I'm rather disappointed by this game

While I’ve only started playing both of them recently, Sunless Sea feels like a straight downgrade from Fallen London - it’s still centered around stories, except you spend 90% of your time waiting for your slow ship to get anywhere, and there’s far less of said writing. Setting aside said writing, nearly every other aspect of the game is… underwhelming.

Most notably, I think, the gameplay mechanics are quite horrible - there is no variety anywhere, all ships and equipment are direct upgrades, which do not influence the gameplay style whatsoever. One of the biggest potentials, trade, simply does not exist, meaning the only way to get money(around which, let’s not lie, the game is centered - you always need it, badly) is essentially to swim around, compile port reports, hoping to, along the way, find some more rare event(which is over in a few quick clicks and mostly based on chance than anything else) with a better payoff. Not to mention, the world itself is horribly empty. There are some islands here and there, though it takes 5-10 minutes to get to(and sometimes not even from) one, oftentimes to get one single click and a brief story.
Fallen London is the only real port in the game, with every other island being utterly lackluster. And for the only &quotreal port&quot, it still hardly has anything worth notice. Yes, you’ll get two or three events instead of one per visit, but in the end, aside from that, and being able to turn in whatever crap you find in for money, it’s just empty.

Speaking of mechanics, the combat is quite underwhelming as well - all ships are identical except for hp/damage, as are all beasts. Strategy for the first is to keep behind them until they die(as far as I can tell, this is an infallible strategy), which is rather boring. For the second, you can try to dodge, which is hard, so essentially it comes down to shooting at them until they die, which depends on nothing more than the linearly acquirable ship/equipment upgrades. Not too entertaining either. And the rewards for killing them? Oh, you might get 1 fuel, or maybe a commodity worth half a piece of supply. You usually burn away more fuel while fighting than you get back from it.

When you begin, the game paints a picture of an in-depth roguelike, with bazillions of mechanics and quirks within them, endless discovery, complex gameplay, and then it delivers absolutely nothing save for stories, accessible at a pace of one short paragraph per 5 minutes of gameplay roughly, which is the equivalent to reading a short chapter in a book for 16 hours. Not too amazing.

One of my favorite games that I have played in my life is Space Rangers 2, a somewhat quirky game about space trading, combat, blah blah blah, all in all, barely anything spectacular. And yet, it was amazing. Why? Because of the variety it offered. You could spend your time fighting, looting, exploring, or you could pursue and play some of the few minigames it had, or even trade and fly around, finding the text-based missions to play out. I think those were its strongest suit - there wasn’t a spectacular amount of writing in each of those, but they all had their own mechanics, be it trade-related one, a prison life simulator, a riddle or a set of them, or whatever else. The point is, each of those was different, and played like a game in its own right. The prison minigame alone could, after some expansion and audiovisuals added, be sold as a standalone game. And it didn’t even have nearly as much text as some of Sunless Sea’s stories do. What it did right was being a game within a game, not a tiny set of choices to scroll through and read 3 paragraphs thrown at you.

I think that there’s a lot that could be done to make Sunless Sea a much, much better game, some changes rather tiny, others huge. For starters, a time warp button to speed up travel would go a very, very long way towards bettering the game experience. After that, more mechanics to spend time on. Fishing? Sure, why not? Perhaps different kinds of work at the various ports? Some minigame-ish port scenarios, like mentioned SR2 missions? Be it stuff like flirting, or riddles, or said work, or anything else. Maybe something involving the mascot? The possibilities are endless. It’d be nice if the ports were more than just a place to check in and check out. Combat could be expanded, into something more reflex-based, less of a silly stay-behind-keep-shooting play with miss chance, with more variety than stronger gun vs weaker gun. Speaking of equipment variety, the game really needs sidegrades. Different ships, for different purposes - cargo ones for trade, fast scouting ships, combat vessels, other curiosities of the Zee. Cannons mounted to the sides or to the back, with narrower fire arcs, or turrets rotating around. Shorter or longer range, using different kinds of ammo, fashioned against beasts or against ships, with their own oddities and quirks. All kinds of other ship customization, just anything that isn’t a ladder of successively stronger-and-better but otherwise indifferent equipment. Oh, and looting, that’s important. If you’re putting combat in the game, make it worthwhile. As it is, it’s a waste of fuel, time, patience. And really, I’d quite like it if the world was more interactive, that would be quite wonderful. More places to dock, perhaps tiny islands, with small random meetings to be done, more shops, with trade commodities and local curiosities. More docks, with ships to be traded for, some cheaper, others more expensive. Better sell prices to facilitate some more trade. Communication with other vessels. More random stories. Well thought out and written is fun, but in the end, that’s not what births replayability. As it stands, beyond reading, the game is about collecting meaningless tokens with 5 word descriptions, while cruising to-and-fro few nearby lands. And perhaps, after you’ve got some echoes, can sail further, got more supplies, you’ll go further, to find more of essentially the same. The way it is now, Sunless Sea is good writing and worldbuilding fashioned into a sparse, slow, repetitive package with no real entertainment value to speak of.

I’m sorry if I come across as harsh, or anything, but I’m not very good at delivering criticism in a more friendly fashion(as much as I’d really prefer to). Maybe I should have just dumped my ideas, or idk. I don’t think Sunless Sea is a strictly bad game, I primarily think that it’s a stub with enormous potential to be something amazing.

You sure you’ve played Fallen London? I only ask because I’m surprised someone who hates waiting so much considers SS a downgrade from a game where you wait days instead of minutes. I will admit to alt-tabbing during travel after a while, but the developers said they aimed to create a lonely, isolated atmosphere, and I imagine rocketing between ports would kill that dead pretty fast.

Well, there’s a difference between playing in short bursts, with breaks inbetween, and actively watching your ship trudge through an empty ocean.

And you can be lonely while surrounded by people. Being unwelcome does exactly that, trust me. It’s more lonely than seeing no one for decades.

There is an ongoing discussion about speed, stemming from a similar complaint (I think the thread is I can’t take this game anymore or something similar) and judging from that, dont’ expect to see any change in ship speed I’m afraid.
Not only it is a deliberate choice of design, but the consensus is that speed is fine for the atmosphere the game wants to convey, what’s lacking are perhaps more events during travel.

Trade is another much-discussed point and the lack of reliable trade routes is another deliberate game design choice.
However, the game has much improved in covering the initial need for echoes (I think that the complain about lack of ways to get money comes mainly from beginners, things get much better with the second or third captain - remember this is a game where you’re supposed to die to learn). Trade is not that important in the economy of the game.

Also, another thing that seems sure is that there won’t be any minigames (thanks god) scattered through the game.

I think combat is also quite discussed (I don’t care about it so I don’t follow the related threads). I agree that I would like to see a more differentiated behavior between different enemies.
It’s also the part that changed more from the initial concept so I wouldn’t be surprised if it needs some more tweaking here and there.

While all these things have been and are in debate by the community, I don’t really get the rest of your criticism. The world is definitely not &quotterribly empty&quot and the various locations are definitely not &quotunderwhelming&quot. You also completely downplay the zillion stories and text scattered through the world (which is, undoubtly, the core of Sunless Sea).
I don’t know… if these stories don’t drive you to exploration (remember, the mantra of SS is explore explore explore. Then die and explore more), perhaps this is… not the game for you?
edited by Master Polarimini on 4/17/2015

I’m suggesting text-based minigames more than anything else. I think that would fit the theme quite nicely, although perhaps it’d be a bit out of place in contrast to the rest of the stories ingame.

Trade routes don’t have to be by any means reliable, but it’d be nice to be able to do… something, other than visit the islands and come back and rinse and repeat. The point is, there is a potential for a game mechanic here, and this game needs some of those very badly.

And I’d argue that yes, they are underwhelming. There was one elaborate storyline I’ve found so far, in roughly 6h of gameplay, with the rest being 50-50 between “over in one click” and “over in less than five clicks”.

And really, I’m pretty sure that increasing the pace would certainly not ruin the atmosphere, and neither would adding more locations and things to do. One of the basic principles on which entertainment is built is a high concentration of emotion-evoking stimuli - books don’t have pauses, shows and movies switch scenes to keep focus on something interesting at all times, games have a tougher job, but one they’ve gotta do. Doing nothing is boring, eventually, that is invariably true.

It took me about five or six captains before I started discovering the good content, and learned how to consistently get to it. Certainly, the learning curve for a beginner is rather steep, and it takes a long time to get to the fun parts, but I’ve found the game rather rewarding and enjoyable once I got there.

To echo what was said earlier, I’m surprised you found SS a downgrade. Fallen London tends to dole out information about the universe in small doses, and you have to grind considerably in order to get to the next large tidbit once you’ve gotten further along. In contrast, I feel like I’ve learned more of the deeper explanations of the universe from SS than I have from Fallen London.

Granted, FL gave me all of the basics, but the deeper stuff, I feel, is more freely given out in SS. At the very least, the two in combination reveal quite a lot.

Have you explored Varchas yet? There’s quite a lot of interesting tidbits you can glean from there, particularly about one of the reasons why the dreams are so messed up in FL.

Sunless Sea has hate? Well I suppose you can’t please everyone. I’m actually really enjoying Sunless Sea, although I’ve never played Fallen London, only seen videos and reviews. From what I’ve seen, Sunless Sea has a lot more depth; much like what Clovermite said.

The only thing I don’t like about Sunless Sea is the combat. Kinda dull but the amazing soundtrack and stories make up for it imo.

I could not disagree more. While I respect your personal opinion, please keep in mind that not everyone necessarily thinks and feels about these things like you do.

&quotbooks don’t have pauses&quot - yeah, but you don’t often read a whole book in one go, do you?
&quotshows and movies switch scenes to keep focus on something interesting at all times&quot - which is often overdone and then becomes tiresome very quickly. A constant barrage of &quotemotion-evoking stimuli&quot (as you call it) usually achieves the opposite of what it was intended to do
&quotdoing nothing is boring&quot - far from it! ;)

edited by Rupho Schartenhauer on 4/18/2015

No, not quite hate. I think the game has potential, while not thinking that it’s quite there yet. I apologize if what I said came off as plain hate speech, I certainly did not intend it so.

And I disagree with you, Rupho. Breaks aren’t pauses in the content itself, and by pauses here, I don’t refer to literal pauses, but rather actual content that doesn’t really evoke any sensations. Likewise, slower, more peaceful moments, don’t count as pauses, to me. I do agree that a story or movie attempting to fit action into its content as tightly as possible will fail, but at the same time I also don’t believe that it’s good to spread it too thin.

Now, I’m depressed and enjoy things much less than I’d do otherwise, and usually it takes something engaging, or intense, rather than just having a certain atmosphere, for it to be enough for me. I also have something of an unhealthily strong dislike for things that take more time than they absolutely need to, and I am a firm believer that any game in which someone, anyone, would use a speed-up button, should have one.

Either way, I find that my enjoyment of the game is ruined by how little there is to do mechanics-wise. I believe it would add a lot to the mystery, if it was interspersed with other, more mundane gameplay, rather than merely periods of waiting, and would significantly better Sunless Sea for those who, like me, appreciate games for what games are and can be. (passive aggressiveness not intended, I’m just not good enough at writing to express this in a better way, sorry)

In that case the game is probably simply not for you - at least at the moment. If it only makes you feel more depressed/miserable, keep off it. I have some personal experience with depression, and my advice would be that, when you can find the energy to do anything at all, stick to things that made you happy in the past. Don’t stubbornly/desperately try enjoying something that you clearly don’t just because other people seem to enjoy it. That usually only makes things worse…
Hope you get better soon. Take care!

[quote=Rupho Schartenhauer]Don’t stubbornly/desperately try enjoying something that you clearly don’t just because other people seem to enjoy it. That usually only makes things worse…
Hope you get better soon. Take care![/quote]
When I do that I end up doing nothing whatsoever. I enjoy some things, even if I have to force myself to try and enjoy them, though honestly as ridiculous as it is, it’s harder for me to make myself do really enjoyable things, than less fun ones.

In case of Sunless Sea, doing nothing, often even for seconds, makes me stressed about wasting time. I wasted a few years, and I waste literally all of my time, but it still affects me. I just cannot help but feel that the amount travel takes in SS is wildly excessive. Then again, it is also true that more subtle things like the game’s stories have trouble getting to me, nowadays. Quite probably, I wouldn’t enjoy my once-favorite Space Rangers now, either
edited by Llamageddon on 4/19/2015

Try cranking up the ship speed, if that is what it takes to let you enjoy the writing.

Although in this particular case I would say you should take a break and try something else first if you are getting stressed over this. You bought the game, it will still be here when you are away. I wish I can offer some better advice, but I found it surprisingly hard for me to draw on my own experience with depression.

Not every game is good for every mood or state of mind, which does not mean it’s not good for you at all ever again.
If you feel that travels between islands are a waste of time and this stresses you out, perhaps in this moment you need a different kind of game, more active in real time, to keep you better. I don’t know, Faster Than Light (just to stay Indie)? You can always come back to Sunless Sea in another more propitious moment.