Welp as I mused on previously, I have come into possession of Sunless Sea and slowly went about finding out what’s going on in it. After about 6 hours I feel that I have a good grip on whats going on with the game and I have some thoughts on how I feel about it. Also, somewhat amusingly, this is the second lovecraft inspired game I’ve given some first impressions on in a row-but hey I’m a sucker for eldritch nightmares and such.
Sunless Sea, as its name implies, takes place in a deep underground ocean and has you set out from Fallen London-the entire city was stolen by bats and carried underground apparently-to explore the ocean, see how things are going in different corners of the sea and meet your end several times due to all sorts of things. Yes, this is a roguelike game-every generation will have islands move to some degree and you can pass on certain legacies or gifts to your heir after you sink to the bottom of the “Zee” and choose a new character setup. Personally I’m playing it on the merciful mode-where you can save at every port instead of having to use autosave since I’m more interested in exploration. As you explore you can visit ports, collect information or take place in certain events and buy stuff. Everything is in a topdown viewpoint, which is interesting and you also use a little journal thing to do events or interact with crew etc. etc. You sail around, fight monsters and try to make sure your fuel doesn’t drop so low that you get stranded and die in the ocean.
Personally I do like the aesthetic and ways things are handled-the writing is generally fun and interesting, with some genuinely creepy things that have to be delivered entirely through words coming off pretty well. Theres some unpleasant visuals and occurences you’ll find on your journey, and I like the journal helping flesh out such things. That said the journal and the UI in general could use a bit of sharpening, streamlining and perhaps a bit of dolling up. Its not bad, but I feel like it could use some work-this also applies to the side artwork which I am personally not much of a fan of-sometimes its fine but most of the time it doesn’t look great though its not a dealbreaker. Personally I do like the art design of the Zee and the areas-it all looks pretty interesting and appealing and the creepy color scheme of green really helps sell the atmosphere, as does the darkness that envelops most of the map. There are skill checks as well, and random events will hit certain areas-I had one area that was normal when I first visited it an. I like how that sort of thing happens, and can even happen if you take certain actions when on an island. You can pick up items, sell em at other places for profit and do quests to make cash money as well as getting secrets you can use to improve your abilities when you discover stuff.
Additionally one has to manage terror, supplies and fuel while you sail otherwise horrible stuff will befall you because of course it will. The Zee is quite unforgiving and I do have a bit of an issue with how the game doles out fuel-sometimes it feels like you’re the only ship that uses fuel given how scarce it can be, and it makes exploring farther beyond the closest islands harder to do unless you get tons of fuel which I suppose fits to the theme and tone but I feel its a bit too scarce for my tastes-especially considering that the main source of income and cash with the lowest fuel is all the way at the start of the map, and in the wilds if you came fueled up but not fueled up enough then good luck buying anything.
Still despite some issues, the game is damn compelling and I’ve been having a heck of a time with the game so far. I still want to keep digging into it, and find out the horrible secrets that lie in wait as well as leave behind a proper legacy for my heir before I come to terms with my first character dying.