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.

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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.

Shards of Glim: Docking Blues

Everyone who’s ever tried to play Sunless Sea will admit that the gameplay is far from thrilling. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the writing and I agree that the writers deserve all the praise they receive for multiple plots, quests, characters, port encounters, etc. However, after an aspiring captain has gained some experience, boosted his stats and bought a decent ship with proper equipment, zailing becomes simply tedious. Even encounters with dangerous foes, like the Tree of Ages, don’t cause adrenaline rush anymore.

Now it seems that I’ve invented a way to break the monotony: Make Docking an Art!

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Bah, you can do better, Capt’n!

Normally, arriving at a port is a trivial matter. There is always a large circle of light next to the port to put your vessel into, no matter in which position, and you don’t even need to stop the engines to make the docking procedure complete. My idea is to strive for perfection, trying to make it look semi-realistic by bringing the ship as close to the quay as possible, with its stern turned towards the port, and then calmly wait until it stops moving. Obviously, this requires some patience and, and in case of large vessels and powerful engines, nimble fingers to avoid hearing the painful sound of my beloved frigate hitting stone or concrete.

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Perfect.

This may be the only self-appointed challenge I want to take while playing Sunless Sea. In truth, it cannot even be called a challenge, but it surely is a welcome change in the dull everyday life of an explorer of the Unterzee. Let’s just hope that the incoming DLC, Zubmarine, will introduce some improvements in-game mechanics to make zailing more colourful.

 

 

Shards of Glim: Zeen It All

So it’s really happening. After spending mere 323 hours with Sunless Sea, I’ve just managed to finish my first Ambition quest. The Eighth Captain has completed his obsessive journey, visiting every corner of the Known Unterzee and collecting stories, rumours and whispers for his opus magnum: The Zong of the Zee.

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Now the Eighth Captain is a respected member of the high society, and even more, a new shining star on the literary horizon, resting on a mountain of Echoes like an old, wise dragon. But sometimes, not too often, he wakes up in the middle of the night with his heart pounding and asks himself the same question again and again:

What if had flown away with the monkeys?

That’s right, shortly before finishing my captain’s career I discovered an option for another non-standard game over in the Empire of Hands. For a short moment, I was even being tempted to do the stupid thing and choose it instead of accomplishing the Ambition quest. After all, mere zailing is for the plebs, the true aristocrats of the Unterzee would rather soar under the false stars. Well, I guess that now my newly born Ninth Captain has a purpose in life…

Shards of Glim: Why Porn is Bad

Normally, when I’m playing a videogame, I pride myself with using hints, guides and walkthroughs only as a last resort. Usually, it will be a game-crippling bug which will force me to search for a solution on the myriad of forums and wikias. After all, each playthrough is supposed to be MY story, a unique trace (stain? )left on the canvas provided by the Creator Gods.

Sadly, all to often I’m tempted to cheat just to overcome a single obstacle which stops me from enjoying an excellent game. Today is such a day of shame.

The blame goes to the immortal counterpart of all my Captains. While they are born and die on the Underzee, he stays back in the twisted dark alleys of the Fallen London, unstoppable despite wounds, madness, the outrage of the society, and even the merciless progress of time. A mere caprice made him send an unexpected, and as it eventually turned out to be, an unwelcome gift to one of the Captain Dynasty. That gift, returning with each new incarnation, was a box with an indecipherable lock, a perfect bait for captains looking for fame, fortune and fate. The requirement for an access to its mysterious content was a rather laborous journey to a few different locations.

As a result, I found myself with an impressive amount of pornographic books on board.

They are called Romantic Literature within the game setting and are usually obtainable in the Khanate’s market. As it is to be suspected, the only possibility to sell this type of merchandise in the glorious Imperial capital is to ‘pay the customs duties’, as the information text kindly informs, and after the books are edited by the censors, they can be finally sold to the God-fearing citizens. Ironically, although the Sixth Captain was a smuggler, pirate, and generally a person who shouldn’t be trusted by the authorities, custom officials proved to be unusually negligent. A most troublesome situation, because the illicit cargo was occupying one third of my hold space, preventing me from undertaking longer voyages.

After a few short distance trips, my patience eventually ran out and I did the worst thing: googled the problem. The solution? Return to London and wait for the customs office. If they don’t show up, repeat until they finally decide to carry out their duty. So I’ve just lost another tiny part of my self-respect for nothing. My load of Romantic Literature was inspected about two minutes after I read about it on a Sunless Sea wikia. Once again, my impatience costs me much. From now, playing the game will not be the same as it used to be, because the single Google search for a solution actually ruined the feeling of discovering an uncharted territory.

Things to remember for the future: NO PORN ON MY BOARD!

Goals: May

Sunless Sea has ruined my life, or at least my gaming plans for April. Although I promised myself to complete at least three unfinished playthroughs, the Failbetter’s game proved to be too much a temptation and I didn’t find enough time for the rest of my collection. My conscience hurts again, but at least I managed to get a look at the two Early Access games, Soviet City and Jalopy.

My second goal for April was to review the old posts, correct all mistakes and rewrite when necessary, but it’s obvious that I’m still lacking the necessary self-discipline and motivation.

As for the third and final goal… The ancient Japanese wisdom actually works! I set myself a task to write daily, adding one minute of time each day, and publish at least 15 finished posts. Working according to the Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement seems a proper method for a such a chaotic soul as mine. I will continue the experiment for the next month without raising the bar.

All this means that I just should copy and paste my April list here:

Things to do in April May:

  • Write daily. Each day, add one minute to the minimum time (starting with two minutes today)
  • Publish at least 15 posts
  • Complete at least three unfinished games
  • General blog maintenance (review and rewrite old posts, add a ‘Completed’ section, etc.)

Tennōheika Banzai! Thank you, Kaizen!

 

Shards of Glim: The Pelican

The Sixth Captain was supposed to be the polar opposite of the previous incarnations, or maybe I should call them his ancestors. This time, I’ve chosen ‘wealth’ as the main ambition and decided to throw all that morality nonsense overboard, trying to finish the game without any inner constraints. Admittedly, it was the cursed Hindu doctor quest which made me tired of role-playing a paragon of virtue. However, old habits die hard and suddenly I’m finding myself saving my crew by literally feeding the ship engine with my own blood.

As a roguelike game, Sunless Sea has permadeath — unless the player is a pathetic weakling and switches to the Mercy Mode, which enables manual saving — and, which is typical for the roguelikes, it’s quite easy to die just by careless supply management. Although I do consider myself an experienced player after spending more than three months braving the Underzee, it still happens from time to time, usually due to my compulsive tendency to save every penny possible, preferring a risky journey back to London rather than buying overpriced fuel or food in a God-and-gods-forsaken harbour somewhere on the edge of the known void. Usually, I manage to cheat the fate, but occasionally my ship is left stranded without any fuel at all.

Fortunately, the game may be demanding, but certainly it isn’t cruel. Even in such tragic situations, there are a few emergency options, like turning food supplies into fuel or buying it from another skipper sailing by (of course, the Good Samaritan will always use the advantage to sell it for a ridiculous price). Recently, when the Sixth Captain ran out of fuel, the only options available were metaphysical in nature: either to sacrifice a few crew members to Salt or to convince Stone to be merciful… by an act of self-mutilation.

My hero, bravely treading the path beyond good and evil, should be able to choose the first option without a second of hestitation. The problem is that I’m not. As silly as it may sound, I couldn’t bring myself to do such a horrible thing to my faithful men, and telling myself ‘come on, it’s just a game, remember about IMMERSION’ didn’t help. Well, I guess I’m a poor Übermensch material.