Monthly: Burnout

New month, new hope, new struggle. There’s a couple of games I’m very close to finishing but, as always when I reach the final stage, it’s hard to find motivation.

Sometimes I imagine playing a game is similar to sailing ocean. It’s all fun and danger on the way, but eventually you must reach you destination, right? That’s why this month my main goal will be to finish the three games I abandoned.

Space Marine – alright, maybe I finished it two times on highest difficulty, but it’s not enough until I get all single-player achievements. After all, it’s a WH40k game and I treat playing it (almost literally) religiously.

Volgarr the Viking – there’s just one boss between me and Valhalla, and I really want to see that rainbow bridge; besides, Heimdall is an old buddy of mine from the Amiga days.

Sunless Sea – 700 hours of playing seems to be more than enough, and I really want to focus on Sunless Skies.

But wait, just watching the end credits rolling on my screen is not enough. I’m a serious blogger, after all. Let’s mark the secondary target: publish at least two texts about the games I already finished. The said posts are still dwelling in form of sketches in my blog’s little pocket limbo and it’s time to give them salvation.

And then there’s the question of aesthetics. Let’s be honest, my little WordPress corner looks simply ugly. This time I should find a nice skin for it, hopefully matching the blog’s theme.

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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.

 

 

Weekly (IV)

Do you want to hear a comparison my vidya experience last week? The closest think is playing Verdun for the first time. You’re crawling in the No Man’s Land wearing a gas mask choking you and obscuring your sight, slowly making progress and stopping at the bottom of each shell crater, only to get caught by barbed wire right in front of the enemy trench and slowly bleed to death.

Yeah, that’s how it felt like. At least I had a sweet short trip back into the innocent past.

Sudden nostalgia attacks usually happen to me on Sunday afternoons when I sit over a cup of coffee. This time it was a game which definitely has nothing to do with typical Sunday mood.

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Long time ago in my teen years, I spent many hours leading my ragtag army in a desperate struggle against the Fallen Lords and almost finished it. This time I spend just two hours playing the first three battles and slowly begin to realise that I’m too old for it. Not that I mind the outdated graphics, but crazy camera control and sluggish movement of my troops are a bit too much for me (at least the zombies have an excuse). Still, the story, the amazing soundtrack and voice acting… maybe if my backlog wasn’t insanely long, I’d spend more replaying Myth. Anyway, thanks for the memories.

This Week: We’re going to the stars and watch them die! That is, the sequel to Sunless Sea is to be released on Thursday. The main goal is to download it from Steam as soon as possible and write down my first impressions. Ideally, I should finish my Final Captain’s quest for immortality in SunSea first, but somehow I feel it’s not going to happen.

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.

Shards of Glim: The Price of Freedom

Beware! Here there be spoilers.

The Ninth Captain was a man ahead of his time: a self-hating Londoner, which would be far more appropriate for a person living in the 21st century than for one stuck in the weird version of the Victorian era. Or, at least, this is how imagined him to be, because he was meant to complete one of the hidden game endings and leave the Neath on board of a stolen Zeppelin. Since I like to have a backstory behind each of my Captains, I did almost everything to stay in-character. This included working with the enemies of London on every occasion, undermining the Imperial sea power and bringing the hated city to its knees.

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Eventually, after a failed attempt to steal the monkey Zeppelin and fly away as far as possible, I decided to pick up the Colony ambition path.

Then I learned that the price of freedom is constant grinding.

Establishing your own settlement is a complex endeavour. Since the only suitable place is Aestival, the Captain needs to find a way to protect his colonists from being driven into madness by sunlight — and finding protection requires a few rare and costly items, as well as sacrificing a part of the crew. When the brave settlers are from the wrath of Helios, the game becomes even less exciting, since it’s necessary to bring enormous quantities of supplies and scores of people develop a colony large enough to declare independence. The final stage is choosing whether to side with one of the Neath’s Powers or become a nation on your own. Whatever the choice is, ridiculously high statistics and expensive items are required to achieve the ending.

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The tree of freedom must be refreshed from time to time with cucumber paste.

Brave men have bled and died, innocent cucumbers have been smashed, but the Ninth Captain has prevailed and become the First Autocrat of his own tiny empire. Proudly alone!

What’s even more important, I managed to accomplish this feat on the last moment. The Zubmarine fleet is bound to arrive tomorrow and now I can play the first official Sunless Sea DLC with a fresh captain.