LOSE YOUR MIND. EAT YOUR CREW. DIE. Take the helm of your steamship and set sail for the unknown! Sunless Sea is a game of discovery, loneliness and frequent death, set in the award-winning Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London.
User reviews: Very Positive (1,294 reviews)
Release Date: Feb 6, 2015

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Recommended By Curators

"A narratively driven rogue-lite, perhaps a more story-driven FTL? Whatever the case the world is fascinating and the writing sublime and funny."
Read the full review here.

Recent updates View all (36)

May 28

Fallen London comes to iOS in 2015

You’ll know Fallen London as the browser game which spawned Sunless Sea, and the whole universe of the Neath.

Fallen London now contains over 1.2 million words of stories - five times as much content as Sunless Sea - described by Rock, Paper, Shotgun as 'the best words in all of gaming'.

And now, we’re bringing it to iOS.

We've been working on this in the background for many months, and will continue working on it alongside Zubmariner, the forthcoming Sunless Sea expansion.

We’re excited to have a behemoth of the industry acting as design consultant: Jason Kapalka, creator of Bejeweled and co-founder of Popcap, who is a big fan of Fallen London.

We're developing for iOS first, and we're hopeful that Android will follow if the iOS version is a success.

Like the browser experience, the app will be free to play, using in-app purchases for premium stories, more actions and other perks. It will sync with players’ existing Fallen London characters, and support offline play.

Meanwhile, if you want to whet your appetite for undersea adventure, there’s a whole bunch of Zubmariner concept art on art director Paul Arendt’s tumblr...

Your friends,
FBG

6 comments Read more

April 23

Soundtrack out now!

Welcome, new captains who’ve found us via the Steam sale!

SUNLESS SEA SOUNDTRACK IS OUT NOW!

21 pieces guaranteed to inspire haunting dreams, wistful reveries for captains lost, and sea-sickness. Each track has been remastered especially for this release and many are extended from the versions you hear in-game.

The soundtrack is now available through:

Bandcamp

Amazon

iTunes

Google Play

NEW CONTENT

"In the heart of the wood there was a ring of bones, standing in the earth like dry saplings. In the heart of the ring there was an egg, the size of a coach, the colour of a bruise. In the egg there was a voice..."

Glory's Bones, an additional quest that reveals more of the Chelonate's past, is now available.

ZUBMARINER

Zubmariner will be the first piece of DLC for Sunless Sea. Art director Paul Arendt is exploring the depths of the Unterzee in his pre-production work on his tumblr.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Who is also playing Fallen London, and what’s your character up to?

19 comments Read more

Reviews

“Sunless Sea's method of storytelling isn't unique, but it has never been realised with such impact and elegance.”
10/10 – Eurogamer

“Absolutely the best writing in any video game since, well, as long as I can remember.”
10/10 – PCGamesN

“a very compelling and satisfying adventure... The realm of possibilities seems endless, and every time I set sail I find something new.”
9/10 – Destructoid

About This Game

LOSE YOUR MIND. EAT YOUR CREW. DIE.

Take the helm of your steamship and set sail for the unknown! Sunless Sea is a game of discovery, loneliness and frequent death, set in the award-winning Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London.

If the giant crabs, sentient icebergs and swarms of bats don’t get you, madness and cannibalism certainly will. But that old black ocean beckons, and there’s loot for the brave souls who dare to sail her.

Betray your crew, sell your soul to a Devil, marry your sweetheart. Survive long enough and you’ll achieve your life’s ambition.

You will die, but your legacy will live on…

Key features

  • A deep, compelling world packed with 200,000+ words of stories and secrets. Find your father’s bones. Determine London’s destiny. Defy the gods of the deep sea.
  • Beautiful, hand drawn art - castles of sparkling ice, prisons perched on lily pads, fog-shrouded lighthouses and the DAWN MACHINE.
  • Your captain will die. But you can pass on resources from one generation to the next. Acquire a family home and a hoard of heirlooms. Build up your own story across generations of zailors who braved the sea and lost - or won...
  • Real-time combat against ships and Zee-beasts, spider-crewed dreadnoughts and sentient icebergs.
  • Light and dark, terror and madness: stray too far from the gas-lamps of civilisation and your crew will grow fearful and eventually lose their sanity.
  • Upgrade your steamship with powerful engines, cannons and pneumatic torpedo guns. (Or buy a bigger, better ship.)
  • Hire unique officers like the Haunted Doctor and the Irrepressible Cannoneer. Each has a story to tell, if you can draw it out of them.
  • Choose a ship’s mascot: the Comatose Ferret, the Wretched Mog, the Elegiac Cockatoo, and more!
  • Trade or smuggle silk and souls, mushroom wine and hallucinogenic honey.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP or later
    • Processor: 2Ghz or better
    • Memory: 1 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 1280x768 minimum resolution, DirectX 9.0c compatible graphics card
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 700 MB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
    Minimum:
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
    • Processor: 2Ghz or better
    • Memory: 1 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 1280x768 minimum resolution, DirectX 9.0c compatible graphics card
    • Hard Drive: 700 MB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
Helpful customer reviews
1,951 of 2,047 people (95%) found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
43.9 hrs on record
Posted: February 7
My crew attempted a mutiny, upset and frightened from being out at sea for too long. When their mutiny failed, I sailed them back to London. Once home was in sight, and they gathered at the rails to sing praise, I promptly turned the ship around and sailed it in a circle. And then another circle, this one wider. Then, a third circle, this one smaller.

No one commits mutiny on my vessel.

Time moved swiftly as the circles continued. My crew only had a faint understanding of what punishments were in store for them as I spent the night in my cabin, fornicating with our surgeon. Around and around and around we sailed.

It soon dawned on them what was happening when the nightmares came, when the food and supplies began running low. Once the food was gone, the madness came quick; the frightened tears, quicker. One member wanted to kill herself, but I wouldn't allow it. Another begged me to stop the endless circles, so I sailed them faster, sloppier. Once, I sailed close to a zee-beast. It swam away, wanting no part in the theatre of suffering I was producing. An entire meal, the crew's last hope of staving off death by starvation, had gone. Only the circles remained.

If they wanted to live, they had to eat. Keeping their humanity was no longer an option. They knew what little choice they had, and what little they could do to control it. Out of food, cannibalism quickly took hold on the decks. Crew members butchered and ate each other after yet another failed mutiny. And back in my cabin, all I could do was muse with my sultry lady in lilac, the crewmembers' wails of grief a very, very potent aphrodisiac for more fornication.

We sailed, ate, sailed again. The rhythm never broke. A circle without end.

Soon I took part in the feasting of a brazen zailor who tried to shoot me and failed spectacularly in doing so. The few remaining crew and I ate him and we said nothing of the incident. They knew better. The silence was terrible for them, and it pleased me. Nearby, a cargo vessel sailed past us without pause. You could almost smell the bounty of food and fuel aboard it. They never knew what we were doing, or what we've become, circling without end. Then, they were gone, and my remaining crew came undone.

I shot a crewman who attempted to abandon ship, and I tossed his body overboard. I did nothing as another member leapt overboard soon after, only to be swallowed by the waves, screaming about Salt's curse being set upon us. I dined with the lady in lilac again as the second to last crewman wept and succumbed in his sleep to nightmares, alone and misbegotten.

I believe his corpse is still decomposing in its spot, somewhere in the dark in the lowest corner of my vessel, the Unsinkable II. He shall remain there as a souvenir until I see fit.

Finally, when it was just me and one broken crew member left, I turned the ship portside and set us off. Time to stop the circles; home was near, just at the edge of the screen. I paid a hefty fee for a tow and returned to port, to my zeeside mansion, where I slept like a baby that evening.

London was oblivious. Or unmoved.

Tomorrow, thirteen new crew members await orders to set sail. They haven't the foggiest of what to expect.

No one commits mutiny on my vessel.

10/10
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589 of 621 people (95%) found this review helpful
6 people found this review funny
25.6 hrs on record
Posted: February 12
The Pirates laughed.
They laughed as they sunk my ship. None but I were alive on that ship. I sunk into the depths for the second time. That is when I swore that I would have my vengeance. I was no longer Promthelius - a dapper chap of Fallen London.
I was Ahab - and this game; my great white whale.

I started from scrap. I had nothing but a ship and a gun. I started trading Sphinxstones. I brought them to London for a nominal fee. It was not living, but surviving. Pirates swarmed my trade-route. I tried to avoid them for a time, but my ship would not take me further with the holes in it's hull. It slowed to a crawl, and five Pirate-ships sank me with an impressive display of teamwork for a bunch of thieves. I heard the laughter as I sank into those obsidian depths below. Was this how it ended? Was this how Ahab would be remembered?

No.

I would not succumb there. I was Ahab. I was the reckoning of Promthelius. I was two generations of seething disdain for this world, and all that inhabited it.

I started again. I threw caution to the wind, and traded wildly. With naught but two hundered echoes and two barrels of fuel, I found the Salt Lions. I once more started trading in sphinxstones.
Pirates swarmed, but I mostly avoided them. They laughted, jeering and taunting me. Was I a Coward? Perhaps.

I traded sphinxstones until the Salt Lions ran out. And thus began one year of sunshine. I traded empty boxes of mirrors in the city of Khan's Shadow, and captured the sunshine from the Neath in droves as I emerged there from the Cumaean canal. Three boxes turned into six. Six turned into sixteen. I bought a new ship - a trading vessel with one hundered and twenty units of cargo-space. My Empire of sunshine on that opaque expanse.

My plan was not without fault. Pirates tried and failed to sink me. I faced much danger upon those waters. Men and women so uncouth and guileful that they should like to rob me were swarming those waters. But with purpose, I sank or avoided all that followed.

In the end, ninety boxes of sunshine at each time was delivered to the Isle of Cats. I netted tidy sums of money. The Isle of Cats was a sun upon my obsidian empire. But the age of sun could not last. My last run ended in roaring success. Sixty thousand echoes filled my vault.

Once back in London, I had only one purpose.
With my money, I bought an Eschatologue-class Dreadnaught, and all the battle-gear that Fallen London had to offer.
It was expensive, but vengeance is a dish best served with overwhelming firepower.

And through my cannons, upon the deck of that Dreadnaught, my justice had finally come. I ended the reign of Pirates in a single day. Unfinished revolutionaries, Pirate Steamers, Republic Dreadnaughts and Glorious Dreadnaughts. It made no difference. All were sunk. All plunged to the depths under the sound of my cannons. Some say that they can still hear me laughing. There are no Pirates upon these waters, Friends. Only death.

I am Ahab. And I have taken my great white whale. My vengeance is complete.
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654 of 807 people (81%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
33.3 hrs on record
Posted: February 9
The biggest disappointment with this game is the thing that I see praised endlessly in the positive reviews - the writing and stories. Yes, the writing is pretty good and yes the stories are interesting. The problem is that they are only good and interesting the first time you read them. The true horror of this world hit me on my third captain when I realized that nothing was ever going to change. You come to realize that everything is always the same, and nothing varies. Get port reports for the Admiralty, with the same cute flavor-text repeated ad-nauseum. Go ashore to repeat one of the exact same 1-3 random events every time. Go to sea and realize that the exact same monsters will continuously appear in the the exact same positions forever. Recruit the same paltry handful of officers, with the exact same stories, resolved the exact same way every time. And then you can go the really stand-out islands with in-depth stories and mysteries, only to again realize that these are played out in five minutes through random-chance screen-prompts with maybe two or three alternate paths. In about 30 hours (as of this writing) I really feel like I've seen pretty much every single thing it has to offer. And this is simply unforgivable for a game that sells itself on the fact that you will die.

Based on that, I expected that characters would change and cycle. That only a few officers would be available to any one captain. That entire islands would disappear from the zee, and whole new ones would appear. That Fallen London would be teeming with traders, demons, nobles, thieves, naval officers, etc who would constantly change out and be replaced. That the trade goods and prices would change and your new captain would be forced to again explore and seek out the best suppliers and the best buyers. Areas you previously considered "safe" would now be home to vicious beasts. Basically, that playing as a new captain would feel rewarding and new. That's the sad part. It isn't. Nothing ever changes. Considering that the game is basically all text and random chance prompts, there should have been hundreds, if not thousands of stories and events that you could potentially see. There's really no excuse for how utterly static the world is.

That might be something you could ignore (though not forgive) if the game was fun to play, but it's not. Trading is so utterly pointless I don't understand why they even bothered adding items to the game. You will never be able to make more than three Echo per commodity, and you'll inevitably have to spend that profit plus an additional markup to replace the food and fuel you used to trade those goods in the first place. Exploration is a complete crapshoot because more often than not finding something valuable will require you to pass a skill check and you will never have enough skill points to have even a decent chance. When it comes to fighting monsters, just get to the edge of them, flip the boat in reverse, and then keep blasting the engines as you shoot them. You'll basically never be hit again.

I will say, just like everyone else, that the music is excellent and the atmosphere was very intriguing while it lasted. That is not enough. If you still find yourself interested, then please play the browser game instead. It's free, and it has a lot more content than you will find here.
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135 of 146 people (92%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
29.3 hrs on record
Posted: April 2
After sailing around for an hour or so, killing some huge crabs and collecting some reports from new islands I had discovered, I was running low on fuel and supplies. The game reminded me of this with a prompt titled "Desperate Measures," so I was left with little choices on the matter.

I tried to use my last two boxes of supplies in a vain attempt to desperately scrape together some fuel so I could reach the port of Fallen London -- I failed. Now I was faced with the problem of starvation, on top of the whole fuel fiasco.

Fear was setting in, as was hunger, fuel was low, as was hope, so I decided to beseech the gods of the Unter-Zee for help, and help they did. I was, for lack of a better word, teleported to some kind of temple dedicated to the gods, and that was where things went from bad to worse.

This temple couldn't be further away from Fallen London, and therefore aid, than I could have gotten on my own. So I decided to beseech the gods again, this time my pleading went unanswered, a cruel cold-shoulder delivered to an ingrateful neophyte. The only purpose my inane begging to a higher power served was to unsettle my crew and drive us all to the brink of sanity.

So I abandoned ship and we all died, lol. 11/10.
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96 of 99 people (97%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
111.9 hrs on record
Posted: February 22
Ultimately Sunless Sea is a potentially amazing game if you like rich narrative worlds and don't mind reading a lot . . . but you should either wait a bit after release and/or take long breaks between when you play because it's not where it needs to be yet.

Why?

Because of the way the game is being developed. Failbetter Game's previous effort, Fallen London (which this game shares the same universe with) has grown massively over time, and so has Sunless Sea. But right now shortly after release, Sunless Sea is a bit sparse. And it's got a lot of issues that need resolving.

The first big issue is the combat, which is very basic at the moment. It works, and it's exciting and dangerous at first, but once you play for a while it becomes very dull and simple save for a few specific "boss" monsters, and even then it's just simple and dangerous. A lot of new AI and balancing is going to be needed before it gets interesting.

Another big issue is size and speed. Your starter ship is almost unbearably slow and at first the world seems vast, but once you get past the (HUGE) initial difficulty wall, upgrading to better ships and engines with a fully explored map reveals that the world actually isn't all that large. More a lake than a sea. Honestly, the game would be better served if the map size were scaled up 15% and all of the engines moved about 10% faster than they currently do. Then at least you'd feel like you were moving, and the world would feel a appropriately large.

The next (and really the biggest) issue is replayability. The game offers a lot of good story content in it, and this content is fixed. However the world is intentionally very harsh and you're bound to die a lot early on thanks to that big initial difficulty wall. These two facts result in a major problem where the narrative content ends up directly at odds with the death and respawn "legacy" mechanics.

Namely: you're going to end up re-reading (more likely skipping through) lots of stuff you've already read before. Finding out about a character's past or an island's secret is really cool the first time, finding out about it the fifth time? No so much. There is currently no mechanic - and certainly not enough content - in place so that the different lives you start encounter notably different story experiences in the game, which would be the obvious solution to this problem.

However, looking at how Fallen London has grown, and some of the systems already in place in Sunless Sea, I feel it's safe to assume that as time goes on more stories and content are going to continually get added in. There's already a pretty big expansion planned, and been a steady drip of new stories over the last month. They even just added a new alternate method to end your current game, so it's not like these are minor updates.

Essentially, what you're likely to not realize (I certainly didn't) when buying Sunless Sea is that this is more a single player MMO that's half Naval Elite/Sid Meier's Pirates and half Victorian/Lovecraftian Adventure gaming. Knowing that is probably more key to whether or not you should purchase it than anything.

This game is currently strong, but threadbare after you spend some time with it. In a few months? I'm guessing it's going to feel much fuller and robust. In a year? It might actually live up to the immense potential it has.

Take that as you will, and certainly, if you're not the type to trust that a game will reach it's full potential in time or don't like that development model, hold off. But I'd encourage you to check back later when it's gotten a bunch of new content.

For myself, I've found more than enough so far to justify the purchase, and have enjoyed the vast majority of my time with the game. The promise of more to come is just a bonus.
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151 of 175 people (86%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
82.6 hrs on record
Posted: February 6
Early Access Review
Sunless Sea is absolutely wonderful. I honestly can't praise the game enough. Why is that?

The writing is sublime. The atmosphere, sound and setting all incredible and haunting in equal measure. In navigating the lonely, dark seas, one can't help but be completely immersed. Whether you are ferrying bandaged Tomb Colonists to distant islands, or sneaking mysterious fungi into remote outposts, you'll be having a terror-tinged blast.

Fuel and supplies will run low. Huge, ferocious creatures will stalk you through the dark. Terror will slowly creep in. The game is difficult, perhaps even a little too daunting at first, as some have found. But just diving into it, venturing as far as you dare and exploring the remarkable amount of content on offer will see you reap the rewards. Both in monetary gain in-game and satisfaction out-of-game.

The development during Early Access ironed out the majority of the last remaining kinks, and has left the game in a fantastic place. If you appreciate a wonderful atmosphere and truly original writing, and have the urge to explore the wonders of a unique underground ocean, definitely check out Sunless Sea.
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100 of 109 people (92%) found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
30.5 hrs on record
Posted: February 6
A great game--refreshing and different enough that I'm compelled to write my first review. I've done sort of headings in caps, to guide you through. It's thematic.

NOT A ROGUE-LIKE

First up, let me say: I think terming it a rogue-like is misleading. "Rogue-like" (to me) implies a game with randomness and a subsequent emphasis on improvisation at its core, whereas SS is really about storytelling and (perhaps most of all) atmosphere. I love rogue-likes (Spelunky and FTL, for instance, are tops), but that's not really what this is. AFAIK, the only randomness is the placement of the islands. Also, I think if anyone ever creates a good random story generator they will become insanely rich.

REALLY WHAT THIS IS

I'd say SS is really a throwback to games like Elite or, more closely, something like (fire up Google) Star Saga--games all about exploration and what-happens-when-I-do-this. It's basically a great world and story on drip-feed, whereby the text-based interactions (and, dare I say, the real fun and excitement) are spread out by the forced need to sail the sea (sorry, Zee) and get the resources necessary to progress.

BUT I DO LIKE THE ZEE

Having said that, I'm more than happy to be forced to sail the sea. The graphics and the (especially excellent) soundtrack create a cracking atmosphere, and I find myself getting sucked in to the sense of romance and horror, of threat and adventure, even though after my initial explorations I'm basically just pointing my ship at the next port and sitting back as it chugs slowly along.

HOWEVER...

However, this is where I foresee some people getting frustrated. There's not much "game" to the sailing, not really. Combat is basic, and usually unnecessary. All the enemies I've encountered can be trivially avoided, and going from port to port is, as I mentioned, quite slow (although you can upgrade engines/change ships eventually). But having said that, I really enjoy planning out my routes--working out where to restock on fuel/supplies, thinking how I'll manage terror and cargo space--it really adds to the sense of being a true Zailor.

VERDICT

Like I said at the top, it's great. But it's not a challenging game. People complaining about grinding are doing it wrong, IMHO. Go, strike out, explore the darkness! Take some risky decisions! I did, and look at me now.

FOR THE RECORD

So you know: I'm on my second captain; I have uncovered basically the entire map; I am still in the starting ship with its starting engines.
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126 of 146 people (86%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
111.0 hrs on record
Posted: January 25
I've sunk way too many hours into this game (and way too many ships). I bought it a month or so ago when it had much less content and was much easier and I couldn't put it down. I would prattle on to my friends about Compulsion (the ridiculous engine that eats fuel and makes you speed across the zee), the rejected marriage proposal I made to the Deviless (she thought I was joking! I gave her my soul, even!), the Pull of Nuncio, the Principles or Coral, the best way to get Searing Enigmas, the mysteries of Station III, the riddle of Visage, the frustration of dealing with the Khanate...

I would stay up late reading excerpts of the amazing prose to my boyfriend and both of us were absolutely rapt with attention and immersion into the world of Fallen London. Watching the stories connect with each other and the gating system of content (Something Awaits You means you must spend some time at zee before unlocking more stories or events) keeping me on the edge of my seat...

This game has consumed my life and my attention. I love the concept and mechanics offered by using information as inventory items. I love opening the game to see the "New Stories Available!" button lit up and being excited for more of the amazing artwork and prose being available.

In the past while, the game has been being balanced as it prepares for release. It's made the game MUCH harder. Things I took for granted in the past: "I can take out this 210-point-hull with torpedos and crazy weapons with my 75-hull one-gun starter ship, no problem!" or "a risky challenge? ah, whatever, it's just crew/hull/terror/supplies/fuel!" or "my engines only explode SOME of the time..." or "psch, curses? whaaaatever" are now HOLY CRAP BAD. Needless to say, I've restarted the game a few times lately as the reality of the harshness of the zee has dawned on me.

Basically, if you have an appreciation for story, this game is (name an addictive substance). If you're like me, you'll lose yourself in it and you'll love every minute of it and you'll chortle whenever someone talks about wells and you'll wake up in the morning, look at the sun, and have a voice in the back of your head saying "REJECT THE DAWN MACHINE."

If you're like me, you'll love it so much you'll want to create a d20 campaign based on the universe, you'll want to get a tattoo of a letter of the Correspondance (Don't do this. Seriously. Bad things will happen.). You'll have dreams about the Sundered Sea (the wicket calls), of finally completing the Neathbow or of what lies north. You'll spend time explaining the impossible colours of the Neath as you use words like gant and viric in daily conversation. You'll talk about Maybe's Daughter or the Brisk Campaigner or the Haunted Doctor or even Phoebe and speak of the conversations you've had with each of them over dinner, because you know what brought them to zee and you want to help them even if it means losing them in the process.

So, yes, highly recommended. Lose yourself in this game. The world is amazing. I've never been so proud to have spent so much time with a game.
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159 of 198 people (80%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
39.4 hrs on record
Posted: February 12
This game has amazing mood. It's got great writing. The idea of trawling a black, underground ocean is compelling and fascinating. But I can't recommend it. Why?

The actual gameplay is boring, repetitive, and simple. You will be doing the same routes repeatedly for tiny profit margins for hours until you can afford the most minor of upgrades. I have to impress the hours part. Unless you look at the wiki for money exploits, you will spend literally hours trawling back and forth in a very slow ship. You won't be in a ton of danger unless you didn't buy enough food or fuel.

In short, if you've been tempted in by comparisons to FTL, turn around now. This game is not a fast paced roguelike ship sim like FTL. If I had to compare it to any game, I'd probably pick Ambrosia's Escape Velocity (1996), which had a similar slow burn price for entry.

Anyway, if you heard all that and you still want in: welcome to the club, it's moody and interesting. I just feel like players entering this game are being done a disservice by comparisons to other roguelikes, like FTL, when it is nothing of the sort.
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110 of 133 people (83%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
71.5 hrs on record
Posted: February 6
things to love:
- roguelike
- cannibalism
- great soundtrack for real
- gameplay options! wanna kill everything? check. wanna sneak past enemies? go for it.
- relatedly, choose what stats you build
- ruin yourself and your crew in service of your deep, insatiable, inexplicible hunger
- many story options, pick your own adventure
- get rich or die trying
- so that your kid can do the same
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73 of 80 people (91%) found this review helpful
6 people found this review funny
284.1 hrs on record
Posted: February 6
Early Access Review
Yes, the game isn’t easy, and yes, you’re likely to die on your first few captains, but that’s a part of the game, it’s not just getting straight in and winning on the first try, but just as there’s respawning for most games, so there is for this, it just happens that rather than reappearing in the same place and getting straight back into the fight, you end up starting again with the legacy left you by the previous captain, allowing you to build a history of what your various characters have achieved. Some things that previous captains had (crew, weapons, money) can be left to new captains and for many, it’s getting your head around the idea that death isn’t going to be the end of it for the game, but a new beginning.

What I love about this game is the mass of narrative within it, the different stories (of which there are hundreds) and the ways in which you can travel this world for days (literally) without losing interest in searching and finding new things, I've got more than 200 hours on this and I'm still finding things that I've never seen before, and I expect that I'll still be finding them 200 more hours from now.

I’ve been playing this since before it hit steam, and so my perspective isn’t that of a person who’s just picked the game up, and while the initial difficulty will put many off the game, persevere, because the rich and detailed content that’s in the game will only become apparent when you’ve given it some time, and the things you learn from the other captains that have perished before you will stand you in good stead when it comes to starting again. When you know where to find Lorn Flukes and Mount Nomad, when seven colours aren’t just myths to you, and when the Principles of Coral have yielded to you, then and only then will you see the promise of the game.

And if you need a hand with anything, come to the forums, I’m Rocket Heeled Jack, dead many times and always back for more...
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60 of 64 people (94%) found this review helpful
30.9 hrs on record
Posted: April 8
I know exactly why I love this game, and it mostly just boils down to stoking imagination. If I had to take a step back and think about the bigger picture, I would attribute that success to these qualities:

Text placed along single pictures that barely represent a person or place, letting our minds fill in the rest
Areas with names but no descriptions (essentially places with no point but infinite possibility)
Choose your own adventure style questions with no backsies, many posed through actual dialogue
No main story, everything is tertiary and yet also essential
An in-game presence so that each journey still feels substantial, weighted appropriately by time and risk

I have never been so smitten with a game, and if the above traits are not enough to make that point, consider that it also manages to blend meaningfully rich text with brilliantly haunting music in a setting that oozes inspiration. Give the game time to sink into your bones. It's worth it!
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121 of 155 people (78%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
54.1 hrs on record
Posted: March 5
It is quite something that, while I think it is one of the most original and interesting game releases around, I have to recommend against it.

Sunless Sea, as a story to be unraveled and explored, it is fantastic. It packs a great amount of literary content (and I do mean by "literary" given how many words this has), solid worldbuilding and the constant feeling of "there is much more in the background", thanks to how the lore is revealed to you: snippets, fragments and bits that by themselves may seem quirky, odd or totally alien, but as you go around and learn, a bigger picture starts to form. Exploring the mysteries of the Neath and the Unterzee while avoiding whatever unknown terror of the depths, the dread of hunger, the lack of critical fuel or even the very wrath of strange gods is atmospheric , to say the least.

If only this was an interactive fiction, though.

Sunless Sea, however, is a game. While story and ambience are clearly paramount in this, the "game" part is, well, not good enough. Since you need to engage with the game in order to explore the story, it suffers due to bad gameplay: once the novelty is gone, you will be instinctively drawn to keep your beaten old steamer around the familiar routes of Fallen London and try to grind some measure of resources to make sure you can survive your next journeys. Sunless Sea makes very clear, from the beginning, that it wants you to take chances and explore - but when you have lost a few captains and you are generally aware of how things work, you realize how woefully lacking is the earliest part of the game and how much of a slog it is to make a modicum of improvement.

(This doesn't get any better even after that.)

Which brings to the problem. The game's economy is focused on the three critical resources: hunger, fuel and terror. Managing all three may seem like a juggler's act, but a few tries here and there will give you the hang of things. Echoes, the currency proper, is the solution to the balancing act. You can afford a better engine, which makes journeys faster; better weapons, which makes you able to fight whatever the zee throws at you; a better ship, which makes everything more useful. Because of that, players quickly realize that they need cash early on to overcome the slog.

And, of course, you start to grind. Because you are grinding, you are not exploring. Because you are not exploring, the game loses its charm and effect FAST. But you need to cash in order to explore without being an awful drag. Of course, given how things work and the very orientation Failbetter wants for Sunless Sea, they quickly took care of the means to make money that were seen as "gamey" (see "The Sunlight Trade" if you are curious).

Sunless Sea is very original and has a lot of entertaining stuff, packed to the brim with lore of their setting (which comes from Fallen London) and the siren's call of a big, unknown Unterzee beckons and dares you to explore all of it. However, the sluggish, dragging-by-its-feet gameplay, an extremely repetitive early game (again: once the novelty wears off) that quickly becomes plain boring and a lack of alternative means to allow its players to just succeed means that is not for everyone.
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83 of 101 people (82%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
26.0 hrs on record
Posted: January 24
Early Access Review
The prose is wonderful the first time you read it, maybe even the second, but the seventh time all that noodly speak is just irritating. This kind of slow, atmospheric game is pretty much the worst choice for a rogue-like, especially as the static content grows stale very old no matter how much they have of it.

The game play itself is fairly compelling, but until you learn all the secrets of the Unterzee you won't be able to get far. Once you know it well, the sense of discovery will be gone and you won't care. It's a whole lot of quality and good design that amounts to an infuriating waste of time in its present form.
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65 of 75 people (87%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
75.4 hrs on record
Posted: February 9
I waited a long time for this game for its full release. I refused to buy it until it was finished and for once, a game that has been in early access for quite some time, delivers.

Right off the bat, to give you a good idea of what the game is about, lets talk about pros, cons, and what you'll be doing during the game.

The Game
You make a small Background for your character, a "Zailor" in the wide and sinister underground vault known as the "unterzee". You hometown is Fallen London, the only safe-ish port to which you will periodically return to manage your posessions, trade, rest and recover your mental sanity.
The game itself consists in going around on your boat, with your officials and crew, facing the countless dangers of the pitch black unterzee, establishing relationships, managing fuel and food, trading, fighting monsters and doing quests (often very creepy stuff), all trying not to get mad and start murdering (or eating) people.

PROS
-Fantastic, sinister and immersive setting
-Lengthy and detailed writing with lots of plots and mysteries
-Challenging. You have to earn secrets, rewards, discoveries through risks and strategy.
-Good longevity
-Really really unforgiving. In the age of super simplified games, with bright luminous arrows pointing in the direction you have to go, the old "you're on your own" is a breath of fresh air.

CONS (but not really)
-Very time consuming. It is not a bad thing, strictly speaking, but you usually tend to get carried away... time flies.
-It necessarely requires a good amount of trial and error, meaning that at the beginning of the game you inevitably fail a lot of challenges, find yourself invery bad situations before you realize it and so on.

Give it a try if you like roguelike games, Lovecraft, and reading.

8.5/10
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70 of 86 people (81%) found this review helpful
139.7 hrs on record
Posted: December 29, 2014
Early Access Review
If I had to distill Sunless Sea down to three simple words, then I say without equivocation that these words are cruelty, terror, and despair.

These words are woven within a simple 2-D representation of a prison of steel gliding upon the green placid waters of a Lovecraftian Netherworld where a Fallen Steampunk variant of Victorian London was literally torn from the Surface world and banished to the realm of the Underzee - a cold subterranean twilight realm scarcely more than a short ocean voyage away from the outer reaches of Hell.

The Unterzee is a very strange place dotted with many dangerous rocky islands literally seething with otherworldly creatures, twisted caricatures of men and women warped by a variety of strange and incomprehensible alien beings far beyond the bounds of human comprehension, and all those unfortunates long since driven half-mad by the grim sunless echoes of a vast and alien sunless sea.

Life in this underground dimensionally warped Victorian-esque steam-punk world over a mile beneath the ground is fatalistically grim since Life on the Unterzee is almost certain to be brutally short for the Captain of your little tramp steamer and its crew.

If you fail to carefully husband your scant resources and utilize both luck and measured aggression in equal measure then your character will die and die horribly...and thats still assuming the gods in the sea favor you. If they do not...well...

Death in Sunless Sea is a kindness often sought but seldom truly found since this horseman of the apocalypse simply grants you the player a chance to choose a successor who will follow in your ill-omened former alter-ego footsteps as he/she/it sets sail into the eternal twilight of this otherworldly nightmare in pursuit of his/hers/its life-long Ambition.

Making your character's dream come true is a long-term goal that is almost - but not quite - out of reach for your Captain given that your Captain's only chance of surviving long enough to fulfill this Ambition rests on you sucessfully utilizing every tool at your disposal...and perhaps by seeking the favors of Fate herself?

As might be imagined from a Lovecraftian game like this one, the story in Sunless Sea is one that slowly unfolds and expands as you play provided you possess a fair degree of luck, perserverance, and patience along with a desire to seek out and plumb the hidden recesses of this very dark, alien, and mysterious subterranean world that is the Neath.

One of the most important tasks for you to perform right from the start is gather up enough Echoes (aka. “Money”) to explore this realm in pursuit of your Captain's goals. To that end, you may find yourself eagerly ferrying large quantities of sphinx-stones from the Weeping Sea Lions, hunting pirates to lay claim to their ill-gotten gains, harvesting a variety of Sea Monsters for their squishy valuables (once you have 'persuaded' them to part from their fleshy coils where such goodies are kept first, of course), or even find yourself doing something as dull and prosaic as delivering lots of mushroom wine kegs to the alcoholic monks of Godfall.

All of this early-game patience may net you enough hard-won lucre to start investing in and enhancing your vessel by upgrading its various steampunky equipment in your ship's station compartments not to mention win you the coin necessary to recruit over time your ship's eclectic and diverse mix of ship officers who more often than not have their own stories to share over dinner in your Captain’s quarters and who may give even more direction to your various encounters as you explore the rocky islands of the Neath.

Oh, and rest secure in the knowledge that no-one is coming to save you from the always fatal consequences that occur when you invariably run out of the fuel or the supplies needed to continue Zailing.

Finally, do try to remember that the Sea Monsters native to this dark Cthuloid nightmare are drawn to the bright lights cast by your ship's single gas-lit array whose actinic glare is often all that holds back the Black Terror and Inky Madness of the Unterzee as it poisons and slowly consumes the minds of your Captain and crew...one delicious morsel of sanity at a time.

Are you the Master of your Mind?
Are you the Captain of your Soul?
Let’s find out!
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51 of 58 people (88%) found this review helpful
7 people found this review funny
45.8 hrs on record
Posted: February 6
FTL meets Call of Cthulhu meets Moby ♥♥♥♥! But that doesn't do it justice.
Honestly, there are very few games that managed to nail the atmosphere and writing THIS well. RPS might have been on the money when they said it had the "best words in gaming."
Setting is one of the most realised and original in gaming.
The gameplay is a little slow and grindy (especially to start with), but it picks up once you get involved in the quests. Doing a few early milk runs is a great way to get enough echoes to start out.
The lore in this reminds me of Dark Souls in a few ways- most of it consists of piecing together fragments and rumors, and most of it is horrifying.
Super recommended.
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61 of 75 people (81%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
2.8 hrs on record
Posted: February 7
This game reminds me of a mix of FTL/Survival/rpgish with a good mix of novel and choices. The artwork and story writing is fantastic in this game. The game features a permadeath mode which is the right way to play as you experience your story and play(merciless is included in case you need it), you'll have to balance between fuel, Terror, Hunger mechanic as well as keeping your hull up you explore the seas to scour what you can to survive. This game is rough and not might be that cup of tea for everyone becuase it isn't action oriented but more novel and yes there is plenty of reading.

You can buy a handful of items ranging from fuel, food. and ship upgrades along with other materials that will unlock certain events and situation when you dock at other harbors to progress in the story. When certain requirements are met you can choose a choice in the story which will benefit you or will completely hinder you. I have died to shipwrecks by hitting land, from monsters, pushing the engine and causing fires, ran out of food and ate my crew, ran out of fuel and got attacked by other ships, lost crew members due to terror and other events that unfold as a result of my negligence. Whenever you do die however you are able to bring one thing with you on restart, your map, who you were, or your skills. are to name a few

Overall I thought the choices was really interesting in certain situation , the feeling of accomplishment of making your first few echos which is the game's currency, and the challenge of surviving and progressing the story.
This game isn't everyones cup of tea remember, it is a heavily text game so expect much reading with whatever you do from choices to combat to everything else basically, I can't recommend this game for people that are impatient with reading and it is very good if you do take the time to read. You'll have to anyways

Anyways long story short

Pros

+ Dark Themed game with good music
+ Fun gameplay of choices that will affect you and your crew
+ Beautiful artwork
+ Phenominal writing
+ Choices you can make
+ Fantastic story that will leave you thinking. Very dark
+ Combat redone to be better than what it was in alpha, before it was a light turn mechanic that look card based, now you actually press button and shoot at the enemies in ze sea.
+ If you are a fan of Fallen London you will love this game.

cons
- HEAVILY TEXT BASED GAME, if you don't enjoy reading you will hate this game
- This game can be a challenge for some, and not a cup of tea for everyone
- Jokes can be a bit sophisticated for some people to understand. You either get it or you don't
- Game content consists mostly of text and isn't too much on the gameplay itself. The gameplay is flipping through the text to decide your choices etc.
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43 of 49 people (88%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
25.8 hrs on record
Posted: February 8
There’s no maternity leave at zee.

Okay, maybe that’s not as compelling a tagline as “Lose your mind. Eat your crew,” but my ship captain gave birth at zee and she didn’t eat her crew. Yet. Or her baby, in case you were wondering. She safely deposited it back in her home base of Fallen London, just to be sure. Her sweetheart probably watches over it while she’s off zailing across the Unterzee. …Probably.

There’s a lot more to Sunless Sea than popping out babies on your ship. That only happened once, I swear. There are giant crabs, giant jellyfish, giant sharks, giant eels, giant eyeballs, giant pirate ships—all of which are very eager to kill you or at the very least bust up your ship. Leading your ship to sink…and killing you. Okay, maybe I was right the first time.

There are also a lot of words. Lovely words. Unsettling words. Downright horrifying words. Your ship’s officers have their own stories that you can slowly unravel (or you can ignore them completely, which may not be the best idea), as do the islands you can explore. Many of the islands have their own factions, and currying favor with the residents can lead to benefits for your captain as well as story tidbits. You can also romance some of your officers, if that’s your thing. Hey, when your fuel and supplies are low and it’s even darker than usual and you’re really far away from home, sometimes things just happen, okay?

Sunless Sea is a game that revolves primarily around exploration rather than trading and combat, though those are part of the game as well. Trading and fighting are rarely the most efficient way to make Echoes (the game’s currency), but venturing far from Fallen London and satisfying your curiosity will often be rewarded. Or you’ll die. Repeatedly.

Experiencing the beginning of the game as a new ship captain is rough and it may feel frustrating at first, or even like a grind with very little payoff. You will die, possibly in quick succession. There’s permadeath in Sunless Sea, though you can continue your legacy through a Scion if you upgrade your lodgings to at least a townhouse and procure a child somehow—and give it weird stuff until it wants to go off to zee. No amiibos or iPads for your bundle of joy, at least if you want it to grow up to be a proper zeefaring captain like you.

However, if you want to stave off death a bit longer and you’re just learning the ropes, you CAN enable manual saves, which makes things considerably easier. Not easy—there is no “easy” in the Unterzee—but it might help you find your zee legs at first.

The game itself is beautiful, especially when you look at all the detail in the 2D islands up close or glide through the darkness and notice the waves crash, snow fall, and all sorts of things glow. The music can’t be praised enough, and does a lot to add to the hauntingly beautiful atmosphere (you’ll probably see this word come up in a lot of reviews) of the game. There’s a reason so many people are clamoring for the soundtrack.

There’s a free browser game called Fallen London if you want to get a better idea of what the writing and setting are like before buying Sunless Sea, and you can get some bonuses when started a new captain if you’ve played the browser game first and link your accounts.

If you like reading and dying, I’d highly recommend Sunless Sea—or even if you only enjoy one of those things.
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57 of 72 people (79%) found this review helpful
68 people found this review funny
20.9 hrs on record
Posted: January 15
Early Access Review
Best book I ever played
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