Sneak Peek at Sunless Skies: A LitRPG Victorian Steampunk Game

cover-imageAfter playing and reviewing Fallen London (read the review here) I eagerly awaited the next Steampunk LitRPG game from Failbetter Games. Sunless Skies launched on Steam Early Access on August 30, 2017. Until September 8th the game will be available for 10% off its full price of £18.99 / $24.99, so act soon if you want to grab it at a discount.

Sunless Skies is a top-down literary RPG set amongst the stars. Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in this game of exploration, corruption and jeopardy for PC, Mac and Linux.

Players will initially be able to explore one of the four regions of the High Wilderness—the Reach. “We chose the Reach specifically because it’s the region players start in when they begin the game. It’s also more user-friendly than some of the later regions, which get properly strange,” says producer Lottie Bevan.

avidhorizonOn the 30th, players can expect to explore the Reach in their locomotive, scout for nearby ports, dock at any of the 11 diverse ports available, interact with stories, engage in combat and of course, experience Terror and Hunger.

“The current state of the Reach is set up to give players a small taste of what the final game will be like rather than a big taste of an emptier, less representational world,” says CEO and Art Director Paul Arendt, “We wanted to focus on a more contained area, a space where we can test mood, story and mechanics.”

windwardcompanyThe feedback Failbetter received in Early Access for Sunless Sea was absolutely essential to its development, and the team are eager to see what fans think of Sunless Skies. “Early Access provides us with that pivotal indication on whether the direction we’ve set for the game is the right one. It gives us early warning on what people don’t like, what people would like to see more of, and what could use further development,” explains Director of Development, Liam Welton.

Over the past three months 900 alpha testers have been pioneering Sunless Skies to catch the first bugs and help Failbetter prepare the game for Early Access. “Perhaps our Kickstarter should have given us a sign, but we were totally floored when nearly 10,000 people signed up to our alpha list!” says Marketing Manager Haley Uyrus, “We had very specific aims for the alpha so we kept the number of participants low, but it’s going to be exhilarating to open the gates for Early Access.”

giant-space-monster“We’re excited to open the heavens to the first major wave of explorers. Player feedback is crucial to us, and we’ll be watching, learning, and amending our own course accordingly. Because there’s much more to come,” alludes Narrative Director Chris Gardiner, “As Early Access progresses we’ll be adding more regions, more ports, more discoveries, more stories, more secrets, more nightmares, and more unwise decisions that sensible captains will avoid at all costs.”

In celebration of the Early Access launch, Sunless Sea for iPad will also be on sale for $6.99 from 30th August – 3rd September. The game will also be available to play at this year’s EGX in the Rezzed section.

Here is a sneak peek at their trailer:


Who are Failbetter Games?
Failbetter Games are an independent games studio based in London, UK, who specialise in narrative-driven, darkly funny 2D and text-based games. Any allegations of cannibalism remain unsubstantiated.

What is Sunless Skies?
Sunless Skies is a top-down literary RPG set amongst the stars. Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in Failbetter’s spiritual sequel to Sunless Sea.

It is the dawn of the 20th century, and London has taken to the stars! As the captain of a spacefaring locomotive you’ll behold wonders and battle cosmic abominations in the furthest heavens. Stake your claim. Fight to survive. Speak to storms. Murder a sun. Face judgement.

The Sunless Skies Kickstarter raised £377,952 of its funding £100,000 goal – the goal itself having been raised in the first four hours of the Kickstarter.

What is Sunless Sea?
Sunless Sea was released in 2015, receiving an Essential rating from Eurogamer, and went on to sell over 200,000 copies in its first year. It was named among the best games of 2015 by the New Yorker, the Onion AV Club, Vice, Kotaku, PCGamesN, The Mirror, Forbes, Develop Online and Killscreen.

Sunless Sea is available for Mac, Linux and Windows, and will be released for iPad in spring 2018.

Fallen London: A Neo-Victorian Steampunk LitRPG

Review by Chris Pavesic

Fallen London
Producer: Failbetter Games
Genre: Steampunk | LitRPG | Lovecraftian | Gothic
Edition: IOS Platform
Download for Free Here: Fallen London

Blurb

“Thirty years ago, London was stolen by bats. Now, Hell is close and immortality is cheap, but the screaming has largely stopped…”
Fallen London, acclaimed literary RPG and winner of The Escapist’s Best Browser Game 2009, has been reimagined for iPhone!

Welcome to a dark and hilarious Victorian-Gothic underworld, where every choice has a consequence from the style of your hat to the price of your soul.

For those who love to read and for those who love to play, Fallen London offers you a unique narrative that evolves with every choice you make. Define your destiny through the stories you embark on and the character you cultivate.

There’s a whole world of opportunity waiting for you beyond the iron bars of New Newgate Prison. Who are you going to be?
Spoilers Ahead

Welcome Delicious Friend!

For me, it is hard not to like a game whose interface (a sort of shadowy top hat-like creature with squinty eyes and fangs) implies it wants to eat you from the first moments in the game.

The story world is a nightmare version of Victorian London, where Lovecraftian-like creatures roam the streets along with urchins, thieves, aristocrats, and other gothic monstrosities. After choosing your character, you begin in New Newgate Prison with rather sparse furnishings—basically a straw mattress–and stone walls dripping with moisture. The quest name—Unjustly Imprisoned!—sets up the fact that you are innocent of the charges that landed you in the cell—or are you? This is Hell, after all. Is anyone located here really innocent?

Not surprisingly, one of the first quests a player needs to complete involves escaping from the prison cell. You then need to find new lodgings, and quickly, because without an address, your character can be arrested and taken back to prison. (This never happened to me, but it is a warning in the game.)

As a player levels up, the type of lodging offering improves. And the types of quests, and NPCs (non-player characters), your character can interact with differs with each choice you make. The top-tier housing reminds me the most of steampunk living, especially the unusual steam-driven gadgets that fill the Brass Embassy (the place where all the best demons vacation). Something has to keep the brass ballroom floor in molten form, after all. But there are steampunk-style lodgings in most levels, including a decommissioned steamer and a cottage near a strange inventor’s observatory.

The lodgings reflect all of the literary genres reflected in the game. Lovecraft’s influence can be found in the Marsh Lair, the Once-Great Marsh House, the Deep Cellars of Old Newgate, and the Dripstone-Snared Third City Sub-Temple. The Abandoned Family Crypt, Attic Room, and Half-Abandoned Mansion are straight out of Gothic-style novels.

The characters that a player interacts with in this world also will seem familiar to those who enjoy steampunk, Lovecraft, and neo-Victorian novels. Depending upon what path a character follows, you will run into versions of Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Sigmund Freud. Jack the Ripper has a new moniker in hell—Jack of Smiles—and there are a few Egyptian Pharaohs and Queen Consorts added into the mix. My favorite so far is a Sherlock Holmes character—who has been driven mad by honey (yes—honey) and sends you on quests to locate kidnapped demons.

The quests are interesting and a player’s choices determine what path his/her character takes. It is a wonderful story that unfolds one segment at a time, and not quite in order. You will not know if a segment you completed a week ago is important to the overall story or not, although the game interface offers tantalizing clues.

Review

Over the last few months there has been a discussion amongst The Steampunk Cavaliers about wanting to see more “punk” in the steampunk aesthetic. In fact, fellow site author Dianna Gunn commented:

“What [steampunk authors] forget are all the other things that make the Victorian era such a fascinating one. They skip the political intrigue and religious conflicts inherent in the time. Their characters create inventions and go on grand adventures that change their lives but rarely seem to impact the world around them.” Click here  to read the rest of the article.

Fallen London’s style of gameplay includes the “punk” elements that some steampunk creations seem to miss. Yes—there are the neo-Victorian era conventions that so many of us enjoy, and yet those are tempered with the facts of living in a society that has literally gone to Hell.

Actual Victorian Era London was an unhealthy place. There were outbreaks of cholera. Ten percent of the population lived below subsistence level and about twenty percent had just enough money to survive, provided that they worked every day with no days off. Homes were overcrowded and heated with coal fires, which destroyed the quality of the air.

Fallen London does not gloss over these issues. A character moves through all levels of society, does quests and learns secrets, and interacts with NPCs in a world that, for all of the fantasy elements, seems very realistic. And the characters can make a real impact on their world; it is not just a simple adventure story. It has depth and hidden levels that continue to grow each time you play. The designers put an impressive amount of detail into the game on all levels and it is one that I recommend playing.