Weekly: Family Matters

The greatest advantage of owning an Early Access version of a game is watching it slowly grow like a plant in your garden, and being pleasantly surprised every time you log into your Steam account and see that new content is ready for downloading.

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To new patch for Sunless Skies adds a few important things like item storage or character creator, but the Legacy system seems to be most important. I’ve always liked the roguelite idea of inheriting talents and worldly possessions from previous Captains in Sunless Sea, not only because it made plaing in permadeath mode a tad easier, but also because it gave the game an additional depth. There was something appealing in thinking not just about reaching one of the game’s ending, but also leaving something for the future generations. However, this time inheriting works in a different way since you’re not required to have a child in-game and you don’t just get stat bonuses, but instead create a new character with the experience level the previous one had before they met their end. This sounds more like reincarnation than inheritance and I’m really curious whether it will have some implications when the game is further expanded.

 

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For God, Emperor and Country (official promo image from Steam)

 

Not all is quiet on the Eastern Front! Another Early Access game I’d really like to play is Tannenberg, recently released by the makers of my favourite multiplayer FPS Verdun. Basically, it’s just an add-on to the main game which takes the players to a new theatre, Central and Eastern Europe, and adds the not-so-mighty Russian Army as a playable faction. Beside new weapons, uniforms and maps, there’s a new game mode too which supposedly reflects the less static type of warfare which was common in the East. Sure, I’m more than eager to give it a try and write about it in a First Hour post, but…

…let’s face the truth, I’m a bad, casual player, mainly because Verdun was my first online shooter since the times of the original Counterstrike. To put it simply, I’ve played it only sporadically for the last few months because I was just too embarraseed by my poor performance. Still, the perspective of visiting war-torn Eastern Europe and fighting for the Tsar is so tempting… Oh, the hard choices we vidya fans have to make 😉

Goals: Finish one draft and publish it before Monday.

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Weekly (V)

One week and one day behind the schedule. Oh, well.

As almost every human being, I regret some thing I missed in the past. This time, playing Sunless Sea made me regret learning about its predecessor too late to join the Early Access or play the final release without later add-ons. Sure, Sunless Sea was hard to play, but I found the reviews complaining about it too exaggerated, since every patch made things a little easier. Meanwhile, after spending a dozen of hours with the new Failbetter’s game I can imagine how zee captains must have felt while exploring the raw version of SunSea. In short, I’m sailing through a cold, empty void which openly hates me.

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There are few locations and even fever quests, so money and resources are hard to replenish. The cramped hold is another problem – at one point, I was forced to jettison valuable cargo because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get enough supplies and reach my next destination, The new terror mechanics makes it more difficult to maintain sanity, because this time pub-crawling in the docks or spending some money on vacation in your luxurious mansion is not enough. This time, when the dread metre goes to high, our brave voidfarer gains a so-called Condition and needs to undergo a literal therapy in one of the ports, which just happens to be a literal asylum. Do I need to add that there’s no free healthcare in the frontier and you have to pay for it with some rare items?

Fortunately, this time there’s no permadeath and it’s possible to return to the last save location if things go full Alex Kennedy. I’m still proud of never having used this feature in Sunless Sea, but this time, facing an early version of a game which is possibly infested with bugs, I’m going to use it freely. We’ll wait for the Iron Man challenge until the final version is released.

That’s it. I’ve had little progress in other games so there’s nothing else to add to this post.

Goal for this Week: Focus on Sunless Sea and beat the Death to death. It’s about time.

 

First Hour: Sunless Skies

Time for a new idea for this blog: spending exactly one hour with a new game and trying to describe the experience. Today is an excellent opportunity to try it, because the Early Access version of Sunless Skies has just been released by the Failbetter Games.

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Although it appears that the residents of Fallen London are not able to return to the surface, their Queen managed to find a new way to expand her dominion by reaching into the stars. Fittingly for the setting, the explorers use clunky steam locomotives to travel between settlements and outposts. Obviously, both hazards and opportunities can be found in the High Wilderness. On the one hand, the Londoners can find plenty of new goods here, with time itself becoming a strategic resource, but as it was to be expected, there are void-faring monsters and even worse horrors lurking out there. Of course, the protagonist is a commander of such a locomotive.

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Sunless Skies is a direct sequel to Sunless Sea and comparisons are inevitable. The first glance reveals that the graphic artists did a really good job. The locations are depicted in tiny details, the background has several layers and the sense of space is breathtaking at moments, even if currently there’s no chance to move in three directions — not even a ‘dive’ option like in the Zubmariner add-on. Character portraits and images illustrating the ports you’re visiting are excellent, especially when you remember the clumsy graphics from the browser game which were later recycled in SunSea. Even the interface looks pleasant to the eye, which hits my soft spot (interface aesthetic was one of the reasons why I loved the Silmarils’ games so much as a kid). My favourite addition are the short pieces of text slowly appearing after our space engine reaches a new location.

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Flying the steampunk cousin of Apollo 13 isn’t much different from sailing on the Unterzee, but some important changes happened. First of all, it seems to be faster even with a basic engine, but also more inert, so it’s quite difficult to change direction and avoid collision. Fortunately, our locomotive is far less fragile than the vessels from the previous game and suffers damage from hitting obstacles only at high speed. The other significant change is the possibility of strafing which becomes very useful in space fight. This time there are no turrets and gunnery officers to speak of, instead we are required to target manually by moving the ship and shooting two types of weapon. After a moment of confusion, I emerge victorious from my first scuffle with an unidentified foe.

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This reminds me that I’m playing an early beta version. Unlike Sunless Sea, I’m not able to see the name of my enemy and their health. Is this a bug or a feature? Maybe I need to have special equipment or gain knowledge to see who is attacking me? I’ll have to check that later.

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Another novelty is the new system of character progression. Instead of enlisting an officer and asking him for training, now we are able to determine the past of our supposed hero. The ascension to Level 2 required me to answer whether my alter ego was happy with their prole life. I’m really curious what happens next. Anyway, this was a very pleasant surprise, because I love character creation and role-playing.

There’s not much more to add after a mere hour of playing. All I can say that I’m excited to see more and really glad that I’m playing in Early Access. Waiting for new updates and watching the game develop sounds very promising. Of course, I will mention the changes in my weekly reports.

Meanwhile, I have a dead settler on board, the hull is damaged and fuel is running out. Damn, I love you, Failbetter Games.

 

 

Daily Gamer: Get a Job

While I keep writing posts about my (mis)adventures in Sunless Sea, I didn’t even bother to say something about its parent game Fallen London, even though I’m playing it almost every day since two years. It’s time to right the wrongs.

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There is poetry even in being a butcher.

There are myriad reasons to like Fallen London, so many that I could spend the rest of my life writing about them. This is one of them: as the protagonist imprisoned in the Neath, you can do the most horrible things without feeling too bad about them, all thanks to the irony and melancholy of the narrative — a welcome change after playing dozens of games where choosing the traditionally ‘evil’ path has absolutely no appeal to me (I’m looking at you, Bethesda Games!).

Daily Gamer: Long-Distance Captain

This Sunday, I’m celebrating. You may call me a Seasoned Zeewolf now.

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To be honest, I’m really surprised with myself. The main reason for creating this blog was an ugly flaw of character: it’s very difficult for me to finish a game. All too often, I abandon a playthrough not just because I’m bored or don’t enjoy it anymore, but rather because I lose my focus. After all, there are always so many new exciting titles on the horizon, and a few classics I’d like to return to. This is not the case with Sunless Sea, however, because it appears that I’ve finally found a game which was made just for me. Everything — lore, graphics, musics, mechanics, dialogue, characters — seems perfectly tailored to my taste.

When I think about it now, maybe I really should sit down for a while, have a moment of introspection, and write down all the reasons why Sunless Sea is my current Number One. Let’s hope that I’ll be able to make a whole post about it.

Shards of Glim: Red Flag Rising

‘Another dashing explorer devoured by the Neath!’ – headline in 20 October 1899 edition of the Imperial Courier.

Before leaving the capital of the fallen Empire, The Tenth Captain was a moderately succesful poet of the Sensualist school, driven by an insatiable lust for new experiences. This flaw of character didn’t leave im on the Unterzee and made him take enormous risks in order to reach further and further during his journeys. Alas, it eventually lead to his demise when his crew succumbed to madness after a succesful expedition into the heart of Frostfound.

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The Eleventh Captain has inherited the toxic self-hatred of one of his forefathers and also intends to take revenge on Fallen London. This incarnation, however, is less selfish that previously. As an Anarchist fully dedicated to the Cause, he will attempt to bring the Liberation of Night into completion and put a red banner on the top of the Shuttered Palace. Then, possibly, he will seek refuge far beyond the know waters, knowing too well that the Revolution, like the Greek god, is a harsh parent.

(which means that I’m trying to steal the monkey ship again, this time without ruining it by a missclick.)

Shards of Glim: Zubmariner

A warning to all zubmarine captains: minor spoilers are lurking in the darkness ahead.

Waiting for the game on Day Zero felt like being 12 years old again. The game’s release was scheduled for 6 PM, so I launched my laptop and kept refreshing the Steam webpage, getting impatient with every minute. Eventually, the ‘Purchase’ button appeared onscreen a few minutes after seven. After typing my PayPal password with shaking fingers and clicking ‘Continue’ over a dozen of times, I started downloading the expansion pack. Finally, I was able to see this wonderful screen:

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I’ve been waiting for a year for this beautiful sight.

Obtaining a zubmerzible vessel isn’t a particularly difficult task even for a Captain who has just begun his adventure in the Neath. The first requirement is to undertake a long journey to the Neath’s southern rim and find a mysterious and generous patron who owns a secret laboratory. Then you have to assist the researchers working for her by donating certain items. I’ve decided to sacrifice an Extraordinary Implication and hilarity ensued.

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Creative madness.

The next step was to find blueprints for a Zonar, which requires a short journey and again is remarkably easy. When I finally returned to the laboratory with the plans and completed the task, I was surprised to find out that they didn’t construct an entirely new ship; the engineers simply helped me to convert my vessel into a zubmarine. What’s even more strange, the conversion passess to each new ship you buy in London, so you don’t have to complete the same quest again.

There are other odd things about underwater zailing. There’s no electric engine and the zubmarine burns coal just like an ordinary ship on the surface. Cannons work perfectly well. There is no periscope. There is no depth meter. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised at all, because Failbetter Games has never promised us to create a realistic simulation game about Victorian-era submarines hunting The Great Cthulhu.

Coincindentally, turning my corvette into a zubmerzible saved the Tenth Captain’s life. While he was returning to Port Carnelian with the zonar plans, his ship was ambushed by a flock of Blue Prophets and heavily damaged. For some reason, the d—-d birds kept hovering over the port and attacked again when the Captain was leaving, but he managed to hide under the waves literally in the last seconds before getting shredded to tiny pieces.

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What a promising start of the Great Underwater Adventure, isn’t it?

After having played Zubmariner for a couple of hours, I still don’t have much more to say about the gameplay. So far, I’ve visited two new locations and won a skirmish against bloodthirsty zub-pirates, but I’m staying on the surface for most time, earning money, training stats until I feel prepared to explore the depths under the Neath in a serious way. Of course, I will write another post soon to share my experiences.