Thoughts from a semi-new player

Hi, I’m pretty new to Sunless Sea (and these forums), but this is still an early access game so I thought I would give my thoughts after about twelve hours worth of play.

+The steaming feels really good. Just long enough to feel like the voyages have length, but not enough to get bored. The ship handles well, and the presentation (sight & sound) does a great job of selling the fiction. Great job Failbetter! (Spellcheck catches that funnily enough)

-Terror feels a little wonky. I tend to either keep it below thirty the whole game or drown in it. Also, it seems like terror is fairly harmless until reaching very high levels. I’ve felt the effects of hunger much more, and I’ve never died to it! Also, given that both are meters of bad things that kill you at max and go from one to a hundred, why are the hunger and terror bars different lengths?

+The writing is good, but I’m sure you already knew that. I mean, I bought this game off the strength of FL, so it would be very bad if it wasn’t as well written.

-I choose how people will refer to me, but no one ever seems to use that.

+I saw the transition to steel, and I can say that I certainly think it’s an improvement. It makes combat far less intrusive. Before every dinky crab required going into turn-based then lighting up and shooting. The new system both integrates the very good sailing and fights are both more exciting and shorter. It needs some fleshing out, but that’s to be expected.

-Combat does suffer from the flaws that the player’s ship dies way, way too fast. It could just be my limited experience, but it seems that taking hits from anything bigger than a crab will total the player’s ship in no time. Since steel, I believe combat has accounted for all of deaths, and going from perfect health to nothing in a few seconds just seems less satisfying than a slowly mounting doom. This ability to see disaster looming and trying to avoid it is a great part of roguelites, but I’m not sure how this could be fixed. Clearer feedback (I rammed their ship… and can still ambush them) would also be good.

+The random maps work well, but are hampered by a lack of content.

-The largest flaw I can see in the game is that of tutorialization and direction. The only reason I’ve been able to enjoy the game past the first couple runs is advice from the forums such as to spend all the starting money on fuel, not to do trade runs to Vanderbilt, etc. This is not helped by how counterintutive a lot of the game is. The obvious example is trading. The game is not intended to be a trading sim, but this is communicated extremely poorly. For a first time player looking around the opening screen, the shops tab opens on the Wolfstack exchange! You cannot show players a wall of trading goods with different prices and not expect them to think SS is a trading sim! There is the message on the exchange tab, but it’s cut off, and the owner of a entire ship with a big hold and guns is unlikely to grasp they’re a &quotsmall trader&quot. The admiral even calls you a merchant captain verbatim! Opening on the ship supplies would help a lot I think. As would making trade not suck. In fact, why not have a tutorial ambition? &quotLearn the ways of the Zee&quot A more scripted scenario, maybe that gives out free supplies if you run out, that ends after you’ve visited a few islands.

Actually, in terms of the ambitions, SS suffers in comparison to Fallen London. The ambition in FL serves as a &quotmain quest&quot that provides direction. If the player ever wonders what they should be doing, working on the ambition will provide a motivation to do things like unlock new areas. The ambitions in SS however, only seem to be endgame goals, and provide little short term direction. The strat. info and bruiser missions do provide direction, but can make the early game a bit repetitive.

Those are my thoughts. Will probably have more later.
edited by Avian Overlord on 10/15/2014

I can only agree with such a great post.

I have a feeling that the world will be a nicely fleshed out and interesting one to explore, but like you said, the player isn’t directionally led into it.
It feels really weird for that game to ask you &quotHey, what’s your END GAME GOAL, BUDDY? before you even start the game and have any concept of what any of the presented options entail.

I think a more organic way to guide the player to the end-game would be a huge boon to how engrossing the game can be.
edited by ashizen on 10/15/2014

I’ve often wanted to choose my name, face, and origin before choosing my ambition. Pity the current options are all or nothing. Although I do see the point of choosing victory conditions early. They do tend to drive play in a certain direction, but the current ambitions … well, I don’t really see why different strategies would be required.

I’m trying to remember what FBG have said about the ambitions - whether, in the full release, we’d be able to change ambitions or even pick up hidden ones as we go along. I can’t recall for sure, so don’t hold me to that suggestion! Though even with the current two, there is some difference in early-to-mid-game strategy - someone seeking wealth can get away with a small ship, saving their money for other investments, while someone writing the Zong of the Zee will need a lot of cargo space.