Friday, September 30

Starvation, Strategy, and Storytelling: Why You Need to Play Sunless Skies

While taking a tour of Metacritic Lane (don’t judge me) to see what’s hot, I noticed this game I’ve never heard of, Sunless Skies, which is rated so highly that it only loses to Resident Evil 2 by a couple of points. . The game is available now for $24.99 on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Even watching the trailer for this bizarre gothic horror RPG didn’t prepare me for the road ahead.

At its core, Sunless Skies relies heavily on two gameplay elements: exploration and storytelling. You and your crew members travel on a flying locomotive exploring, gathering, and hunting in the High Wilderness. In the middle of that dangerous space, you will be faced with a series of options that will have a critical impact on your survival.

This is my first month as captain of the Orphean.

the beginning of my end

Sunless Skies started by asking me a question: Legacy Campaign or Mercy Campaign? The first states that if you die, you can only continue with a new captain, while the second states that if you die, you can either reload or continue with a new captain. I went with Legacy, of course, to live up to the masochistic reputation I’ve proudly earned around the office.

The game then presented me with three difficulty modifiers, which is a red flag (now I know what to expect). There’s aim assist, enemy projectile speed, and supply consumption, which are pretty self-explanatory. But interestingly, you can’t make the game harder, just easier. So naturally I left it at standard (ouch!).

The fight against hunger

As the game faded from black, I heard steam gushing from my train engine, but before I was presented with anything else, a scroll appeared on the screen that read, “Hungry!”

The game explained that this was the result of some kind of extortion by people who were better fed. I was presented with two options: turn a blind eye, which would cost me part of my crew, or punish those who seemed better fed, which would make me “came in terror.” Without knowing the true consequence of the “terror”, I decided to act (I immediately regretted it).

Finally, I was taking to the skies with the Orphean, but before I got halfway through the intro, my crew members tried to pressure me into cannibalizing (twice). As a result of denying those urges, I lost two to starvation before we got to The Wreck of the Ozymandias.

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This was the first of many fetch quests that would test my skill (literally). Sunless Skies introduced abilities like Iron (confront and overcome) and Veils (deceive and evade) when facing an obstructed path. Each choice involving an ability has a success rate, and in this case, it was 75 percent for both.

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I bit my tongue and chose Iron, which successfully took me through the ship and into one of the biggest commodities in the game: food.

the sunless skies

When I parted ways with the Ozymandias, I tried to get a better idea of ​​the movement and dodge mechanics. At the same time, I tried the cannon and educated bat (used to search for resources) that I had just released.

Before I could make out the move, I spotted a marauder in the distance and braced myself for a bit of a fight. The exchange was less of a sporadic bullet hell than a slow battle of snipers and dodges. It was surprisingly intense, as I had to keep my engine from overheating every time I fired or dodged a shot, and feared how much damage a cannon could do to my hull.

When I get close to the wreckage of the ship, I could attack it or take it apart for parts to repair the Orphean. But luckily I came out unscathed so I was able to loot 26 sovereigns (coin).

I’m the captain now

The intro ended with our arrival in New Winchester, which is where the current captain inevitably dies and where the game allowed me to create my first captain.

The creation of the character was somewhat deep. He gave me a choice of eight different backgrounds: Street Kid, Soldier, Poet, Scholar, Priest, Zailor, Ministry Auditor, and Revolutionary (all of these have unique benefits). I chose Revolutionary so I started with High Veils.

The game then asked me how I fought and gave me three options: with my feet and fists, with my mind, or with art. After the main skill obtained from the background, this was designed to be my captain’s second highest skill, so I chose With My Mind, which increased my Mirrors skill (investigation and deduction) and affiliated me with Academe.

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The next thing was to choose my ambition, which would be the goal of the captain I played. Once I complete my objective, the captain will retire and a new one will take over. There are three objectives: Wealth, Fame and The Truth. Sunless Skies warned me that The Truth is best played with a bloodline that has already completed one of the previous two objectives. Like a wise captain, I ignored the game and chose The Truth. However, the game wasn’t as enthusiastic about describing that goal as the other two were.

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The physical features of my character were limited to a silhouette of his face, which was customizable. But the best part was that I was able to change my term of address to “the Doctor”, and even made my character look like John Hurt (sort of).

whispers of the wind

After departing from the port of New Winchester, I spent hours in the desolate skies avoiding starvation, insanity, and lack of fuel, while battling monsters, marauders, and ruthless wind tunnels. However, I did occasionally get a moment’s respite to appreciate the inspired atmosphere that Failbetter Games created for this title.

Even when my engine was wobbling in dangerous areas, its animations made it sway back and forth and made it look short and fat, which was just adorable. That may be the only calming aspect of the setting, especially since the sound of the wind alone sent chills down my spine.

One of the most impressive aspects of Sunless Skies is that the environment feels like a living beast that I have to constantly defeat.

The scariest break in that wind was a violent scream from a Scrive-Spinster. The beast was frustratingly fast, forcing me to quickly dodge as I fired. In the midst of combat, a harsh screech overwhelmed me: my engine had overheated. I couldn’t strafe, but I could move, so I pushed my ship forward and slid into a U-turn. When my engines finally came to life, I dodged the beast’s missiles and finished mine. I felt like I just did a Pirates of the Caribbean stunt.

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One of the most impressive aspects of Sunless Skies is that the environment feels like a living beast that I have to constantly defeat.

by one’s own hand

The biggest enemy I had fought up to that point was myself. I kept taking risks that put my resources and crew at risk, all in an effort to get a little extra loot.

The biggest problem, of course, was that I was still early in the game, so my skills weren’t developed enough to successfully pull off some of the clever stunts I attempted. Even when I docked at various ports and fraternized with the locals, I failed skill checks that were 80 percent successful, causing my reputation with certain factions to plummet.

As my decisions became more rash, I lost more crew members, and finally that inevitable reel traveled across my screen: Mutiny! The game left me with only one option: blow up half the hull to save myself from the mutineers.

Chance of success? 25 percent.

Result: Failure.

“The ending is a fight in the dark, a sliding knife and blood.”

A new captain rises

Sunless Skies put me in a state of anxiety every time I left a port, a feeling I hoped to get rid of after finishing Resident Evil 2. And the panic attacks this game induces are slow, so you’ll know exactly when they’re coming, you just have to to figure out how to overcome them in time.

Failbetter Games’ excellent writing draws you into this dystopian world with compelling dialogue and storytelling.

However, Sunless Skies is not completely unforgiving. After my death, my next captain awaited me with the same level, a chunk of gold, and even some additional starting attributes. This is the feature that saved the game from being insufferable. While I’m usually a glutton for punishment, starting from the beginning isn’t appealing at all.

However, I would probably still play Sunless Skies solely for the writing. Failbetter Games immerses you in this dystopian world with compelling dialogue and storytelling. And because half of the game is storytelling, it almost feels like a choose-your-own-adventure book.

I’ve just scratched the surface of Sunless Skies, but I can’t wait to dive deeper and fulfill my ambition to find The Truth.

Credit: Failed Games

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