So today it's a bit of a diversion from our usual topics - and into the world of games, albeit one that's largely interactive fiction. I've been playing a great deal of Sunless Sea this year (too much Sunless Sea? Never!), and thought I'd chat about it on the blog.
|Sailing near Irem|
Sunless Sea comes from Failbetter Games, the company responsible for the browser game Fallen London, and indirectly for all your sad feelings about bats (they're probably also responsible for that strange hunger you've been feeling lately, if you experience certain parts of FL content...). So they've got a pretty good - if a little grindy - interactive fiction track record. Sunless Sea is a different take on the formula, putting you at the helm of a steamship on a vast underground ocean and inviting you to explore. As the tagline "Lose your mind. Eat your crew." suggests, the survival expectations are not high.
At its best, Sunless Sea is an anthology. Each island or port on the Unterzee has its own stories, frequently its own entire plotline. Many are by guest writers. Richard Cobbett's spider-worshipping Saviour's Rocks, and Emily Short's haunting Station III are particular highlights. As a result, it reads as something of a collection of short interactive stories: drifting across the Unterzee using the roguelike mechanics to find the next island, each of which has a very different theme and feel to it. There are islands with one big event, one big choice, which affects what you'll find there on subsequent visits. There are islands that dole out their nuggets of story slowly, one visit at a time - like the island of Mt Palmerston, which has you taking letters from a rather homesick deviless. Occasionally - but to the game's credit, not very often at all - there are the disappointing islands, only there to serve as part of other plotlines. (That said, the game is still being occasionally updated, and there will be an expansion at some point - I'm still hopeful for more in places like Irem, which has the promising quirk of switching tenses from the main game as time distorts itself)