Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sunless Sea (12 hours)

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain.
Batty, "Blade Runner"

I am Batty, but in a different world, one of Victorian Gothic wonder. I sail the Unterzee with my fearful crew, searching for adventures and incredible tales to share when I return to my beautiful Fallen London.

Sunless Sea is a Cabinet of Curiosities unlike any other.

Fearsome beasts, fanciful tales, a world so strange and fantastic that it compels you to explore it all. This is a world streaked with fear, then terror, then madness, and if you cannot still your pounding heart, you will not survive.

What do you do? You sail the seas. You experience incredible and strange societies. You stay above the law, or perhaps choose to go somewhat beneath it.

Around you, always around you, are words. Beautiful, elegant words. An example:
Sizzling vapours rise from the sea. Time slips, sideways. A coil of rope has stung a stoker, and his fellows beat it to death. We are under the hand of The Iron Republic.

Jules Verne could have created Sunless Sea, and that's high praise, indeed. Indeed, it plays like a Verne novel as game, with an utterly boundless imagination.

I tend to focus on the words, due to my own nature, but the visuals in Sunless Sea are just as striking as the words. Haunting and mysterious, dominated by the cool hues of the sea, they are quite beautiful.

Certainly, this is one of the most creatively vivid game worlds I have ever inhabited, and I recommend it absolutely.

Now, quibbles. They are minor, but they exist.

First, the currency in the game is "echoes", and they can be difficult to come by. I seem to always be struggling to fuel and supply my ship. Partially, this is because of the second quibble, which is that it's difficult to establish where something can be sold. I have various fantastic items, but some can't be sold in the shops of Fallen London, and I have no larger resource in the game to plan where I might sell these items. Because fuel/supplies are so dear, it's not practical to idly sail the seas, stopping at every port to see if they might be interested in some of my more exotic fare.

The third quibble relates to text and its size. The game looks absolutely stunning at 2560x1440, but the text doesn't scale up as much as I'd like (the developers have acknowledged this and are working on it). This is a minor quibble--I can read the stories with no problem, but it would be easier if the text were larger.

Beyond the quibbles, one of the utterly entrancing things about Sunless Sea is how tangible the world feels. It is so fantastic and strange, yet it feels utterly plausible because of its meticulous, detailed creation.

I occasionally play games where it feels like a privilege, and so it is with Sunless Sea. It is a privilege to sail these waters, to explore, to fear, and sometimes to founder. 

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