Hello, I’m nameless, and I’ve spent the better part of the last week obsessively playing Sunless Sea. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, but at the same time, I’ve been greatly frustrated by the mangle of mechanics that interfere with the gameplay greatly.
The good: The Narrative and the Storytelling.
Gods, Sunless sea is a world unto itself, a place you can get lost in for hours, no, DAYS at a time.
I was an avid player of Fallen London, so when I saw that FailBetter Games was coming out with another game, I knew I had to give it a try. I liked the background of the game when I first heard of it. Exploring the Zee while fighting terror and dangers from the deep? Fascinating! So when the Beta first came out, I downloaded it immediately, and I have to say, I don’t regret plopping down my money on it. I can travel to the colonies of the dead, and visit the devils in exile! I can visit the corpse-islands of cthuluian creatures, and fight with the pirates of corsairs grove! It’s a fantastic setting, and I enjoyed it greatly. Do I have enough fuel to get back to London? What’s beyond that colony? How can I recruit a cook? These were all questions that occupied my mind as I was playing Sunless Sea, and I loved it.
However, frustration quickly set in. The fact of the matter is, combat in Sunless Sea is brutal, harder than Binding of Isaac or Our Darker Purpose in some senses. There is no projectile to dodge, no pattern to memorize. Monster damage varies wildy, so one attack can do a pitiful 5 damage, while the very next can kill you. Illumination is a wildcard: With 100 Mirror, I was still somehow getting less than 25 illumination at times when I was facing sharks or eels. Those 5 seconds were completely wasted, and made me feel like a powerless fool. There are no easy upgrades either. Most of all the upgrades are worthless, and only a few are useful. Getting the right type of storyline is a matter of luck, which is downright dull at times. Let’s face it. The best way to grind echoes in the game is to kill pirates steam-pinnances north of london, and turning them in. Port reports and admiralty commissions can barely cover the cost of fuel at times, and terror is a constant enemy, although that’s a good thing, since it puts agency on the player.
…But I guess the part that irritates me the most about Sunless sea is the fact that it’s so hard to see where you’re going. How to progress and where to go are all things that are left up to you to decide, and often times it’s easy to fumble your way into wasted opportunities and resources.
For example, figuring out what happens to the sisters means having high heart or iron, but even if you know it’s hard to grind these things while trying to keep yourself afloat. Player strength increase dramatically at times while stall at the worst possible moments.
Overall, good for a few hours. b.n.m.