The most exciting news I’ve heard in a long time is today’s announcement of Failbetter Games’ Sunless Sea. Why is it exciting?
After the jump, ten important facts about a game you’ve never heard of.
10) It’s made by the folks who made Fallen London. Failbetter Games’ web-based free-to-play RPG is a spiderweb of brilliant prose about one of the most exciting worlds you will ever virtually visit. I’ve been playing regularly by dropping in once or twice every few days, and it never fails to produce the same admiring smile as an amazing vista in Guild Wars 2, a satisfying match in Wargame: Airland Battle, or the heartfelt conclusion of The Last of Us. Fallen London is every bit as brilliant as other brilliant videogames. Whatever these guys do next, I want to play.
9) Sunless Sea is a real-time exploration and survival game set in the Fallen London world, an incredibly rich underground mythology of the dead, the demonic, the clay, and the properly Victorian. Steampunk meets Cthulhu meets Dickens meets Robert E. Howard meets, well, a bunch of stuff that’s unique. This is no mere galaxy with aliens.
8) Failbetter cites as their influences FTL, Don’t Starve, Elite, Sid Meier’s Pirates, and a bunch of stuff I haven’t even heard of, but that must be pretty good if it’s mentioned alongside those games.
7) The maps are hand-painted. I’m not clear on how or whether the randomization works, but this isn’t just a series of tiles shuffled together. UPDATE: Failbetter’s Alexis Kennedy confirmed in the comments section below that the maps are randomized. Which is sort of a no-brainer for an exploration game, so I’m a dope for suggesting otherwise.
6) It’s not free-to-play. It’s a complete game available for a single price to be played in perpetuity at whatever pace you like.
5) If you read spelunking accounts, you’ll learn that light is a precious resource in underground exploration. Sunless Sea has a light and dark mechanic, in which darkness has a unique set of risks. Do you explore the darker regions or stick to the better lit areas? Your ship is equipped with a headlamp that burns precious glim, so use it wisely.
4) Sunless Sea is a synonym for Dark Sea, which is one of the alternate titles for Chupacabra Terror, one of my favorite bad movies, in which a chupacabra smuggled onto a cruise ship by cryptozoologist Giancarlo Esposito gets loose and the ship’s captain, played by John Rhys-Davies, has to protect his daughter, who is the cruise ship’s kickboxing instructor who will eventually kickbox the chupacabra after it kills a team of Navy SEALs equipped with bicycle helmets, painters’ overalls, and plastic firearms. I’m not sure if this is an intentional nod from Failbetter or just a happy accident, but I’ll take it either way.
3) My favorite tidbit from the site, which comes as no surprise but is worth emphasizing:
Most of all, Sunless Sea is a game of stories; the dark secrets of your crew, the hidden coves of the soul smugglers, the tentacled nemesis that you chased from Hunter’s Keep to the shores of the Elder Continent.
Your choices will determine the events of every game. Will you return to Wolfstack Docks with a hold full of loot or succumb to madness and cannibalism on the black waters? Will you free the colonies of the Carnelian Coast, or keep them in the Empire’s grip? Will you betray your father’s legacy or reclaim it?
2) The Kickstarter begins September 3rd.
1) Failbetter estimates that the actual game won’t be out until well into 2014. In fact, second quarter. Second quarter! That’s, like, years away.