Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in this literary RPG for PC, Mac and Linux. The successor to Sunless Sea.
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Release Date: May 2018

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Available: May 2018


Recent updates View all (13)

July 18

Enriching the Reach: INVARIANTHEORIE

The INVARIANTHEORIE sprint continues our work at fleshing out the Reach ahead of Early Access. Art has been finishing up ports while also delving into even more ambiences, icons and decorations. Meanwhile Content have been working on experience accrual designs and working on Kickstarter backer rewards such as Correspondence and geographical location names. Tech have accomplished a myriad of different pieces to ensure all the bits and bobs are running for Early Access, including melee attacks, trade loops, scenic spawns and character progression!


Now that many of the ports are on their polish stages, Paul and Tobias have been busy at work with ambiences, icons and decorations.

Many of the icons will be of characters involved in stories connected to the ports you visit. For example, last sprint we saw the Romantic Ornithologist, which players will meet at the Leadbeater & Stainrod Nature Reserve. This sprint Tobias has been hard at work on the Amenable Host, who will feature in Magdalenes.

Other icons and ambiences will incorporate landscapes for ports and places in the High Wilderness, as well as all UI, goods and quality icons within the game.

Liam has also been attending to various pieces that required a UI pass, such as the Chart and Journal page. He's also crafted a UI style guide, so anyone on the team will have a clear representation of the design behind the UI. This will come in handy in case anyone else needs to tweak or make additional assets for the UI (or marketing assets) while understanding the master design behind it all.

Alongside the UI work, Liam has also animated the Reach Marauder vessel.

Paul has also spent some time this sprint tackling the character creation and avatar generator assets, which you will have seen a prototype of during our Kickstarter! The prototype we shared only showed a few variations, but as we continue towards full release, Paul will be creating more assets for each category, such as chin, nose, brow, hats, etc. and will be working ensure there's more diversity available for players to choose from.


This sprint, Chris immersed himself in spreadsheets. First he tackled designing experience accrual, or how much experience players receive for defeating agents.

His second delve into spreadsheets was to take a look at our Kickstarter backer responses for both those who get to create a Correspondence sigil and those who get to have a geographical location name. We provided the various backer tiers with different prompts for each, then Chris has a look and designs a name based on the information they've provided.

For example, for the location name, backers provided us with:

  • their full name, beloved's name, or pet's name
  • their profession or hobby
  • and their foremost virtue and chiefest vice

This allows us to ensure that each name, holds personal meaning while at the same time blends into the Sunless Skies atmosphere and lore.

Cash and James have both been busy with various port quest QA, such as New Winchester and Port Prosper.


This sprint Mac implemented melee attacks, which are important not only for some locomotive agents, but also for organic agents that may be lurking in the skies.

Featured above you can see one of the tools we've created for ourselves in Unity. We're making sure we have a lot of them at our disposal to help us create a range of interesting types of enemy attacks.

He has also begun work on implementing the character progression spec that Chris has created in a previous sprint. Character progression in Sunless Skies will be different than Sunless Sea, and more story-driven.

Barry has continued work on Wrath, this time implementing instantaneous provocations, which means that agents will be able to become provoked immediately if shot at or attacked, as opposed to only becoming provoked based on qualities.

He has also begun implementing Scouts, which will be very helpful to allow players to explore the skies!

Henry has been working on scenic spawns and agent spawning tags, which will allow the team to have more control over where an AI agent spawns in game. These tags, for example, will allow specific agents to be spawned in specific regions of the High Wilderness.

He has also been implementing locomotive equipment specs written up by Chris. This will ensure players can add different equipment to their locomotives.

Caolain has taken his first dive into Sunless Skies by working on the design for AI behavior of the Tackety Scouts, as well as working on trade loops for the Reach. The trade loop designs will narrate which shops sell what in various points of the Reach.

Besides learning all the ropes at Failbetter, Lesleyann has done her first general QA pass, focusing on both finding bugs and ensuring bugs the tech team has fixed have actually been fixed. She's also worked with the tech team ahead of public launches, such as Alpha updates, to work through major bugs which would stop any builds from going out.

Our next FBG Podcast will be Friday 21st July at 16:00 BST! Our next sprint, JANSKY, will bring more content from Albion, continued art polish on the Reach, music triggers, and more AI behaviours!

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July 3

Enriching the Reach: HYPERGALAXY

The HYPERGALAXY sprint finds us continuing to enrich the Reach. Art have finished their first pass at all the ports of the Reach and started on Ambiences, Decorations and a UI pass. Meanwhile, Content have written a tutorial specifically for Early Access, created a system to track faction conflict in New Winchester and created base content for Albion. Besides working on bug fixes for the Alpha, the Tech crew have been continuing their work on weapons, creating the in-game chart, and implementing plenty of UI and HUD systems.


We had a very joyous moment during our Sprint Review meeting where Paul showed us a collage of all the ports on screen—the first pass on all the ports in the Reach is finished! Both Paul and Tobias will in a later sprint go back over them with polish to finalise them.

Tobias has also begun creating Decorations, which are non-interactive background scenes that players will fly through on their journey through space. These may include things like the beanstalks below, or shards of wreckage from battles past.

Paul and Tobias also discussed Ambiences, which are the background scenes that accompany storylets.

Not all storylets will have need of an icon, so Ambiences need to be able to fill up the entire space and also give a sense of atmosphere and location.

Paul also did a pass over the UI, tweaking the art nouveau to be more functional (rather than overly aesthetic).

We have all also fallen in love with Tobias’ rendition of the Romantic Ornithologist.


One of Content’s first tasks this sprint was to devise a simple tutorial specifically for Early Access. In it, players will be able to explore their ship and learn about the game's mechanics and setting.

James and Chris have also been working on the Winchester War: the conflict over the Reach, between the Windward Company and the Tacketies. The fortunes of each side fluctuate as time passes, and players can throw their weight behind one faction, or try to play each against the other. If one side gains dominance, they'll seize New Winchester, driving their rivals out!

This has been quite a feat for us, as the quality-based narrative (QBN) that's used within our games is designed for responsive, player-facing stories, rather than background simulation. We think we've cracked it, though!

Cash and Chris have also been working on the first content for our second region: Albion. They began, of course, with London, where you'll be able to curry favour with the well-paying Ministry of Public Decency, or support the underground New Street Line. You can also take part in the wargaming weekends of one Mr H. G. Wells. A number of senior military figures attend them to experiment with new strategies. Play correctly, and with the move of a handful of tiny soldiers, you may be able to influence the outcome of the war in the Reach!


Mac has continued work on weaponry, specifically creating an arc mechanic to different types of ammunition. Not only does this allow our team to be able to create different movement to different types of ammunition, but is also part of our work on accessibility for difficulty settings. Along with this he’s also started to implement force, so if an opponent is hit with a shotgun, they will be pushed back by the force of it.

This sprint Barry started to develop the player chart—the in-game map that allows players to see where they have been and what has yet to be discovered. Below is a shot at the first pass at this, which shows the fog of war around the player-locomotive. Below is a shot of Barry's work to date, using Failbetter's world-renowned programmer art! We'll be getting Liam and Paul to beautify it in the near future.

Meanwhile, Liam has been implementing plenty of UI, including the Hold, Possessions, Profile Page, Officers, and also some heat animations on the HUD.

The Hold UI features multiples of items, as opposed to stacks, and visually updates in real-time.


We're particularly excited to welcome Lesleyann, our newest Failbetter recruit, as QA tester on [ir]Sunless Skies[/i]! She's just getting started - getting to grips with the game to date, learning all 7,777 names of the office rats, etc - but will be vital in making sure Sunless Skies is the most polished it can be on launch.

Our next FBG Podcast will be Friday 7th July at 16:00 BST! Feel free to tweet @Failbettergames your questions ahead of time, or ask in chat on Twitch! Our next sprint, INVARIANTHEORIE, where we’ll be taking a look at bug fixes from the Alpha, music and audio triggers, and implementing Scouts!

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About This Game

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.

Ten years have passed since Sunless Sea, and Queen Victoria has led an exodus from London to the heavens. There, a revitalised British Empire - ambitious and authoritarian - begins to expand across the skies.

The stars are alive. They are the Judgements: vast intelligences that govern all things. But they are dying. One by one, something is snuffing them out, leaving their thrones empty. An opportunistic Victorian Empire is colonising the domains they leave behind, painting its industrial vision upon the fabric of the heavens.

  • Travel between distant ports, unravelling stories, bearing passengers and news, and trading in exotic celestial cargoes.

  • Your every foray into space is as precarious as a Polar expedition. You’ll need to balance your resources carefully and keep an eye on your crew’s Terror to avoid mutiny and death.

  • Your captain's actions could tip the precarious political balance of a region. Will you run guns for the Independents? Or spies for the Empire? Choose wisely – your decisions will affect the story; not just for yourself, but for your future captains as well.

  • Leave your mark on the universe, and be marked in return. When you are creating your captain, every decision is a story, and every story has a consequence.

  • Equip your vessel as you see fit. Would you benefit more from reinforced armour plating, or the additional manpower allowed by external crew pods? ("Soundproof! Cosy! Detachable!")

  • It is not safe in the skies. A captain will need to defend themselves against pirates, scorn-flukes, the Cyst of Faces, and worse.

  • Recruit a gallery of unpredictable characters to crew your locomotive as First Officer, Chief Engineer, Signaller, or Surgeon. Each brings their own skills and stories to your adventures.
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