‘Sunless Skies‘ sounds a bit too ‘A Day Trip To Reading’ to my ears. I guess 2unless 2ea, Sunless Sea 2: None More Sunless and 2 Sea 2 Sunless were deemed insufficiently lyrical. The name, of course, matters nought: what does matter is that charmingly bleak, ocean-bound, narrative rougelikelikelike12 Sunless Sea [official site] is going full sail to sequel-land with Sunless Skies next year. And then taking off into space.
Failbetter’s Fallen London setting – Sunless Sea being the second game to star in it – is a sort of greatest hits of Victorian sci-fi, steampunk and Cthulhu mythos, all held together by sufficient, beautifully-written string so that it absolutely feels like its own malevolent yet amiable thing. Thus far, its focus has been on a creepy city and a creepier underground ocean, but now it intends to look to the skies above. Here’s Failbetter’s synopsis of the setup for Sunless Skies:
“This is the Victorian Empire in space – the High Wilderness – a “blistering, wonderful night” among the thrones and domains of the stars. The Empress has abandoned London and led an exodus to the High Wilderness, to carve out a new British Empire. With the Empire being increasingly authoritarian, bohemians, revolutionaries and outcasts – like you – are trying to make a life for themselves on its fringes.”
As for the whole ‘sunless’ aspect, “The stars are dying. The stars are the Judgements: the inventors, arbiters and enforcers of the universe’s laws – but a revolution has begun, and the stars are being murdered.” H.G. Wells and CS Lewis are noted as influences, as is Leigh Brackett, the art nouvea style and, er, Event Horizon. Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.
Stories are the focus of Skies, that being Failbetter’s hallmark, but it seems it will follow and build upon the doomed voyage aspects of Sea also. “We’re enhancing the stuff we liked, and refining the experience. It will be a punishing game, but respectful of your time.”
Whether that means it will be ‘easier’ remains to be seen. I always played Sea expecting to fail, but I know some folk understandably struggled with the fact that keeping their boat fuelled and their crew fed/non-mad was a constant and unforgiving pressure that could forbid exploring the dark waters and uncovering their many tales.
All sounds real jolly good, but a slight wrinkle in the silk bedsheet is that, as with Sunless Sea, Failbetter are taking to Kickstarter for this, so it’s not 100% guaranteed to happen just yet. The Kickstarter doesn’t actually launch until February 2017, so hopefully we’ll start seeing some footage and screens and words before too long. There’s not even a website yet.
Ahead of that though, the Zumbariner expansion for Sunless Sea lands on 11 Oct.