just by mankind, but also by devils and other horrible monsters. The city, ruled by the enigmatic Bazaar Lords, sits on the rim of an underwater sea. On the unknown seas, we shall encounter British metropolitan colonies, lost gods, and the door to hell itself. We strive to pluck their secrets from the depths by playing the roles of successive commanders traveling gloomy waters. Failbetter’s universe is both odd and fascinating. We come across sea monsters and devils that are only waiting for an opportunity to take more victims. We play chess with thinking pieces and go to an island filled with undeliverable mail – a haven for postmen who have seen too much. Stories await us in each port, which we will gradually uncover on following journeys.
The text is the most powerful aspect of Sunless Sea. Even the most basic descriptions of the sea may create an incredible ambiance, and adventures in London and other places can send shivers down our spines. Failbetter’s creation effectively shocks us with the unknown, strange, and incomprehensible. Stories, such as the one about spiders snatching sailors to feed on their dreams, stick with you for a long time. The creators are well aware, however, that descriptions are not everything. We know something is about to happen when music starts playing while you are sailing nicely. The sight of an eye observing us from the bottom of the water, or massive statues reaching out to us from the depths, contributes to the incredible mood. The gameplay mixes two elements: an interactive tale and exploration. We never have a single aim that is imposed on us. We can search for the captain’s father’s bones, record a few stories from faraway regions, or go off in search of vast riches. The captain, the hero, is characterized with five statistics. They have an impact on both the ship’s combat effectiveness and the mission’s outcome. Although we will face problems that demand us to employ each attribute during the game, cultivating all of them is not only tough, but also not particularly profitable. The most challenging challenges need high attribute levels, and collecting points to level up your character is time-consuming. We never go out alone on a trek into the black sea. We can introduce numerous officers to the ship in addition to the basic crew. Each one has its own lengthy tale, offers a boost to statistics, and – in return for secrets obtained during the game – can further enhance the hero’s characteristics. The structure of the chores that await us is virtually identical to that of Fallen London, Sunless Sea’s progenitor. Many tasks are organized into phases, forcing us to return to previously found ports or gather things obtained via combat and random events. This final approach resembles the repetitive gathering of MMOs, which becomes extremely tiresome over time.
When we begin the voyage, we must remember that we will never be able to realize our dreams – if we run out of fuel, food, or get haunted by nightmares, our prospects of returning to London are minimal. Even if we have enough supplies, we might be attacked by monsters capable of sinking the ship in a single strike. Many missions can result in the loss of crew members, without whom we travel significantly slower and use fuel more quickly. It is nearly hard to win the game on your first try. Keeping track of port locations and estimating the quantity of gasoline required to cover the entire sea necessitates many ways. Especially because the configuration of the islands varies with each restart. Subsequent heroes can inherit individual weapons, money, or a global map from their predecessors, so we don’t have to start from zero. The resetting world is annoying in one way: all of the chores we performed are restored to their original condition, and all of the decisions we took in earlier games lose their significance. Carrying out a revolution many times, restoring the memory of the first officer for the seventh time, or confronting the same sea monster for the eighth time makes it impossible to be content with our accomplishments. This issue becomes especially evident when we lose a character in whom we have already invested several hours and who was murdered by an unpleasant outcome in one of the randomly generated adventures.
While the narrative and aesthetics leave a lot to be desired, the fighting system falls short. It all comes down to continually encircling the adversary so that you may assault him while avoiding gunfire. It becomes boring with time. Stronger opponents need more intricate techniques, but it is easier to just ignore them. In addition, the economy was badly structured. We can trade in theory, but owning an actual freight ship is a tiresome and monotonous job in fact.
Failbetter are experts of telling compelling stories, as seen by the browser-based Fallen London and Sunless Sea. However, even the finest storylines and engaging atmosphere are insufficient if the other parts are not up to par. The requirement to repeat the experience several times reduces the appeal of playing on the black sea over time.