Sunless Skies

All the verbal artistry of Sunless Sea scattered across a gorgeous steampunk cosmos that's a little easier to navigate and thrive in.

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Sunless Skies review - a rather more accessible literary space monstrosity

After 45 hours in Sunless Skies, it's tempting to offer your own spin on Roy Batty's "I've seen things you wouldn't believe" speech from Blade Runner. The problem is that it's hard to know where to start, and even harder to know where to stop. A hybrid, like 2015's Sunless Sea, of top-down steampunk naval sim and choose-your-own-adventure storytelling, Skies takes you everywhere from an asteroid circus to the howling corona of a clockwork star. Blending the juicier nightmares of Victorian astronomers, bureaucrats and sailors with some rather less antiquated-feeling characters and concepts, it's a tour of the heavens in which every port is an oddity, twinkling or at least glistening in the firmament.

Pick random moments from my playthrough and you'll find my captain doing something very different each time, all of it brought to life with Failbetter's trademark mix of dread and whimsy. Here I am having sex with a demon signaller, for example. And then there was that time I visited a laughing orchard to resolve an academic dispute about the exact occupant of a celestial tomb. Here I am trading shots with a ghost of wood and parchment as I skim the lip of a black hole - oh, and of course, here I am devouring my own crew after running out of fuel on the way back from hell. The great joy of Failbetter's latest is once again the ghoulish inventiveness of the writing and setting, though it's helped along in Skies by more accessible world design, relatively generous earning mechanics and some truly decadent background art.

A direct narrative sequel to Sunless Sea, the game's premise is that Queen Victoria has conquered the solar system, ensuring that Britain is, indeed, the empire on which the sun never sets by murdering the sun and replacing it with a mechanical one. She's also achieved immortality by somehow mining the raw stuff of temporality itself and selling it by the barrel - a wonderfully silly and brutal co-opting of the theory of relativity. In this universe, royal stipends are measured in hours, not coins, and time passes a lot slower inside factories than in palaces, the better to exact maximum blood and sweat from each labourer. Out in the solar system's recesses, meanwhile, upstart "Tackety" colonists battle London's representative the Windward Company while demons, the dead and other, even stranger entities go about their business.

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Sunless Skies has a release date and a pen-and-paper RPG

Sunless Sea follow-up Sunless Skies will release on 31st January 2019, Failbetter Games confirmed today.

The developer made the announcement in a panel session this afternoon at EGX 2018, the UK games event run by Eurogamer parent company Gamer Network.

Simultaneously, Failbetter also announced Skyfarer, a pen-and-paper role-playing game tie-in for Sunless Skies. It's freely available to download from the link below:

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Sunless Skies' big new update adds Albion, the interstellar heart of the British Empire

Sunless Skies' big new update adds Albion, the interstellar heart of the British Empire

"Where manners must be minded and secrets are necessary".

Developer Failbetter Games has released a major new update for its currently-in-early-access Sunless Sea follow-up, Sunless Skies, introducing new region Albion.

Sunless Skies entered Steam Early Access last August, and is Failbetter's attempt at transplanting Sunless Sea's engaging mix of rogue-like exploration and strikingly imaginative storytelling to the stars. It unfolds in "a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition".

Failbetter called the version of Sunless Skies that released into early access last year "a small taste of what the final game will be like rather than a big taste of an emptier, less representational world." It featured the game's core systems - namely Hunger, Terror, combat, exploration, and a selection of interactive stories - as well as a single region, the Reach.

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FeatureBehind the sunless scenes

The complex, inside story of Failbetter Games.

A year ago, Fallen London and Sunless Sea developer Failbetter Games successfully pitched Sunless Skies on Kickstarter. The upcoming project was funded in four hours and its crowdfunding campaign concluded with nearly 400 per cent of the money needed to smash its financial target. In September last year, Failbetter won a GamesIndustry.biz award for being one of the best employers in the UK video games industry. The team gave enthusiastic quotes to Eurogamer's sister site about the benefits of working at the tiny, tightknit outfit. Failbetter, seemingly, was on a high.

Failbetter Games delays Sunless Skies following lay-offs, low sales

Failbetter Games delays Sunless Skies following lay-offs, low sales

Sold 15% as many copies of Sunless Sea in comparable time period.

Sunless Sea developer Failbetter Games has delayed the launch of its upcoming crowdfunded sequel, Sunless Skies.

There's no new delivery date, but Failbetter has assured fans there was "no danger of us failing to deliver the project you backed".

The decision to delay the game from its previously-announced May arrival comes after a disappointing 2017 for the studio, with lower-than-expected sales of the game on Steam Early Access and four of the small team's staff being laid off as a result.

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"The empire on which the sun never sets, and whose bounds nature has not yet ascertained," George Macartney wrote of Britain's colonial territories in 1773. In the universe of Sunless Skies, an everlasting Queen Victoria has made this fond pronouncement a literal truth, replacing Earth's sun with a clockwork star, a sun that sets only because her Majesty wills it. The Empire, what's more, has come to reign over not just outer space but the very raw material of time - unearthing minutes like ore from the drifting ruins of the Reach, one of the new game's four discrete regions, and using them to accelerate construction projects or cruelly drag out prison terms, amongst other things. As a budding steamship captain, you too can get in on the trade, shipping wax-sealed casks of unseasoned hours alongside "everyday" commodities like aborted lab experiments or crates of human souls. It's both a parody of how empires construct their own realities, their own, brutal systems of measurement and definition, and something that hits a bit closer to home - a send-up of the energy-based mechanics of freemium social games like Failbetter's original text RPG Fallen London, where time is indeed money, a thing you can stockpile.

Sunless Skies' Early Access release date is soon

Sunless Skies, sequel to Sunless Sea, will hit Steam Early Access and GOG Games in Development at the end of the month - 30th August.

On offer will be one of the four regions in the game, the Reach, and a "broad skeleton" of gameplay features, wrote developer Failbetter. You'll be able to explore the skies, dock at ports, interact with stories - I should jolly well hope so - trade, fight and of course die. All that for 18.99.

There will be a teensy discount when the game first arrives but do note Sunless Skies will be considered an in-development game and be treated by developer Failbetter accordingly, with patches and alterations and new content and so on. If you want the finished article, wait.

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