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Sunless Sea (Video Game Review)

Sunless Sea is a new release from developer Failbetter Games that combines the unique elements of naval combat with roguelike mechanics to create another unique title available on Steam. The name of the game truly describes the setting in Sunless Sea, as players continue to explore a vast, unexplored ocean that is completely darkened at the start of the player's maiden voyage. Exploring the waters in the game can be a bit creepy with plenty of sea monsters and enemy ships ready to prey on unsuspecting sailors, while roguelike elements make each mission feel different from the next. Sunless Sea offers an entertaining look at a seldom seen game genre in today's industry.

Sunless Sea's dark exterior masks some very excellent writing and a strong storyline. The game takes players to an alternate version of Fallen London, where the primary goals are to explore uncharted waters and discover hidden treasures and land in the surrounding darkness. There are plenty of character interactions for players to unlock while playing that can be read through in-game menus, but the title also features text that popup on-screen when certain objectives are completed or other key events are triggered. Sunless Sea has a lot of character that is exuded in the game's writing from the dark humor of eating the crew when low on resources to the grim foreboding present when sailing through cursed waters.

Gameplay in Sunless Sea is simplistic enough for most gamers to pick up and easily enjoy, while the game's difficulty isn't terribly difficult or unfair. Players will choose a ship and name their captain before starting a new game, and new crew members will be added to the ship with each offering their own unique backgrounds and benefits. Players will want to work closely with their crew to ensure they aren't going mad at sea, and secrets and other knowledge can sometimes be uncovered by interacting with crew members as well. Combat in the game is fairly simple as well, and most enemies don't pose much of a threat for experienced players assuming they still have enough remaining HP to withstand a few hits the enemy will undoubtedly land before the battle ends.

Each ship can be outfitted with weapons and other statistic boosting items to make runs a bit different with each new game. The roguelike elements randomizes the Unterzee each time a new game is started, but players can carry over some benefits from previous generations of captains. Though the locations of islands and other key areas of the map will change with new games, players will have learned more about what to expect while sailing at sea, so that there is a sense of progression in the player's skill more so than the leveling of a specific ship or character.

One of the most important things players will learn while playing Sunless Sea is resource management. Players need to keep a good supply of food, fuel and other resources to keep their ship running at full speed to continue on the journey. Sailing and using the ship's lantern will drain fuel, and running out will have the ship lost at sea along with the crew and any treasures. Running out of food can make the crew go mad and even cause outbreaks of cannibalism. Players can visit ports to acquire more resources or battle sea monsters for food and pirates for fuel and other supplies, but resource management will remain a key component of gameplay for as long as fans continue playing the new release.

The dark waters of Sunless Sea provide an excellent atmosphere for players wanting to explore uncharted waters full of giant sea monsters and other dangers. The game makes great use of lighting to cast shadows over water while sailing or making enemies seemingly come out of nowhere when they are put in light's view. The game's fantastic writing also goes a long way in presenting the bizarre world portrayed in the game, while a really good soundtrack puts players in the right mood for sailing the Unterzee.

Sunless Sea is a very well developed game that has few problems. The game is a really fun roguelike that uses sea navigation, resource management and naval combat like few others. The game isn't terribly difficult, and combat is more often mind-numbingly simple with little variation between missions. The game's randomly generated maps and sense of exploration make this a title to visit over and over again. Even more important to the success of Sunless Sea is the game's superb writing and abundance of unique characters and situations that will unlock the longer players enjoy the title. Zet zail in one of ze best games of 2015 with Sunless Sea on Steam and GOG today.

Sunless Sea is now available for PC and Mac via Steam and GOG and can be purchased for $18.99. For more information or to purchase a copy of the game, check out the official Sunless Sea website.

Game Features:
  • Single Player
  • Roguelike Elements
  • Thousands of Unlockable Narrative Pieces
  • Dozens of Upgrades
  • Achievement Support

Game Information:
Developer & Publisher: Failbetter Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed) & Mac
Release Date: February 6, 2015

Score: 9 out of 10
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