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HomeSunless Sea

A game of survival, trade and exploration in the universe of Fallen London

Debating Purchase. Is this a game for me? Messages in this topic - RSS

Rackenhammer
Rackenhammer
Posts: 354

2/14/2015
I joined Fallen London Spring of Last year, and I've come to love the setting of the Neath. It was right about then that Sunless Sea was coming out with its first testable builds, and I watched the forums with interest, though I didn't at the time have any work, and so couldn't justify a purchase.

Well, I have a job now. But, that means that my decision-making in terms of games has changed. I've officially moved on to the point in my life where the biggest limiting factor is not money, but time. I can afford to spend $19 for something I end up not playing a lot, but generally not the time it takes to find out if it was worth the purchase. For slower-paced games, this is especially frustrating, as I like the sort of game that gives a lot of play time for the money, and don't mind the atmosphere (particularly when it's tied to this setting). But to give something like that a fair judgment takes time and work, and I don't have much to spare these days.

So, I'm going to lay out what impressions I've gotten from the forums/reviews, and I'll ask the more experienced players to confirm or deny them, as this is probably going to be more productive than asking "Is this good?" or "Am I going to have fun?"

From what I can tell, it would be more accurate to call Sunless Sea a Life Simulation than a Roguelike. That is, it seems to be too close to real life for video game logic to lead to a fun experience. For example, in most video games, anything equippable that you can afford will generally help you in some way. Not true in Real Life, and seems to be not true for Sunless Sea, particularly in regards to engine upgrades for the starting ship.
Second, even in most roguelikes, death is a failure state that can be avoided with sufficient skill/preparation. If you're not dying, you're doing something right, and if you do something wrong, your end is swift. Not true in Real Life, doesn't seem to be the case for SS either, where failure usually leads to lots of wasted time before death, and it may not exactly be clear if you're doing it 'right.'

The way the story/text is spread out, again, resembles the way in which we find interesting things in Reality, by getting to know other people and places, while going through the daily grind to fund our own dreams. Very profound in its way, but pretty much unlike any video game I can think of. Only one that comes to mind is Harvest Moon (Incidentally, would back a game about running my own Greyfields sight unseen).

Therefore, if I bought this game, I would go into it with the mindset that I am going to actually make my captain a Character. My time at zee will be spent filling in the unspoken replies to what the officers say to me, and his musings upon the unterzee. Decisions will be made accordingly. This will eventually mean that my method of deriving enjoyment of Sunless Sea will involve putting time and emotional investment into that which will inevitably die... like all of us in Real Life.

Hum, that got a bit morbid there. That was my other reason for being wary of this game. Anyway, am I right in my impressions? And is my method of gaining fun in sync with the game mechanics as-built?

--
"DO NOT TRUST HAPPY ENDINGS. DO NOT FEAR SAD ENDINGS... NEITHER ARE ENDINGS."
~
Mathieu Psmith: The Bard of Lost Children, loving husband, and a fixture of the artistic set. Can never resist making a show of things...

Irene Psmith: Adopted Daughter of Mathieu. Specializes in Information, Acquisitions, and the Acquisition of Information.

Vaughan Montblanc: Once a frontiersman of Western Canada, he now practices medicine in London. His discretion may be absolutely trusted.
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Gregg Johnson
Gregg Johnson
Posts: 263

2/14/2015
It's possible to roleplay, but if you do buy the game, you might want to wait on that until your first few captains have sunk beneath the waves. You can definitely avoid death, but until you know how the game works, doing so is probably going to lead to the death-by-attrition you're worried about. If possible, I might also advise keeping a journal of significant captains' experiences separate from that of the game, since at the moment it doesn't record what your fallen captains did (I think the game would be much improved if it did, though it's more immediately pressing that they better organize the existing journal).
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Dr. Hieronymous Alloy
Dr. Hieronymous Alloy
Posts: 228

2/14/2015
If you like Fallen London you'll probably like Sunless Sea; it's more like FL than it is like any other video game. That said, because of the death mechanics I find it's best to think of my characters as a dynasty. If the deaths really bother you, you can always use the manual save option, but the game works better and in the long term your characters benefit more if you embrace death a bit.

Death is generally avoidable with proper planning but it takes a lot of play experience to figure out what that proper planning is. This isn't a game like Darkest Dungeon though where death is always around the corner and a bad die roll can kill you out of the blue; you're always warned that death is incipient, though sometimes you can miss the warning.
edited by Dr. Hieronymous Alloy on 2/14/2015

--
http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Doctor~Hieronymous

Please, no photographers.
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Fretling
Fretling
Posts: 529

2/14/2015
"Life simulator" is definitely not how I would describe it. What an unexpected descriptor! "Real life" isn't the only alternative framework to typical video game logic (break crates and vases for ammo! eating immediately recovers health!).

You can roleplay if you want, but your first few captains die so easily that it would be a bit of a wrench, whether in terms of "oh no my beloved character" or "oh no the character that I spent so much time thinking up". My current, successful captain mostly just makes decisions that I would make.

The mindset you need to have is that of the person who, upon being told that there is something weird and scary lairing in an old hollow tree, marches up to the tree equipped with nothing more than ordinary, rather elderly garden gloves and sticks a hand straight in -- only ever refraining if a god literally manifests to you and thunderously advises against it. And sometimes even then.

Trying to play this like "real life" will get you killed slowly... much like real life, though admittedly on a more compressed timescale.
edited by Fretling on 2/14/2015
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SporksAreGoodForYou
SporksAreGoodForYou
Posts: 291

2/14/2015
My first captain lasted about 40 hours. My second barely 3 minutes. My third is still going, and I achieved in about 10 hours what took 40 hours with my first captain.

There's no doubt that this game is slow (very, very slow) but if you liked Fallen London, I suspect you'll like this death. Death is inevitable, and actually the legacies let you profit from it. Certainly, each play, you'll see the same things at the start (e.g. take the tomb-colonist to venderbight), but forearmed with knowledge from a previous run. Free to take another choice, or simply avoid the island entirely until later.

Maybe watch some lets plays on YouTube? Watching the first 30 minutes isn't going to ruin your game experience.
edited by SporksAreGoodForYou on 2/14/2015
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Gideon Xanthous
Gideon Xanthous
Posts: 36

2/14/2015
I see this game's experience to be similar to modern deep-sea fishing or like the first historical sea trading companies like the Dutch East India Company or such things. Wherein you're not guaranteed anything, you're mostly hoping that you'll just get back alive and with something to show for it.

But, just like in Fallen London, Knowledge is power in every sense of the phrase. Your most valuable items aside from treasures are knowledge items, and the more you know about the zee, its various ports and how everything in it works, the safer you know how to play.

Thing is, that knowledge cannot be obtained without risk, just like in FL. The difference is IMO you have slightly more control here than in FL in terms of avoiding most of the threats, if you play it smart and pay attention to everything going on.
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Rackenhammer
Rackenhammer
Posts: 354

2/14/2015
Hm, well, I won't be able to reply to everyone individually, so I'll just thank you all for chiming in!

I really am kind of disappointed that a Journal of events isn't a legacy item. Heck, even a spot where you can write your last words to a new captain, and the pages slowly fill up as the dynasty continues. Do you think that would have helped? A lot of players might be more comfortable with death if there was something that you only got if the captain died, as opposed to the legacies which just retain some of what he/she/it obtained. Just extra text that filled up a book would probably change the player's mindset a lot.
To clarify, I don't mind the emotional wrench associated with death. Heck, I think that may well be one of the major themes of this game; I remember from the dev blog that it was definitely on Alexis' mind when he was writing for this game.

I'm still on the fence about this, mostly because I've got a lot of other games to play, but I did want to be able to talk about it, because I do find it interesting. In essence, I would stand by my statement that the internal logic of the game has more to do with the actual risks of exploring an unknown place than the conventions accepted by a lot of video games supposedly in the same genre.
edited by Rackenhammer on 2/14/2015

--
"DO NOT TRUST HAPPY ENDINGS. DO NOT FEAR SAD ENDINGS... NEITHER ARE ENDINGS."
~
Mathieu Psmith: The Bard of Lost Children, loving husband, and a fixture of the artistic set. Can never resist making a show of things...

Irene Psmith: Adopted Daughter of Mathieu. Specializes in Information, Acquisitions, and the Acquisition of Information.

Vaughan Montblanc: Once a frontiersman of Western Canada, he now practices medicine in London. His discretion may be absolutely trusted.
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Fretling
Fretling
Posts: 529

2/14/2015
Sort of? I mean, the actual risk-vs-reward of exploring an unknown place tends to be much more skewed toward risk and involves much more mud and tedium, I assume. But this is a game, so the devs incentivise the canonical way of game-engagement by making it more rewarding, both in-universe (treasures and rare curiosities for the captain) and out-of-universe (stories and mysteries for the player to read).

IMO, "a game of exploration, survival, and loneliness" is a much more accurate tagline than good old "lose your mind/eat your crew", even if the latter is more photogenic. Though admittedly that doesn't capture the sense of humor.

Does this help figure out your priority list at all?
edited by Fretling on 2/14/2015
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Gideon Xanthous
Gideon Xanthous
Posts: 36

2/14/2015
Rackenhammer wrote:
Hm, well, I won't be able to reply to everyone individually, so I'll just thank you all for chiming in!

I really am kind of disappointed that a Journal of events isn't a legacy item. Heck, even a spot where you can write your last words to a new captain, and the pages slowly fill up as the dynasty continues. Do you think that would have helped? A lot of players might be more comfortable with death if there was something that you only got if the captain died, as opposed to the legacies which just retain some of what he/she/it obtained. Just extra text that filled up a book would probably change the player's mindset a lot.
To clarify, I don't mind the emotional wrench associated with death. Heck, I think that may well be one of the major themes of this game; I remember from the dev blog that it was definitely on Alexis' mind when he was writing for this game.

I'm still on the fence about this, mostly because I've got a lot of other games to play, but I did want to be able to talk about it, because I do find it interesting. In essence, I would stand by my statement that the internal logic of the game has more to do with the actual risks of exploring an unknown place than the conventions accepted by a lot of video games supposedly in the same genre.
edited by Rackenhammer on 2/14/2015


At the same time, the game is not completely finished yet. Maybe they will throw something in before they take a break from it, you never know.

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    Rackenhammer
    Rackenhammer
    Posts: 354

    2/14/2015
    Fretling wrote:
    Sort of? I mean, the actual risk-vs-reward of exploring an unknown place tends to be much more skewed toward risk and involves much more mud and tedium, I assume. But this is a game, so the devs incentivise the canonical way of game-engagement by making it more rewarding, both in-universe (treasures and rare curiosities for the captain) and out-of-universe (stories and mysteries for the player to read).

    IMO, "a game of exploration, survival, and loneliness" is a much more accurate tagline than good old "lose your mind/eat your crew", even if the latter is more photogenic. Though admittedly that doesn't capture the sense of humor.

    Does this help figure out your priority list at all?
    edited by Fretling on 2/14/2015



    I guess my thoughts might be a holdover from the kind of history taught in American Schools about exploration of the New World. Many die, a few become very rich, all very glorious, of course. The Neath's natives are much more resilient, it seems.

    It does help, I suppose. Probably won't be dropping money/time on it now.

    --
    "DO NOT TRUST HAPPY ENDINGS. DO NOT FEAR SAD ENDINGS... NEITHER ARE ENDINGS."
    ~
    Mathieu Psmith: The Bard of Lost Children, loving husband, and a fixture of the artistic set. Can never resist making a show of things...

    Irene Psmith: Adopted Daughter of Mathieu. Specializes in Information, Acquisitions, and the Acquisition of Information.

    Vaughan Montblanc: Once a frontiersman of Western Canada, he now practices medicine in London. His discretion may be absolutely trusted.
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    SporksAreGoodForYou
    SporksAreGoodForYou
    Posts: 291

    2/14/2015
    To follow up on your thoughts, I guess this isn't a game in the traditional sense. I find it compelling, but it's more of an exploration of surprises than anything else. Now I've cracked the early game, I can be up and running with a new captain in a couple of hours, so it's become more about exploring than worrying about death.

    If you like the writing, and care less about "winning" just save your game after you've made some decent progress, and if you die, return and try new options.
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    Gregg Johnson
    Gregg Johnson
    Posts: 263

    2/14/2015
    Rackenhammer wrote:
    I really am kind of disappointed that a Journal of events isn't a legacy item. Heck, even a spot where you can write your last words to a new captain, and the pages slowly fill up as the dynasty continues. Do you think that would have helped? A lot of players might be more comfortable with death if there was something that you only got if the captain died, as opposed to the legacies which just retain some of what he/she/it obtained. Just extra text that filled up a book would probably change the player's mindset a lot.

    Well, technically there are legacies you can only obtain if the captain dies (or rather, leaves gameplay) in a specific way. But I would also really like a journal, or captain's log of some sort with no mechanical effect, that just memorialises Those Who Came Before, their notable accomplishments (i.e. major quests and story decisions, as well as far away ports uncovered, don't need to list Hunter's Keep and such), some storified stats, how they died, etc. You can do this yourself with screenshots, to some extent, but the steam screenshot library leaves something to be desired.
    edited by Olorin on 2/14/2015
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    Impish Axile
    Impish Axile
    Posts: 50

    2/14/2015
    I'd note that you CAN play with permadeath off (I do), and based on what you've said, I'd recommend turning it off if you do play.

    If you like FL's writing, SS's is similarly good. SS definitely has less available at first, but the flow of new material stays fairly constant, unlike how in FL you have to grind more and more to get new content as you progress.

    That said, I don't know whether the gameplay is up your alley; if it is, awesome, if not, i don't think you'd enjoy playing for it for the writing but in SPITE of the gameplay. So!

    It's very much a game of fumbling in the dark. You'll try a lot of things, sometimes they'll blow up in your face, sometimes you'll get something cryptic, sometimes you'll get some great rewards. Overall though, Echoes will usually be very tight, especially early on. This may change later if you hit on something really profitable, but it's not easy to figure those things out early on.

    It definitely is a slower-paced game, though. There will be long stretches of poking around in the dark, making the long haul back home, etc. From my (impatient) perspective, travel is too slow, and the various ways of going faster are considerably more expensive. You usually won't spend that much time in any given port, either, and a lot of the storylets do revolve around just giving out a little snippet at a time, and each time you stop by you'll learn a little more. The biggest danger (aside from getting into fights you can't handle and not fleeing quickly enough) is really slowly dying of attrition, unable to keep up with your fuel/supplies/terror-reduction/hull-repair expenses.

    So... those are the main points of the game that could be very UNappealing, depending on your tastes. If those sound like something you definitely wouldn't enjoy, imho that's a good litmus test of whether you'd like the game. Of course, if you're willing to look things up, or savescum, or even explicitly cheat, you can bypass the 'fumbling' and 'likelihood of failure' and 'running out of Echoes' parts.
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    Rackenhammer
    Rackenhammer
    Posts: 354

    2/15/2015
    Hm, long amounts of time with nothing happening doesn't strike me as something I can plump for right now. I don't mind grinding in FL, since that doesn't take much of my own time, but long travel times kind of bug me in any game.

    --
    "DO NOT TRUST HAPPY ENDINGS. DO NOT FEAR SAD ENDINGS... NEITHER ARE ENDINGS."
    ~
    Mathieu Psmith: The Bard of Lost Children, loving husband, and a fixture of the artistic set. Can never resist making a show of things...

    Irene Psmith: Adopted Daughter of Mathieu. Specializes in Information, Acquisitions, and the Acquisition of Information.

    Vaughan Montblanc: Once a frontiersman of Western Canada, he now practices medicine in London. His discretion may be absolutely trusted.
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    Madmurdock
    Madmurdock
    Posts: 25

    2/15/2015
    If time is your problem, I'm not sure I can recommend Sunless Sea. It's a fantastic game, don't get me wrong and I'm loving every second. However, I have plenty of time to sink into it. If you only have an hour or so every day you're not going to get very far very quickly and it'll probably be even more frustrating when you lost your character, knowing it'll take you weeks to get back to where you were rather than just a day for me.

    If you are able to get yourself started, I can see you having fun with the game even with a limited amount of time. Once you know what you are doing and where everything is on your map, you can sit down for your hour long session and say "In this hour, I will go to -island- and do that islands story" and can go off to do it. But the process of getting to that point might be a little bit too long.

    The game isn't really a "life simulator". I would describe it as a survival horror/exploration game with rogue like elements. It may not seem like it, but some of the stories are...unnerving and very lovecraftian, and obviously survival is a massive part of the game.

    I'd also like to say that upgrading your ships engine IS an upgrade no matter what anyone says. The only reason people are saying it's not is because they didn't read the tooltip saying "larger engines consume more fuel" and get confused when they run out quicker. You just need to weigh up the potential increase in speed with the increase in fuel consumption to determine whether it's worth it on your current ship (which is never really is for the starter ship unless your rich and can afford to restock at several ports on your journey).

    There are long times of travel, which will take up a lot of your allotted time as well. As I said earlier, if you set yourself and hour and say you're going to a certain island to do a certain thing, you probably won't be doing much more than that before your time is up. By the time you get there, stopping at other ports along the way for port reports, do whatever it is you need to do, assuming you even have the right items, and get back to London, your hour will be pretty much gone.

    So, those are a few reason I couldn't recommend it to you if you don't have much time. I'd like to make clear though that I think it's a FANTASTIC game and if you do end up getting more time in the future, definitely look into it again. It's a brilliant game to spend 3/4 hour sessions playing, but probably frustrating if you don't have that kind of time.
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    Fretling
    Fretling
    Posts: 529

    2/15/2015
    Nope. I played on the "hour/half-hour a day" schedule for 90% of my playtime, and I'm fine with it. A single circumnavigation needn't take more than 20-30 minutes, and that's a satisfactory session for me.

    The question isn't how much time you have -- it's what kind of pace you like.
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