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Failbetter launches Sunless Skies Kickstarter, releases first trailer

Space-set sequel to Sunless Sea off to a flyer.

Failbetter Games has launched the Kickstarter for Sunless Skies, its latest, star-faring addition to the steampunk fantasy universe of Fallen London. There's a new trailer, too.

The developer is asking for £100,000 by 3rd March, out of an estimated total development cost of £330,000. £59,954 has been pledged by 1090 backers at the time of writing. Looks like it's a goer, then.

Running on a mixture of Unity and Failbetter's own StoryNexus narrative platform, the game is broadly comparable to Sunless Sea, the studio's hit naval exploration game. Set 10 years later, it casts you as the captain of an interplanetary locomotive, battling alien leviathans, privateers and other, more esoteric hazards as you travel through a decidedly windy vision of outer space, in which sentient stars are mysteriously dying.

There's a brace of starports, all home to various missions and side stories. Highlights include Albion, the heart of the game's alternate-British empire, where Queen Victoria herself reclines by the light of a clockwork sun. A bit further out there's Port Prosper, where the raw materials of time itself are processed, stamped and shipped to Albion for distribution. Not your average sci-fi mining operation.

Ships come in a range of sizes, each with slots for weapons and mods such as Gatling guns or reinforced hull plating. You'll also want to invest in some named crew members, all on journeys of their own through the game's world - examples include the Incautious Driver, an ex-military stalwart with a dramatic scar, or the Clay Conductor, a golem in search of a soul.

Players will choose a character backstory that determines your skills make-up - those who grew up on the streets will be stealthier, while a starving poet might have more charisma. You'll also get to choose an Ambition, which determines how you'll eventually win the game - seeing everything the Wilderness has to offer, perhaps, or just retiring with a pile of money. As you go, you might unlock Facets that reveal a little more about your past while tweaking your skills.

The game will offer the same real-time combat as in Sunless Sea, but with more focus on manoeuvring and (seemingly) manual aiming - you can use smaller thrusters to dart out of a projectile's way, for instance.

As in Sunless Sea, you can choose to start over as a new captain when you die, retaining a portion of your predecessor's wealth and experience. Unlike in Sunless Sea, not every story will reset when you start over. "Many of the effects you've had on the world are remembered, and the achievements and follies of your earlier captains may haunt those that follow," the Kickstarter notes.

There's the usual tiered selection of backer rewards. Pledge £15 and you'll nab a copy of the game plus a "Cyclopean Owl" that conducts reconnaissance as you travel, much like Sunless Sea's Zeebat. Drop £2500 on it, the highest funding tier, and you'll get to design one of the game's locations. Failbetter has put together a few optional social challenges, too, including a tattoo competition. There are no stretch funding goals for the moment, however.

"We've prototyped the riskiest elements of the design to prove feasibility over the last few months and carefully planned out production, so can be fairly confident in our timeline," the Kickstarter comments.

"The biggest risk is that we'll decide to expand the scope of the game during early access, or budget more time than currently expected to address feedback or improve features (as we did with combat for Sunless Sea). This may delay the final release, but should also mean that the game ends up being bigger or better than currently planned."

Sunless Skies is slated to arrive in May 2018. Eurogamer's Christian Donlan spoke to Failbetter about it in October last year.

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About the Author

Edwin Evans-Thirlwell avatar

Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

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Edwin is a writer from London hailed by peers as "terminally middle-class" and "experienced". He would like to review your speculative fiction game.

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