| 9/10 |
6 February 2015
Single-player video game
| Maribeth Solomon and Brent Barkman|
Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems, Linux
Roguelike games, Other games
Sunless Sea is a survival/exploration roleplaying video game with roguelike elements developed by Failbetter Games. The game was released on 6 February 2015 for Windows and OS X following a successful Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the project. The game takes place in the universe of Failbetter's browser adventure game Fallen London, in which Victorian era London has been moved beneath the earth's surface to the edge of the Unterzee, a vast underground ocean. On 11 October 2016, the game's first downloadable content Zubmariner was released, which allows players to explore beneath the surface of the "zee". A sequel, titled Sunless Skies, was announced in September 2016. Sunless Skies is currently in production and has surpassed its funding goals on Kickstarter.
Sunless Sea Wikipedia
The player takes on the role of an Unterzee steamship captain, the background and ambitions of whom are customisable. The player can "win" by achieving their chosen ambition, such as becoming Fallen London's most celebrated explorer or amassing enough wealth to retire. Resources to achieve these ends are acquired by discovering new locations, trading goods across the Unterzee, battling ships and "zee monsters", and completing "storylet" quests. There are several roguelike gameplay elements, such as partially randomised maps and permanent character death, but subsequent characters can inherit some of their predecessor's possessions, and a player may create a will to insure lodging and wealth for their successors.
Several bits of writing and settings in the game are literary allusions – for instance, the very premise of a subterranean "Sunless Sea" is a reference to the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which is further reflected by the existence of a Khanate and an "Abora Gate".
On 3 September 2013, Failbetter Games launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund Sunless Sea with a funding goal of £60,000. The project was successfully funded, receiving around £100,000 from over 4000 backers. On 13 May 2014, the studio launched a Greenlight campaign to release the game on Steam. The game was approved 15 days later. On 17 June, the game was soft launched on the developer's website, a Steam early access build was later released on 1 July. The game officially launched on 6 February 2015.
Sunless Sea received mostly positive reviews from professional critics on launch, with the writing and setting being the most highly praised aspects of the game. Aggregate review websites Metacritic and GameRankings assigned scores of 83/100 and 84% respectively.
IGN awarded it 8.3 out of 10 saying "Sunless Sea gives you a wonderful world to explore that's packed with memorable written vignettes and danger."
The game won Rock, Paper, Shotgun's award for best game writing of 2014, and was nominated for a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Best Writing in Videogames Award in 2015.
GameSpot awarded it a score of 6.0 out of 10, saying "Sunless Sea is an ambitious work that attempts to capture the sheer kinetic thrill of discovery in a bottle without the inevitable entropy of player completion depleting it, and falls well short." As of 25 February 2015, the game has sold 100,000 copies.