Top Critic Average
Look, Sunless Sea isn't for everyone. It requires patience, and it requires no small amount of imagination. For those who have those qualities, or are prepared to try and acquire them, I would say that Sunless Sea is an uncommonly rewarding roleplaying game, and an essential one.
Sunless Sea's contemplative pace and reams of text won't appeal to every player, but if you have a little patience, and an appreciation for atmospheric story telling, then it'll be hard to pass this one up.
Sunless Sea does demand a lot from its captains, though. Patience, mainly. It's a slow, deliberate game, where a journey across the map can take an age, and where secrets are unfurled without haste. But the sea offers up a veritable bounty of rewards, and absolutely the best writing in any video game since, well, as long as I can remember.
'The sacred river ran, through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea,' reads Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan, from which the game takes its name and setting. It already knows that you will take up the challenge and bravely attempt to measure these caverns. The better question, and the one that Sunless Sea asks in countless ways is: how?
There are still many mysteries of the Unterzee that I have yet to discover, and maybe I never will see everything there is to see. But that just makes Sunless Sea even more exciting for me. The realm of possibilities seems endless, and every time I set sail I find something new. The sea is calling to me. Perhaps it's calling to you, too.
'Sunless Sea' is the perfect game for someone who's been waiting for a subterranean, steampunk, nautical, difficult, heavily text-based adventure. I highly recommend it for everyone else as well, especially those who appreciate deliciously whimsical, macabre prose and don't mind a bit of backtracking and dying.
A unique setting makes this survival/exploration game stand apart from the pack, along with it's RPG elements. If the sound of well-written stories of captains facing the horrors of the sea piques your interest, look no further. Sunless Sea is a standout in a well-saturated genre.
Sunless Sea stresses a fondness for resource management, vaguely turn-based combat, roguelike principles of calculated disposability, and basic role-playing. All of this builds to a confident level of intimidation – it can require an exceptional amount of time to procure the particular nature of Sunless Sea's identity and intentions – but not without a certain indelible magnetism. Making sense of Sunless Sea's complexity just seems to be one of its underlying challenges.
Sunless Sea is a little darker and less cheerful than its already morbid sister Fallen London, but it's no less delightful. The Unterzee is awash with clever, well-written stories, and you're sure to find something new every time you set sail – even if actually finding it can take a while.
Explanations of the lore, the world, and your place in it are in short supply but over time, you live, die and learn, rewarding those that stick with it with some of the slickest, well implemented writing in gaming.
The static narratives and roguelike gameplay in Sunless Sea don't always gel together harmoniously, but Failbetter Games has succeeded in delivering a tense and engaging experience and a rich and atmospheric setting.
Sunless Sea is a masterpiece of interactive storytelling, atmosphere and exploration that spins a unique, tense and frequently tragic new yarn every time you play. It's a shame that the spiteful economy and repetitive early game gradually forces you to focus on the systems, not the stories, but the quality of the writing elevates Sunless Sea into something rather special indeed.
Indeed, one of the best things about Sunless Sea, apart from its beautifully crafted elder-horror stories, fantastically drawn artwork and generally creepy atmosphere, is the feeling that the decisions you make within the game are shaping the narrative, and that by playing, you are writing yourself into that story.
The action may not be up to quite the same standards as the writing, but the bizarre world of the Underzee is more interesting to explore than almost any other recent game world.
It's a rich, story-driven game of moving from island to island like some sort of Lovecraftian Odysseus. It's engaging, but loads of screens to push through and lackluster combat detract from the experience
Sunless Sea is ultimately a chronicle of tragedies. Success is dependent upon you building up achievements, stacking your legacy high enough that the next captain can set sail with a proper cannon and better rig, which is in turn entirely in service of exploring whatever remains in the vast darkness out East. As someone who played Skyrim and spent hours wandering every square inch of the underground kingdom in Blackreach, I found Sunless Sea's heady darkness appealing.
Sunless Sea is a dark game combining Lovecraft-themed exploration with Victorian Gothic visual novels in exciting (and chilling) ways. The end result isn't perfect, but its sense of terror and wonder makes it a worthy follow-up to Failbetter's Fallen London.
Sunless Sea truly does capture what it must feel like to be a ship's captain on a dark underground ocean - sometimes it feels exciting and wondrous, but usually it feels lethargic and dreary. I should've stayed in London and became a shopkeeper.