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Video Game: Sunless Sea
Explore an underground ocean. Battle sea monsters. Discover strange lands. Go insane. Eat your crew.

Sunless Sea is a Role-Playing Game from Failbetter Games, the creators of Fallen London, following a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Set in the Fallen London universe, the game casts the player as the captain of a steamship, exploring the Unterzee - the colossal, largely uncharted underground lake that surrounds the sunken city. Noted influences include roguelikes with action elements, like FTL: Faster Than Light and Don't Starve; Wide Open Sandbox exploration and trading games like Sid Meierís Pirates!, Elite and Taipan; The Crimson Permanent Assurance; and immrama.

The game is current available as an Early Access release through Humble Bundle and Steam, with full release scheduled for September 2014. An expansion pack allowing underwater exploration will follow soon after release.


This game contains examples of:

  • Alien Sea: The Neath does not follow all of the same physical laws as the Surface, and its zee is coloured between black and green.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: It might not pay so well as exploring distant kingdoms or hunting pirates, but most captains will spend at least some time ferrying goods and passengers between ports.
  • Ascended Meme: Ratsending. One player began using Fallen London's basic gifting system to send the lead dev thousands of rats. The mythos of transported rats expanded by degrees; a Pneumatic Ratsender is now available as a ship component.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Your ship's stats are all named for Fallen London's mysterious rulers, the Masters of the Bazaar - Iron for attacks, Mirrors for observation and illumination, Veils for speed and concealment, Hearts for healing and morale, Pages for knowledge and diplomacy.
  • Church Militant: Abbey Rock, the coastal convent-fortress of the martial Sisterhood, and Godfall, home to the boisterous pirate-monks who follow the ways of "St Stalagmite."
  • City on the Water: The New Khanate's cities are variations on this style: Khan's Heart and Khan's Glory form a stately City of Canals on a series of artificial islands, while the other side of the Enemy Civil War, Khan's Shadow, is a colossal assemblage of ships roped together.
  • Contest Winner Cameo: A number of Kickstarter backers appear in-game as crew, secondary characters, and the names of geographical features.
  • Cool Boat: Several, including the trimarans of the New Khanate; the partly-organic Cladery Heart; the submarine Irrepressible, with its irrigo-cannon and breakfast-pit; and the dreaded Tree of Ages, crewed by giant spiders.
  • Darkness Equals Death: In a similar system to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, extinguishing your ship's lights can help you hide from enemies and creep past zee-monsters without waking them, but the darkness prevents you from navigating or seeing foes clearly and drains your crew's Sanity Meter.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Several recruitable officers first appeared as Hallowmas visitors in Fallen London.
  • Final Death Mode: Unforgiving Mode only allows a single save, which is automatically overwritten upon death.
  • Flare Gun: Flares are heavily used in naval combat - not as weapons, but to light up the enemy and allow a ship's gunners to aim.
  • Fragile Speedster: Cutters are the smallest, lightest and least well-armoured ships available - which makes them terribly fast.
  • Fungus Humongous: One of the major life forms of the Neath. The Iron & Misery Company have a station on Demeaux Island dedicated to harvesting them.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The dreaded Angler Crab, which is bigger than a ship.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Leadbeater & Stainrod are the Neath's largest, cheapest, least reliable provider of ships, ship components and ship repairs. It's entirely possible that they actually want you to drown.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Always a risk when lost at sea, with limited supplies and a cook who's going quietly insane.
  • The Law Firm of Pun, Pun, and Wordplay: Many firms in the naval industry have such names; Cotterell & Hathersage, Leadbeater & Stainrod, Iron & Misery Company, Soothe & Cooper...
  • Literary Allusion Title: To Kubla Khan. Doubly appropriate, as Xanadu is of established importance in the setting's lore.
  • Living Ship: The Cladery Heart, a colossal, living heart, clad in iron and set to sea.
  • Macrogame: When a game ends, the player can begin a new game with their previous captain's maps, one of their officers, or a boost to one of their skills. Wealthy captains can also write a will, allowing their house and some of their wealth to be passed on.
  • Mad Artist: The Set, a group of highly eccentric and vicious artist-pirates.
  • The Mutiny: A ship's crew may mutiny against their captain if Terror grows too high. If they can't be talked down or beaten down, game over.
  • Nautical Folklore: Zailors are superstitious folk, and it's a foolhardy captain who neglects their traditions. Harming zee-bats is unlucky, stones falling from the roof are unlucky, smooth black water is unlucky, asking questions about pigs is unlucky...
  • Ocean Madness: It has less to do with the fact that the zee is inherently maddening and more to do with the fact that it is dark, monster-infested, and prone to rearranging itself, but Terror will be your constant sanity-draining bane,
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: As is standard in Failbetter games, the Player Character can be male, female, or fit any of a number of other descriptors, without limiting their stats or even their portrait.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: Aside from major ports like London itself, the map is randomised for each game. Referred to as Alteration by the Lodoners, and it's understandably something newsworthy whenever it occurs.
  • Real Time with Pause: Combat plays out in pauseable real time.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: Fuel and supplies are necessary to run the ship and maintain the crew, and their use and conservation must be balanced.
  • Sanity Meter: The Terror and Hunger stats track the crew's mood. An unhappy crew is at greater risk of going mad and eating each other.
  • Shout-Out: The schematics for the Irrepressible include mention of protective measures "to guard against the bites of sharks".
  • Silent Running Mode: Useful for evading enemy ships and slumbering zee-monsters - unfortunately, it requires cutting the lights, and Darkness Equals Death.
  • Submarine Pirates: The Pianolist, one of The Set and captain of the Irrepressible.
  • That's No Moon: Lifebergs and Mt. Nomad look like bits of island. They are not. What they are is hungry.
  • Turtle Island: The Chelonate, a city built on the floating carcass of a colossal turtle. Its inhabitants subsist largely on the the products of the zee - they wear sharks' skin and drink their blood.
  • Volcano Lair: Mount Palmerston, the hiding-place of Hell's exiled royals.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The ships are iron with hearts of steam, but the vast, dangerous and largely unexplored Unterzee is a setting much more like the Age of Sail.
  • Wretched Hive: Corsairsí Forest, a "treacherous region of rogues and scoundrels", built on the sides of stalagmites.

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