No compelling, coherent storyline

[li]I just restarted a game after having taken a very long break from playing the game. This review is basically the view of a new player being introduced to the game.

I don’t think this game is ready for release, as there does not appear to be any central, compelling storyline.

I started off running Intelligence reports for the Admirality, and this allowed me to explore the map and was interesting. However I am now dead-ended with having to get an intelligence report from the Empire of Hands, with no clear view of how to go about this. I have dabbled with the island exploration there, and made enough progress to be dead-ended at needing to translate monkey-ese. The kings court is dead ended, as I have no idea how much resources I have to waste on this story line, and why would I even care to waste all my resources helping a bunch of monkeys? Whats in it for me? The reward of getting some intelligence that won’t compensate me for the resources I have lost? Sorry, not a compelling, involving storyline…

Ok, so what else is there to do? I gathered up enough scintilac for one of the quests, hoping that would present a story line, but he just asks for more. Boring.

I could run some more of the whatever-stone from the Sea Lions, but this is kinda boring too. Hmm, I could gather up a bunch of supplies to lose on transporting some tomb colonists around, for an unknown payback, but this isn’t a very compelling activity.

I could try and find these ‘colors’, if I had any idea how to proceed.


Where the heck is the storyline? Amazingly, I don’t even feel the need to play the game, as there is almost nothing to do, as it seems that all of my story pursuits are dead-ended or just too cryptic to proceed.

Failbetter, you need a compelling storyline, or some in-game advisor that is able to drop hints as how to proceed. I don’t want to have to read a wiki or forums in order to find out things to do in the game.[/li][li]
edited by jt2 on 2/2/2015

This is not really the feeling I had in playing. Actually, I also took SS again in my hands recently after two or three months, and I was surprised to see that I was really story-driven in my travels. For the first time, I wanted to know how this or that story would have progressed and ended! And there are a myriad stories around the Zea so my interest was always piqued here and there. There are even long(ish)-term goals as the book of colors, the supremacies or creating a legacy. I never had the feeling of going around randomly without purpose.
But that’s me, of course.

I’m in my third decade of life and I’ve yet to find a compelling, coherent storyline either.

edited by Fretling on 2/2/2015

Have you tried playing a Captain with the Father’s Bones victory condition? That seems to be Failbetter’s interpretation / Sunless Sea’s closest approximation of a coherent “main” storyline.

[quote=Fretling]I’m in my third decade of life and I’ve yet to find a compelling, coherent storyline either.


Sorry about that, that’s my bad. I’m afraid I’m the hero, you’re merely background content and side-quest material. I’ll deliver a letter to a tree for you, if you want, though.

hmmm, well, I have to admit that these are not the responses that I was hoping for…

I was hoping that people could point out where and how to start the more interesting stories available in the game, since they certainly don’t come to you easily. You’d think that with the game this close to launch that all the ports would have content to explore, rather then most all of them having their options locked.

What are the best stories to pursue?

The thing about sunless sea is that you have to do return visits. The islands unfold slowly, and many of them have resource requirements that you need to unlock the story threads. Easiest one to pursue would be the tomb colonies, cavvies Vs Rats, and uttershroom. There is no main storyline, save for the ambition you choose at character creation. As for other stories, you could always speak with your officers and pursue their stories

Varchas and Visage are pretty straightforward.
Personally, I liked the Tomb-Colonist Tour. Both profit- and enjoyable, and it allows you to visit many ports on the way.

I’m not the best person to ask though. I’ve stopped playing till the release.

Oh. I thought you were attempting to write a review, not that you were requesting information for real.

Like others have said, there is for the most part no central storyline. It’s not that kind of game. And being close to release has nothing to do with whether content is unlocked for a new captain; it’s not locked-due-to-nonexistence, it’s locked because you haven’t fulfilled whatever requirements there are.

Actually I also thought you wanted to write a review and not ask for advices ;)

If you want a big central storyline like a standard RPG, you’ll be disappointed.

The game flourishes in the many small stories that you can find and gather all around, from the Blemmigams’ spamming to the Godfall or Station III secret, to smaller things like the deviless in mount Palmerston or Hunter’s keep.

Some are straightforward like Nuncio.The storylines associated with the officiers are pretty straightforward too, they are minor but not stupid, and give nice bonuses in term of lore and objects, usually. They will push you to explore around.

Then there are the Supremacy stories; these are more elusive and need time.

Regarding the book of colours, that’s a pretty wide spanning story that involves travelling through the whole Zee, and each item is (usually) associated to some feat in itself, so it’s a multi-step story. When you find strange objects that point at one of the seven Neath colors in the description, you can be quite sure you got one to bring back to the Colonies.

I think I get how you might be feeling jt2. I had a similar feeling about the need for an overarching plot about a month or 2 back. I’ve been playing since the start of the beta and I think I was expecting the ambitions to be sort of as large as the ones from Fallen London. I haven’t had chance to play the My Father’s Bones one yet but I did start to play a few of the Officers sidequests and that kind of got me thinking about what the game is trying to do. I think in a similar way to Fallen London, Sunless Sea is designed to give us snippets of lore and tales of the various people living in this world, the player being one of them. I don’t think it’s trying to present itself as a series of conquerable dungeons. Looking at Godfall for example. I was interested in it not because I might get treasure/more cargo but because it was a piece of the cavern roof, that my Captain was getting to explore.
Sorry if that’s long winded.
I suppose what i’m saying is, I think Sunless Sea requires a different approach to get the most out of and don’t give up on it, maybe try some of the offcers storylines in between returning to the various islands you might’ve been to because like Master Polarimini just said, a lot of locations stories are multi-step and require repeat visits. Link enough potentially exciting port-stops together and you’ve got a good reason to set sail again.

I’d say big overarching plots with classical structures aren’t really Failbetter’s style. They really like ambiguity, either for the player to insert themselves or whatever they want, or because they like how partially unresolved stories never seem to end.

I dunno, having played Fallen London I guess I’ve become used to it. Stories in their games are about helping you seeing the bigger picture of how the Neath works, and knowing what all the unexplained references mean and how that weaves a picture of the world.

Anyways, if the game has one central story plot, it seems to be the Dawn Machine.

You don’t need to finish excavating the tomb to get a port report from the Empire of Hands. Have you gotten the initial Comprehensive Port Report there? That requires visiting every island. After you deliver that to London, you should be able to get a port report the usual way in Port Stanton.

ETA: Or, huh, you’re probably trying to get Strategic Intelligence, right? And I’m not sure how you do that in the Empire of Hands yet either. If it’s not currently possible, but you’re being asked for it anyway, that’s something you might want to put in a bug report about.

Choosing Your Father’s Bones as an ambition when you start a new captain will give you more of a through storyline, but otherwise, you really have to make your own. Pick a quest – do the Neathbow (one of the colors can be obtained from the Avid Horizon, if you want a starting point), or play chess in Port Cecil until a storyline opens there, or go explore Vargas (requires repeat visits, but no collecting items), or take the Tomb-Colonists on their tour. Aim to upgrade your ship and weapons so you can take on bigger zee-beasts. Try to get rich. Try to raise your stats so your next captain will start with better stats. Try to destroy London. There are ways.

But if you’re looking for a game with a single central storyline, this isn’t it. That’s part of the appeal to me, though; there’s a lot to do, and there’s no single road through it. You do have to explore to find the story hooks, though, or avail yourself of the wiki:

edited by penknife on 2/2/2015

To get the Strategic Information from the Empire of Hands you need to gain access to the Court. That involves taking the person who wants to go there from London, she turns up after you have given the initial port report to the Admiral, and then taking an item from their camp to Sovereign Island.

Trying to gather enough material for the Zong of the Zee in your Lodgings could take up a good deal of effort, though it seems that it’s complete stories that are desired? Part of Sunless Sea is the process of sailing from place to place, after all, so I think stories were designed in the expectation of return trips to those islands.
There are several places with a self-contained storyline similar to Nuncio like people have said, although they might require items from other locations, like Varchas, Pigmote Island, Saviour’s Rocks, Frostfound, Godfall, Visage, and Station III, plus any number that ask you to travel to a few different places first, like the Isle of Cats. If you prefer to not sail around but are blocked due to the Something Awaits You quality (that green box thing), you could always undock but stay in that port for a minute until you see the bell sound/flavor text change. [li]

Thanks for the responses and suggestions.

In the Empire of Hands I did explore all of the islands, and I have gained access to the court, but not enough to gain the needed strategic information.

I have visited every port in the zee, but most of the stories are locked at this point, so I am finding that there is very little to do. I’ll have to look into some of the above suggestions…

If they’re locked, you need to look at the requirements and figure out how to unlock them. They’re not going to unlock by themselves.
edited by Fretling on 2/2/2015

[quote=Fretling]If they’re locked, you need to look at the requirements and figure out how to unlock them. They’re not going to unlock by themselves.
Well, perhaps that is the root of the problem…

Why should I care to figure out how to unlock these?

Whats in it for me? Thus the question of &quotWhere’s the storyline?&quot

As a starting sea captain I need cash to upgrade my equipment, yet none of the many locked stories show an obvious ROI worth pursuing. Sailing about takes a lot of food and fuel, and starting out, these are precious.

So, where is the compelling reason for me and my crew to risk our lives for?
edited by jt2 on 2/2/2015[li]
edited by jt2 on 2/2/2015

Hm, maybe it’s not the right fit for you if you need to ask &quotwhat’s in it for me&quot and know the ROI ahead of time. The entire idea of an exploration game about flinging yourself into the cold embrace of the unforgiving, ever-changing unterzee is kind of predicated on the player/player-character being unhealthily inquisitive.

I think some people would be able to find a new kind of enjoyment if they adjusted their mindset going in, but others might not ever, or might just prefer to go with forms of entertainment that are more naturally suited to them – who knows? In the end, it’s up to you!
edited by Fretling on 2/2/2015

Curiosity, mostly. But then again, I was already a fan of the FL/SS world. I’m not sure what other reason there would be. Exploration and the like is the entire point of the game. If you find yourself simply not caring at all about what’s beyond the locked options, I’m not sure if I can do anything to help.