Why is this game so unrewarding?

I just lost my first playthrough, totaling 15 hours, because I prayed to the stone god for fuel and instead of just giving me a normal wound (I had 1 wound), he gave me a mortal wound and I instantly died. I would typically sacrifice crew to the gods for fuel, but in this case I didn’t have the storm god’s attention, and since I only had 1 wound I assumed it would be fine. One prayer would be enough to get me to the nearby harbor. Instead it deleted all my progress on the game. (No heir.)

I don’t understand how the devs think this is reasonable game design. It’s not like I made a bad decision (and you can argue that I put myself in a bad position by needing to pray, but the game’s punishingly slow pace generally encourages me to push it with every trip I take, and in any case is that really a game endingly bad position? of course not, I’ve been there countless times), I was simply uninformed that randomly receiving a mortal wound was even a possibility, and I was uninformed because the game didn’t give me access to any way of learning that information except through dying to it stupidly. In another game, this wouldn’t be an issue - teaching the player gameplay elements by killing them or delivering some other punishment is standard fare, and learning the hard way isn’t so bad. But in a roguelike with Sunless Sea’s pacing it’s ridiculous and insulting and tells me the devs have no regard for my time or my autonomy as a player. I enjoy making calculated risks and seeing the ensuing scenarios play out, not being gotcha’d by a random chance event that the game hid from me.

Compare it to a game like Darkest Dungeon where you’re consistently punished and prepared to be punished by the ample information and warnings the game gives you. Even if you get party wiped by a series of unfortunate events that you didn’t prepare for properly, the information is there. You aren’t cheated out of playing the game. Or compare it to FTL, which, for whatever reason, also enjoys hiding information from the player. In FTL, it’s not really a problem in the same way, because runs are typically pretty short, and even if you get ambushed by something you didn’t know existed, you’re not losing much, and furthermore the game prepares you to die and operates on the assumption that most of your runs are going to die in horrible and unexpected ways. Sunless Sea does none of those things, the game in general is incredibly easy and offers very few mechanical challenges - the real enjoyment of the game comes in the developing lines of story and character. So I can’t really come up with an excuse for why this would happen.

I have no desire to do another playthrough and it’s sad because some of the game is so damn good. I don’t know if I’m alone in this experience, but there it is.
edited by V on 3/8/2021

sorry to hear you got screwed by the game. But I kind of expect this always to happen in any game sooner or later. So I learned to make a backup of my character save file at least once a day, that way I can always recover from a critical mistake.
edited by CoolDemon on 3/8/2021

I absolutely adore Sunless Sea’s story, but the roguelite mechanics really hold it back. The early game is a slog even with perfect knowledge, while unlocking permanent upgrades comes too late to help ease new players in. What is an unexpected death supposed to add, when more skill wouldn’t have let you avoid it?

I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. (And bad luck, it’s only a 50% chance to receive two Wounds there.) If you do decide to play again someday, I strongly suggest making manual saves every time you dock. You could also use save editing for extra starting cash or stats; the save files look intimidating but only need a text editor to modify.

Those are really good ideas Optimatum (and CoolDemon). Maybe I’ll give it another shot and try that… after a bit of a break from it haha. I guess I’m always more reluctant to use save files with roguelikes than I maybe should be. In this case maybe it’s appropriate (and necessary).