Pilot your steampunk locomotive through the skies towards riches or peril in this Victorian Gothic-inspired roleplaying adventure
If you’ve never heard of Failbetter games, then you likely don’t know their long and storied history in creating exceptional roleplaying games falling under the Victoriana/vaguely Lovecraftian genre. But whether or not you already know of this indie studio, Sunless Skies is more of the same – in the best possible way.
What is Sunless Skies?
Set in an alternative 20th Century, Sunless Skies is, at its heart, all about the unknown, told through a distinctly Steampunk-tinted lens. In this space-based RPG, you take on the role of a ship captain, charting and exploring the cosmos belonging to Queen Victoria herself and beyond.
With a bat to navigate by, a stock of fuel to keep you going and a carefully designed captain to match your aspirations, you’re thrust into the deep cosmos to explore the stars, allowing you to travel further and do more than you ever have before. Your journey is what you make of it, whether you’re looking for adventure, riches or to discover the far reaches of Victoria’s land.
A successor to Failbetter’s previously on-theme titles, Fallen London and Sunless Sea, fans of the series will already be familiar with the indie studio’s unique style of world-building, and their heavy focus on dialogue and prose when it comes to communicating their message.
How do you play Sunless Skies?
For a rather complicated-looking interface and an overabundance of reading, Sunless Skies is less complicated than you may think and can be as challenging as you want it to be, with many choices and options to uniquely shape each play session and each captain.
You begin the game by choosing your captain, which will be the first of a line of many during your play time. You can be a lord, a roguish adventurer, a simple traveler and everything in-between; through a wide range of different options and choices you can craft your own goals and focus when it comes to the actual way you’d choose to play the game.
Once your illustrious captain is decided upon, you can then enter the world of Sunless Skies with relatively little tutorial time, thanks to a simplified trade and communications systems in comparison to older titles within Failbetter’s archives. From there, you’re free to explore the cosmos at your will – though it’s best to take caution, especially with eldritch horrors and fathomless beings lurking behind every asteroid.
A huge focus is put on the storytelling in Sunless Skies. While you’re free to do as you please and craft your own journey, you’ll still encounter a large number of quests, information and events along the way that will require your attention, and can often become confusing if you’re the type who prefers to skip dialogue in place of action.
In addition to dialogue-heavy sections of roleplaying, Sunless Skies also provides a little action to those who enjoy getting their hands dirty, with pirates and other enemy factions available plentifully if you’re looking to scrap. Utilising weapons and dodging around enemy craft can be an exciting way to break up text-heavy sections by allowing you to get really involved in the world of the game, and fight for the lives of your captain and crew.