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iPad  header logo

Sunless Sea Review - A dark, gothic adventure

For: iPad

Just don't get attached to your characters

Product: Sunless Sea | Publisher: Failbetter Games | Format: iPad | Genre: Adventure, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Sunless Sea is a gothic, exploration game set in the same universe as Fallen London - only this time you're headed out to zee. Or the sea, if you'd prefer.

When the world around you is pitch black and the oceans are quiet and unpredictable, how long do you think you'd last before crumbling into sheer madness?

That's the basic premise. Aside from managing your supplies, gathering information, and fighting big beasts out on the Unterzee, it's a matter of when you're going to die - not if

Row, row, row your boat

You start off without a clue, having been thrown into the position of captain. You choose your name, choose your back story if you want to, choose your goal, and off to zee you go. 

The controls are ultra simple - touch forward to go forward, touch back to stop, touch back again to go backwards, and hold one side or the other of the screen to turn.

On your first play-through things might be a bit overwhelming. There's lots to see, lots to bump into, lots of creatures to fight, and plenty of opportunities to die. 

The likelihood is that you'll head to a watery grave pretty quickly, but that's not an insult to your skill.

You'll arrive back at Fallen London mourning the death of your previous captain, but you'll shed your skin, choose another name and another goal, and head off again. 

Only, this time the game tells you how to navigate using the zeebat rather than going off blindly into the darkness. 

Aside from exploration, the main things you need to concentrate on are your supplies and your terror levels. If your terror levels get too high, your crew will start doing stupid things.

Likewise, if your supplies run out, your crew will start eating each other.

Gently through the zee

What ties all of the elements together in Sunless Sea is its narrative. It's not so much a rolling story with huge chunks of text, but rather bite-sized snatches that you can piece together the more you play. 

Part gothic tale, part horror story, you never know quite what's going on or whether people are trustworthy. Every action you take, and every move you make, is a chance that will either pay off, or bite you in the butt. 

The combat can be a little tricky in the beginning. Your ship is slow, your gun isn't very powerful, and it doesn't take many hits for your boat to get trashed and sink into the briny depths. 

But the more you explore, the more crew you gather, the more echoes you earn, the better your ship will get - and that's kind-of the heart and soul of this game. 

You need to die a lot. You need to make mistakes. Every death wipes the slate clean in the game's regular mode, so everything you've built in the previous run turns back to hopes and ambitions.

Though, if you want a slightly easier play you have the option of doing so. 

Life is but a *SCREAM* WHAT IS THAT?

It may take a little while to get into, but this sunken world is dark and endearing, and makes you want to unravel all of its mysteries - even if you get frustrated and cry along the way.

Sunless Sea may not be very exciting in terms of action, but it's intriguing, imaginative, and rich in story. 

Sunless Sea Review - A dark, gothic adventure
Reviewer photo
Emily Sowden | 24 March 2017
Though it can be a little slow, Sunless Sea is a cracking exploration game with a dark, gothic undertow
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