Crying Suns feels a bit like playing FTL in the universe from Lexx - weird, uncomfortable, unquestionably a bit evil and confusingly exciting. Space here is a mean place full of freaks and lunatics, and you're an expendable cloned captain sent to find out just how it got so bad. Developers Alt Shift released a demo to accompany the Kickstarter funding their rogue-ish game of grimdark space adventure - today they've delivered a streamlined and heavily reworked version highlighting the work they've done in the past seven months. You can grab the demo on Steam here.
While Crying Suns takes a lot of inspiration from FTL, it's less of a direct imitator than others. Space combat involves multiple wings of support ships biting chunks out of each other across a hex grid as the capital ships lob cannon fire at one another. There's also a much greater focus on story, and a lot more dialogue, as you slowly feel your way around a very unhappy galaxy. The Empire - after 700 years of absolute rule - has seemingly died. Some twenty years after it all went dark, a cloned admiral with a small crew and a tentacled robot caretaker are sent to find out why all the signals stopped. It's intriguing stuff so far, and a fun mystery - why did the robots that this civilisation was so reliant on all shut down?
It's moody stuff. The majority of the main HUD is taken up by a massive view-screen showing what's in front of you, with your captain and crew chattering in the foreground. It simultaneously makes me feel like a big deal, and also very small. For those who tried the earlier Kickstarter demo, the main change here is that the concept of Focus Points has been removed entirely. Now, the number of units and ship systems you can run at any given time is dependent on how many officers you have, so every opportunity to recruit, rescue or otherwise bulk up your crew is essential.
The latest Crying Suns demo is here on Steam. The early access version of the game will be there too eventually, but for now you can find it on Itch for $30 (roughly £23/€26), though the full game will only cost $20. The game is due out late this year, and Alt Shift have partnered with Humble - now handling publishing duties - to make sure it happens.