The world-building and storytelling of Fallen London is first-rate, an engrossing tale of an alternate Victorian London that somehow got pulled below the Earth’s surface to thrive in the dark. While I love the writing, the “gameplay” is often a little tedious and confusing, and I often wished that someone would just provide all of the text from these games in one fell swoop.
So for this week’s Try-It Tuesday adventure, I decided to go with a recent Steam purchase and play a ship survival simulator set in the Fallen London universe called Sunless Sea. The concept is that you pilot a boat through the “underzee” to discover islands and other oddities while combating terror, supply shortages, and all of the other horrible things in the eternal dark.
Like Fallen London, Sunless Sea is couched in many stories with a very distinctive writing (short, clipped sentences and fragments that are very evocative). It’s probably the discovery of more stories that keeps people going than anything else.
The action takes place in a top-down view of your boat, which has fuel, supplies, a crew, a light, and a bat that can fly out and see if there are islands nearby. Since you can’t ever scoot the map or see past the edge of your current screen, there’s a sense of claustrophobia and fear of the unknown here. The atmosphere is quite effective, especially with the occasional bits of sound effects and music.
I liked it as a casual game, although I found it very slow and (like Fallen London) the item system a little too confusing in exchange for having odd descriptions and titles. I ran through a couple of lives (your dead captains can pass on their legacies to successors) and enjoyed making my own adventures. I just wish it had gone a little faster.
I devoted one run to seeing if I could cross the entire map to hit the far side. I managed to do it, although it was a close call as I ran out of supplies, my crew started eating each other, the ship began to slow down, and we all went mad with hunger and fear. That’s the sort of charm that lies in wait, although it’s not all a horror story.