This critic on Steam

I really like the game, yes I do, but the more I play it, the more I see its flaws. That’s perhaps normal and expected. This user, Boink, on Steam hits the nail(s) several time I believe:

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]I can suggest some reasons - but note that I actually like Sunless Sea quite a lot, it’s just not quite there in some ways.[/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]1) Port report grind & balancing. Everyone understands that resources / terror should be tough to manage to create an atmosphere. The problem is that this is done via [/color]incredibly[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)] strict economic management, rather than event / engine / narrative. It’s a bit galling that it’s economics, not sea monsters, that causes more anxiety. I’d be far happier if I could make echoes and die to a surfacing kraken (when that tentacle sprouts out of the ocean and takes a single sailor, shrug, I have 9 spare) rather than because I didn’t do a direct A -> B route for another port report.[/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]2) Leading to the AI / zea beasts / pirates. They’re just not that much of a threat, they don’t have many attack routines / behaviors and exerienced players treat them like wandering goody bags. Once you’ve played a couple of lives, well… zero challenge / worry. In fact, due to #1, not having beasties to feed off is actually worse than having them spawn. The spawns are also static (terrible). There’s a single exception: [/color][color=rgb(172, 178, 184)].[/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]3) The world is weirdly static. The lighting is great, but there’s no weather barring some fluffy white / yellow stuff that is fog, snow or dust (fog… you’d think the first thing on the drawing board would be decent fog). There’s no storms, lightning, thunderspouts, ghost ships etc. Barring static whirlpools, the zea offers no dynamic threats: all the weather can do is reduce your speed. I understand the engine limitations, but it’s jarring to have wandering zea monsters / pirates, but nothing else. [/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]4) The individual island stories are fantastic, but they’re far too self-contained (independent writers is both a blessing and a curse here). There’s no real world building because so few of your choices have impact ([/color][color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]). Even when you’ve finished an island story, mostly there’s little impact even at that port (notable exceptions: [/color][color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]). Likewise there’s the fundamentals of a political system to support various factions, but it’s woefully lacking in content (esp. regarding spies). Given the focus of the game, I expected more.[/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]5) Balancing / pacing. Everyone knows about farming sunlight. And I understand that the game is[/color]supposed[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)] to play out that a captain only has a chance of finishing a couple of islands before terror and the zeas drives her to ruin. But… that doesn’t happen. Irem’s market alone is basically a 7-11 for any item ingame which encourages mass echo farming. Past a certain point the difficulty curve just crumbles and you can never die (unless you choose to via an ending to gather a legacy). i.e. at first you’ll die loads and never get anywhere, then you’ll crack it and never again die. Oh, and gaming the SAL system is incredibly easy.[/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]6) Terror / psychological horror never feels that threatening. It’s far, far too easy to remove and is even beneficial to raise in some cases ([/color][color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]). It becomes too cheap to cure, and has no lasting effects. I spent more time worried about fuel / supplies / echos than I did terror. A much slower gain, but with serious serious penalties and effects and less chances to reduce it would have been more effective. e.g. &quot[/color]can I afford to raise my terror past 50 just for this chance to finish this story[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]&quot rather than &quot[/color]whelp, I’ve hit 85 terror, better hit London and then have some family time and do a couple more things in town and it’ll be back to the low 20’s[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]&quot.[/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]7) Your character never [/color]really[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)] changes. By this I mean that you can pick up some semi-permanent menaces / effects, but it’s all too easy to wipe the slate clean. I was expecting some kind of ‘negative perk’ <> terror mechanic. e.g. fail a terror event past 75? character must pass a challenge or become nyctophobic and turning your lamp off at sea raises terror faster; fail a combat challenge on an island, become labelled a coward and crew costs soar. That kind of thing (and yes, I’ve played the call of cthulhu tabletop rpg, the idea isn’t my own). Likewise, having island stories give beneficial perks would stave off a lot of the disappointing feeling of &quot[/color]well, that story was fantastic and I’m stoked that I completed it with positive outcomes to the challenges, but the rewards are just echoes[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]&quot. [/color]

[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)]
[color=rgb(172, 178, 184)][/quote][/color]

Just to sum up: I too think that the game starts incredibly difficult and grindy and then all the sudden, the difficulty is gone. I’m not advocating to make the first part easier but the 2nd part should stay much harder than it is. When you start having echoes and practice, terror and monsters are not a problem anymore. This is perhaps my biggest problem with the game. Past a certain time, terror means almost nothing, because too easy to manages. And yes, monsters can be too easily avoided and when they are not, they are mostly goodies bag as the user put it.

For the rest, this might be a problem of game being fresh and this will be improved, but the 2 issues above can be a design decision of sort and thus can never change, if the devs never understand the issue.

Oh man can we not cross-post from Steam? I just came over here so I don’t have to deal with all that.

1)&quot I’d be far happier if I could make echoes and die to a surfacing kraken &quot

Instadeath events? really?

2) &quotOnce you’ve played a couple of lives, well… zero challenge / worry.&quot

oh thanks hardcore vidjagame player, zero challenge. well I’m on my fifth captain and it’s not zero challenge for me. I bought a game of exploration not twitch combat. I wouldn’t mind if they went back to the turn-based option but it’s, you know, POSSIBLE TO DIE TO A STARTING ENEMY.

3) &quot There’s no storms, lightning, thunderspouts, ghost ships etc.&quot

wtf. ‘there’s not enough weather in the game’. it’s a hand-painted world. it’s like complaining Baldurs Gate didn’t have enough background animations

4) &quotThe individual island stories are fantastic, but they’re far too self-contained (independent writers is both a blessing and a curse here). &quot

apart from the ones that aren’t. yeah, this could be better, but there are like a dozen crossover stories. Two dozen. Also the independent writers did what like ten of the islands? Failbetter did most of it.

5) &quotAnd I understand that the game issupposed to play out that a captain only has a chance of finishing a couple of islands before terror and the zeas drives her to ruin. But… that doesn’t happen.&quot

BLLFAHFHAF what is this guy trolling or does he not even READ the forums. it happened to ME and it happened to THOUSANDS of people. Yes I know you’re all better at games than me GO YOU

6) &quotwhelp, I’ve hit 85 terror, better hit London and then have some family time and do a couple more things in town and it’ll be back to the low 20’s&quot.&quot

Yuh no uh huh. I played the game back when Terror had more teeth and boy am I glad they dialled it back. You notice there’s no ‘boost Terror’ mods on the mod thread. It’s a handicap you have to handle by playing cautiously. You want permanent crippling effects, go play darkest dungeon

7) &quotcharacter must pass a challenge or become nyctophobic and turning your lamp off at sea raises terror faster; fail a combat challenge on an island, become labelled a coward and crew costs soar. &quot

oh he has been playing darkest dungeon.

well that sounds like FUN. A nyctophobic character in a game where everything is dark. a permanent flaw that makes the echo grind HARDER which he just said in 1 he didn’t want. Well hey maybe you could pay to remove them? except that would make the error grind HARDER again

&quotwell idk just some like psychoses and things the devs can work out how to make that fun&quot right.

tl;dr: ‘the game is fine but it should be like 3d or something and there should be MOAR STORY because there isn’t enough story. Also it’s easy if you’re a real vidjagame player’. Thanks but no.

The devs are on the Steam forum, are aware of discussions there. You are welcome to start new discussions here, but please don’t just copy-paste whole posts across. New discussions will be more interesting, and more likely to provoke new ideas.

BLLFAHFHAF what is this guy trolling or does he not even READ the forums. it happened to ME and it happened to THOUSANDS of people. Yes I know you’re all better at games than me GO YOU[/quote]

Just because you don’t agree with the criticism, does not mean its a troll.

A lot of these problems not pertaining to game engine limitations, 2 and 3, could be better handled if they actually supported modding. Sure its possible to mod. but its hardly supported. &quotHey, all our stuff is in json files, have at it! We wont make a guide… because.&quot
When its far easier to tweak the game to your liking and add all those events you would like. Or even create your own world like their storynexus system. You get a far larger audience to expand or create new mythos.
They have a nice little engine here, over-world reminds me so much of Escape Velocity series and so much more could be done with it if it was more accessible. From small add-ons or difficulty adjustment for ones who desperately need it, to expanded campaigns and even total conversions of the world.

The game came out less than two weeks ago! The devs would like to implement modding support, but they’re a small team and they have a million things to do in the post-release madness. Hopefully, in time, it’ll be something they can devote their resources too!

(Speaking more generally - some folks think the game is too easy, and some think it’s too hard. No game’s going to please everyone in every way, so those are both valid viewpoints. But, these forums are characterised by a tone of politeness and mutual respect, and I think everyone should maintain that. After all, we’re literally just discussing having fun and playing games - there’s no need to get heated, or cutting, or… anything else that occurs in the cookery process. Cheers!)

  1. Insta death? No thanks. I for one, much prefer it this way round. How are you going to build tension and suspense if death is just a quick “woops, you died” message. At least with limited echos you see your supplies slowly dawdling and your fuel hit 0 and start to wonder if you’ll make it to the next port. Then it’s a great feeling when you do and even when you dont sometimes. Basically, Im not willing to sink 20 hours into a captain that can die randomly at any point.

  2. Enemies aren’t supposed to be the biggest threat, although I agree their AI could be improved. But as Skander said, some people DO struggle against the enemies. Before I worked out the tricks to taking them down I was very nearly killed several times, only making it back to port with 10 hull.

  3. There IS fog in the game for one and it doesnt reduce your speed, it makes aiming more difficult. I don’t really understand this complaint. The point of the zee is that its bigger and far more powerful than any captain you will ever have. You keep picking away at the stories but it becomes obvious that you will have no lasting effect on the neath. I think this point has been made before, it’s the same with fallen london. It’s about the journey of your character rather than the evolution of the setting.

  4. No they’re not. There’s quite a few where you have to jump to different ports for resources and such. As for thing like Godfall and Frostfound, how exactly are they supposed to NOT be self contained? They’re basically dungeons. And take Empire of Hands, it’s about how the people who live there strive for change and the consequences of that. It’d seem stupid for a story about the people of Empire of Hands to take place in port on the opposite side of the zee. However, I agree that there could be more drastic changes once you’ve completed a port. Kind of like being a douche on Pigmote. Going through a long story line like Port Cecil and having nothing change is a bit meh. But I can live with it.

  5. First off, I didn’t know about the sunlight farm. Never even thought of doing it until I came to the forums and even then, it’s not difficult just to ignore it. I have never had this problem with Irem as well. As far as I’m concerned, Irem is far too expensive to ever buy anything from it. And surely, growth from dying every 5 minutes to having a captain last hour and hours is logical progression? How is it a BAD thing that you develop and grow as a game goes on to become better at it? Again, don’t understand the complaint here. And I’m glad you can manipulate SAY. I’d be pissed if I got to a port and had to wait ages for SAY to pop up. I’m glad I know it’s only going to be 60 seconds.

  6. Right, so you reach 85 terror over near Chelonate and don’t even get slightly tense about making it back to London in time? 15 terror is really easy to accrue very quickly and some of the high terror events are quite nasty as well. I had the tentacle pop up two or three times in quick succession, almost making me have to go at the slower speed which would have meant death. Sure getting high terror doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to die, but it also doesn’t mean you’ll survive too. I agree that there could be a bit more to it, but there is still a danger in getting high terror right now.

  7. Permanent ailments? No thanks. If this did happens, all it would mean is more save scumming. As I said, I believe there could be a bit more to terror, but permanent negative effects are not the way to go. It’d basically mean if you get very unlucky you character can become screwed very quickly. And sorry, you were complaining about how it’s too hard to make money, save for the exploit, and are now complaining that you get money as a reward from story lines? Oooookay.

Personally, I don’t think there are any “good” points here. Some mediocre ones maybe. Terror could be a little more deadly, but it still offers a threat right now. The progression from dying every two seconds to surviving for ages was the reason I kept playing the game. I could get behind the idea that completing a story line changes the port a lot more than it currently does, but disagree that the zee is too static as I think thats the point. Fighting against something greater than you.

I don’t know. I don’t think he’s hitting anywhere near any “nails”.

Not having suffered in a big way from stuttering (just a bit), I never died in Sunless Sea, unless I tried to die for ‘experiment’ purpose. Am I a good and clever player? No more than you most probably. I believe people die mostly because they don’t have their ship responding to turning, and that’s it. People dying from high terror? It probably happens, from time to time. Being starved to death because not enough echoes to buy supply or fuel? Indeed, it happens, until you get the hang on things and make echoes reliably, and that’s it. You went from some tension to a very minute tension, through all the game.

Currently, I have not finished several major quest lines because… because there is no tension. I know I basically can’t die except if I want to. Sea monsters are not an issue, either beat them or avoid them easily. Terror management is not an issue, even if I play with doubled terror accrual at sea (with a tiny modification of a JSON file). Echoes are not an issue anymore, even if I only trap sunlight at Aestival and never at the cheat-o-matic Surface Canal. So… why would I want to play a game without too much of a challenge? Oh, I don’t save scum either, I still have this shiny Invictus token.

And don’t mistake me, I’m not boasting here, I think the game, past the initial troubles is simply ‘easy’ and anyone can realize that after some hours playing it, plus a computer not having problem with stutters and turning arc. I would really like to have the eastern part of the map being an hell of a Zee, with storms, dreadful monsters and suchlike.

The review is only accurate in a handful of areas.

Port reports aren’t meant to be ground, but as a mechanic to recoup some of the travel expenses, I suppose it could be improved upon. It feels perhaps rather one-dimensional to mandatorily have to pick up all the reports along the way in every single journey.

The main problem as far as monsters are concerned is that the players themselves don’t have many tricks to play, so even if the baddies had an larger repertoire (and they do, but assume even larger), the players still have very limited means to counter them. I didn’t play much before the combat overhaul of the Steel update, but I understand it was possible to accrue a whole bunch of abilities before. Abilities which are now either automatically integrated to certain weapons (i.e. flensing attacks) or apparently vestigial.

Bonus comment about the wandering tentacle, which I think is only liable to appear if your terror is high enough: it hit me once after a rather disastrous Godfall run, taking one of my three remaining crewmen as I limped to the Khanate. Made me sweat alright, so it’s not necessarily shrug-worthy.

I agree that the world is quite static, but not from a weather perspective. That seems fine. It doesn’t feel alive in the sense there’s very limited interaction with and between factions. The Khanate, for instance, seems huge and is supposed to be the direct antagonist to London, yet narratively it’s little more than a couple of shops, a reduced set of random events and a fleeting resources for quests gotten elsewhere.

Where are the Khanate-borne quests and characters? Why’s my only significant interaction with the Leopard and the Taimen bribing them to gain access to their small merchant quarter and reduce local suspicion, product of my antics?

The Supremacy mechanic seems like a good foundation to build upon, as far as politics, international interaction and conflict are concerned, but it seems quite skeletal at the moment. The reviewer’s right about that.

He misses the mark quite considerably when he establishes a link between the unbalanced sunlight smuggling and Irem’s shop, which is far from a 7-11 if you don’t abuse sunlight. Everything there costs secrets, and Irem sells secrets for 999e, so I presume that’s the gateway he identified. But it’s only remotely accessible as such if you wildly abuse sunlight trade. Once that’s tweaked, that’ll be the end of his point.

Of course, he also says that shop encourages echo farming, but that’s not really the case as the prices are pretty excessive in normal circumstances, and there’s cheaper alternative ways to get most anything Irem sells.

As for terror, I don’t know, I feel it does its job pretty well. It is a limiter mechanic for your voyages, yes, and I think Mangrove has good terror management options (and a certain other place if you bring coffee), but I think the reviewer’s again analyzing the subject under the lense of the virtually unlimited wealth sunlight abuse provides. Yes, sure, if you have bottomless pockets, many places “buy” your terror.

And that there’s good places to manage terror on long voyages doesn’t mean you start the game with that knowledge. In a way, the guy’s complaining the game’s too easy once you know practically everything there is to know, which is a given. Any game’s easy if you’re aware of all its tricks and can take advantage of them.

Could be harder at that point, maybe, but it’d be difficult to tweak that without negatively affecting less experienced players. But I get the feeling this guy digged into the wiki and forums too earnestly, and doesn’t realize how much that spoiled the game for him.

Anyway, overall, Sunless Sea sets the stage for an amazing world, but it’s going to take several expansions for the game to feel properly fleshed out, polished and hopefully alive.

I died four or five times in the beginning for various reasons, none of which had to do with being unable to control my ship’s turning properly. What a strange thing to point out.

I agree with one or two of the points made; in particular, combat is rather easy to avoid early and win late, barring problems caused by overspawning bugs. (Jillyfish farming got FUN when there were like five on the screen at once. And by fun I mean NOT AT ALL)

But the big one is the point about Terror. I have something of an honest question, although it might sound flippant, it’s serious. Is Terror really supposed to be a limiting mechanic in any way? I currently have a little under 50 hours in, according to Steam, all but about 1 of those hours in on one character, and Terror was never an issue. I think outside turning a bunch of a certain item that jacks up Terror by like 15 to the Scholar and the area where it’s a progression mechanic (loved that idea, btw), my Terror only ever cracked 50 once. I don’t use shore leave, either. I just went from place to place directly, and my Terror never rose very much at all. What little it did rise was modified by all the random little places where it drops by a couple in almost any storylet. Was I just really really lucky? Is Terror actually supposed to be this big thing? Because I just haven’t experienced it.

Some players have a lot of trouble with it.

I’ve died from 100 Terror a few times, barely survived a few more. Zailed into London at 96 Terror yesterday (was focused on other things). There are a lot of ways to remove it, but if you aren’t watching it, it can creep up on you and ruin your day, especially if your crew is just above half.

Of course, I also almost never have my lights on, so that could be part of it.
edited by Olorin on 2/18/2015

That’s, like, not just part of it. That’s 100% the entire reason you have issues with it. It means you’re gaining terror twice as quickly (and never losing it, because you get the green dots a lot less too). If you travel with lights (as I think most people do), then terror is likely not an issue once you’ve worked out how to avoid spiking it too dramatically. The few times I’ve had it above 70, a trip to London has cleaned it up in no time.

Basically, it’s not a problem if you’re conscientious about keeping it low and know where stuff is. Of course everyone has different priorities, though.

Terror is an issue if you run with light off and go far from London. Does it happens often? Either my game is new, I have echoes problems and I play within reach of London or my game is advanced, I have a good amount of echoes and I don’t have to cut corners on echoes by sailing light off. Terror has only been an issue once, this is when I got a +50 terror from a certain event. Baring that, nope.

Going straight to your destination limits terror accumulation considerably, but at the same time it’s less than efficient as you aren’t picking up port reports along the way and in turn aren’t trying to finance the trip’s costs.

Personally, my journeys are quite long (over a real hour long), a big circle or oval which takes me to a dozen ports or more. And I only tend to turn on the light on the return leg, once my terror gauge is nearing 50.

My last voyage took me to Chapel of Lights and Irem in the far north, and then I cut all the way south through Aestival and the Chelonate before making a stop at Kingeater’s, discovering Varchas and passing by Adam’s Way. Finally took a turn north, towards London, after reaching Port Carnelian.

If you zip straight to your (only) destination, always with your light on, of course you won’t have any issues with terror. But at the same time it’s far less efficient and profitable than making longer voyages and using your light very judiciously.

I do the loop-de-loop as well, lights not always on, and I still don’t have problems with Terror.

Oh, I don’t have problems with terror, but that doesn’t mean being problem-free is hassle-free. My journeys are very calculated to maximize efficiency without going mad at zee, and that’s not particularly easy.

Going straight to a single destination and back with the light on, as Rapiere seems to do, is playing it absolutely safe, and therefore it’s expected and likely intended that terror never becomes an issue. Not much room for complaints there.

If you zip straight to your (only) destination, always with your light on, of course you won’t have any issues with terror. But at the same time it’s far less efficient and profitable than making longer voyages and using your light very judiciously.[/quote]

Oh, agreed. I normally island hop out and back. When I said &quotplace to place directly&quot, I meant that I didn’t mess around monster hunting or whatever; I went in straight lines from spot to spot. But I tried to have routes that meant that I hit every island on the way, because I wanted that sweet sweet free fuel.