sunless sea

Into the Maw of Despair – Sunless Sea: Zubmariner DLC

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A zubmarine docks in the port of Wrack, a city built out of shipwrecks.

The world of Fallen London was yet again enriched this month with the release of the long-awaited Zubmariner DLC for Sunless Sea. A stretch goal of the Sunless Sea Kickstarter campaign, Zubmariner promised to expand on the hints of sub-aquatic travel lore already present in Fallen London, and take players to a deeper and darker place than ever before. As the surface of the Unterzee already features sea-urchins from space who speak the language of stars, and a malevolent living mountain that’s can’t be permanently killed, it seemed a tall order. Still, the early promotional materials were intriguing to say the least, so as a KS backer myself I was very ready to be hyped.

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Search Terms Q&A

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If my search terms are any indication, there are a lot of frustrated people skipping over my blog. As a writer I aim to entertain and inform, so I took these suggestions to heart. And so I present, answers to questions I didn’t know people were asking:

  • “sunless sea warrant of redemption” – try Gamepedia’s Sunless Sea wiki, they have an article on legacies in the game. Personally, I recommend against the Correspondent legacy, no matter how badly you want to raise your Pages skill. Starting with a blank zee chart might seem like a pain, but the fragments that you earn from exploring convert to secrets, which are hard to earn otherwise early in the game. If you’ve created unique engines or cannons, go for those. You should know that 50% of a skill means accumulated skill, which doesn’t include the background-specific bonus at the start of the game.
  • “dark parables game order” – TV Tropes lists the games in order of release. If you’re a new player just trying the series out for the first time, skip The Curse of Briar Rose and start with The Exiled Prince or Rise of the Snow Queen. They showcase the games’ strengths much better, I think.
  • “barbara gordon porn comics” – uh, all right. I guess try scans_daily on Dreamwidth, they’re the best source for fancomics.
  • “that which yields is not always weak” – I assume this caught me because of my meta about diplomacy skills in Long Live the Queen. This is actually a quote from Jacqueline Carey’s delightful Kushiel’s Legacy books. I don’t have a review of these up, but I read them years ago and found them delightful.
  • “who is oracle in dc universe” – excellent question, anonymous Google user. Oracle is the second persona of Barbara Gordon, the Silver Age Batgirl. Along with Dinah Lance (the Black Canary) she founded a team called the Birds of Prey. As a world-class genius and master-hacker, she became a networking nexus for superheroes small and large, and maintained an absolutely alarming database of secret identities. She’s the best.
  • “how does dialogue develop hazel’s character” – I think I’ll leave this as a reader participation question. If you mean the character from The Fault in Our Stars (which I have never read) try SparkNotes.
  • “queen at arms romance” – well, I romanced James the first time around, and it was pretty cool.

[Image by Alexis Wilke via WikiCommons.] 

Salt and Steel (a Sunless Sea review)

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I adore the world of the Echo Bazaar, the world of the Neath, damned to a shadowy existence both literal and figurative. Horror isn’t usually my jam, but this world has undeniable character and a creepy kind of charm. I’ve played Fallen London, on and off, for a while. Though I was initially very enthusiastic about it, I found the game mechanics wearying and never progressed as far as I liked. As such, I was terribly excited when Failbetter Games announced Sunless Sea, a desktop game exploring a new, wider horizon of their addictive fictional realm.

As a Kickstarter backer, I got access to the earlier, incomplete (and sometimes buggy) versions of the game. Not surprisingly, it was an up-and-down journey. The earliest versions had a somewhat notorious problem raising enough cash to buy fuel and supplies. Sometimes, just as I was setting out, only starting to get comfortable with my explorations, a new update would throw me for a loop. At one point map-shuffling was introduced which, at a stage of development when many map tiles were blank, was a major challenge to the player.

Still, new content kept coming out, expanding and improving the game, and I knew that eventually one of my captains would survive long enough, and raise enough cash, to reach the later stages of the game’s many quests. The major thing that changed this perception was the Steel beta. Sunless Sea updates were rolled out in batches, coded by color. The Steel update was added to the development plan rather late, and hadn’t been part of the Kickstarter game concept. It changed the game’s combat system from a turn-based mini-game to an integrated, time-sensitive style.

I wasn’t enthused for the Steel update. I don’t do well with time-sensitive portions of games, and I had been generally pleased with the turn-based combat, except for the over-abundance of low level opponents at mid-level gameplay. Naturally, I did want to give it a chance. I was a little apprehensive because I was launching a mid-level captain into a situation where I didn’t know if I’d be able to defeat (or survive) mid-level zee monsters. Even though I was resolved to give the Steel beta a chance, the game I was playing became less relaxing and less fun.

I didn’t play for very long after the Steel update. I had no intention of abandoning Sunless Sea altogether, even though, with the number of hours I’d already sunk into it, I’d definitely gotten my money’s worth. Because the game was in beta, I decided it would be better to wait and see whether future updates would compensate for the change I was so impatient with. I had little interest in re-learning combat, to begin with not my favorite part of the game. If my screenshots folder can be taken as reliable witness, I swore off the game for a little over a year. It was only lately that I picked it up again.

A lot can happen in a year. The game I launched three weeks ago was very different from the game I’d played pre-Steel. A little disorienting, with certain features having been removed or replaced with more elaborate, dynamic variations. But overall, the game benefited from a huge addition of content. The early parts of the game were still a trial, and I did find myself consulting more than one informal player’s guide. At least, though, the game no longer felt unplayable — or playable, but not enjoyable. Combat remained fairly stressful in the early stages of the game, but then I’ve always been a gun-shy game player.

After three weeks of intense preoccupation, my third captain achieved her life’s ambition to write the zong of the zee, and I achieved the much more modest ambition of making peace with the Sunless Sea combat system.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth