Before I start, I want to say that a) I understand that this is the very first day of Early Access, and b) I appreciate that Sunless Skies is supposed to be different to Sunless Seas (or even Fallen London). So, I have every expectation that the final release of Sunless Skies will be an absolute cracker of a game.
I’m really not enjoying the game at this point, simply because the pace of exploration is so radically different to those earlier Failbetter adventures. I still remember my maiden voyage in Sunless Seas: a daring little jaunt out to Hunter’s Keep, where I got my first, teasing thrill of dangerous lore. As I got braver, I made it past those "starter" ports - Hunter’s Keep, Mutton Island, The Salt Lions - and saw some truly amazing things on the high zees. The first time I made it down to the Dawn Machine? That was unforgettable.
Fallen London follows a similar pattern. Watchmaker’s Hill is a good initial stomping ground, but then things get bigger and more interesting at Wolfstack Docks, and then even bigger and even more interesting at The Labyrinth of Tigers. The London you get to know at the start of the game gradually opens up, enabling deeper and more rewarding exploration.
I wanted Sunless Skies to feel like that too - but it didn’t. The first port I ever found in the game was Titania, which was a really crazy visual to have as my first taste of the new game, and a really weird baseline to compare all future ports against. Even weirder is my suspicion that my initial allocation of fuel, supplies and crew would have been enough to carry me to literally any point on the starting map. Will the finished game really allow me to find the ports in any order? I love Failbetter’s storytelling, but I can’t help but feel that the trajectory of my starting voyage should be slightly more curated than that.
I also understand that character creation is yet to be implemented, but dropping early access players into deep space without any explanation of how they came to be there is a huge narrative shortcoming at this stage. I’ve watched all the trailers and followed the development blogs, but I still felt quite aimless as I rocketed around the cosmos. Why was I there? What goals could I hope to accomplish? A little bit of flavour text at the beginning would have gone an extraordinarily long way there.
I won’t write a whole paragraph about it, but I also agree that the starting ship seemed way too fast.
Too long, didn’t read? I think the early access build of this game moves at an oddly unstructured pace.