Sunless skies: Kickstarter launch

Zee-Captains and Aztronauts alike will be thrilled to hear that Failbetter Games, creators of Fallen London and Sunless Sea, have recently launched a Kickstarter for their newest game: Sunless Skies. 

Taking place ten years after the events of Sunless Sea, Skies launches players into the High Wilderness of the stars on the wings of Queen Victoria’s imperial fleet. Following in Failbetter’s tradition of dark, chthonic steampunk worlds, Sunless Skies promises a rich narrative universe for players to explore and attempt to survive. This time space-farers will set their vessel a-sail in a ‘Victorian nightmare vision of outer space’, colonising star-systems, murdering suns, and evading cosmic abominations.

I say all this with certainty because Failbetter Games passed their kickstarter goal of £100,000 within just four hours of going live, and at the time of writing are 250% funded. Failbetter have a proven track record with Kickstarter projects, which funded both Sunless Sea and its DLC Zubmariner back in 2013. So Sunless Skies is now inevitably set in motion to release in 2018, with early-access coming to backers and non-backers alike this summer.

Of course, stretch goals are still up for those keen to unlock extra content and bag some pirate swag, but what’s been most interesting about this Kickstarter is Failbetter’s decision to offer secrets, elucidations, and future content in exchange for social goals. It’s a clever way to get free publicity and get fans involved at the same time, compelling fans who might not have the money to invest to take part instead by writing zee shanties, dressing up as characters, and baking Lovecraftian cakes to unlock goals.

Sunless Sea was on many people’s top games of the year in 2015 and it’s exciting to see that people want to see Failbetter keep doing what they do best – and if you’re a newcomer to the community who’s interested in some whimsical Gothic hijinks then I can happily recommend Fallen London as a free game available on browsers and app stores to get yourself started.

Bitter old sailors, meanwhile, will be pleased to hear that Failbetter intend to deal with the issues players had in Sunless Sea: namely problems with combat and slow, unchanging early game content which players who died repeatedly would have to slog through. Combat is being reworked and will be the subject of a future dev stream on Failbetter’s Twitch channel. While devs have confirmed that you will now be able to pass down items, ships and money to the unwise sailors who follow in your sunken legacy. Your choices in previous lives will also now have narrative persistence, meaning the places you visit may be permanently changed by the choices you make even in previous generations, and will come with shiny new consequences.

Finally, having reached the £200,000 stretch goal Failbetter have promised that smuggling will be coming to Sunless Skies. Trading will be more viable in Skies partly thanks to the new legacy allowances and partly due to new Prospects and Bargains systems allowing merchant vessels to set out in search of rare and rumoured opportunities or to hunt down lucrative deals. Overall I’m excited to see Failbetter expand the Fallen London universe into the bottomless skies, and am looking forward to finding out where this new journey takes us.


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September 2021
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