Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Failbetter Games has released Wayfarer, the first major content update (not expansion) to Sunless Skies. I've been mildly obsessed with that game this year, and this was a great excuse to dive back in again after a break. I was originally planning to do a single post with my thoughts on both the update and my final ambition, The Truth, but that ambition is proving to take a while (which is good! it's a nice and meaty story), so I thought I'd drop in a quick post on the updates.

The most obvious change has been the complete redesign of Albion. At launch, this was by far the largest of the four regions of the game, and it had a very different feel: vast, open, quiet. There were very few obstacles so most voyages were fairly straightforward, straight-line journeys from A to B. Perhaps because it was so spread out, I also very rarely encountered enemies, and so as a whole Albion felt like the safest region in the game, even if technically the Reach enemies are weaker.

I was a little skeptical of the overhaul; based on the description, it sounded similar to their previous redesign of The Reach, and I thought Albion would end up feeling too similar to the other regions in the game and lose its uniqueness. After spending some time in it, though, I'm finding that I like it more than before. There are more obstacles, but navigation feels fundamentally different than in the other places: it isn't a maze like the Reach or littered with islands like Eleutheria. Instead, there are swooping curves that delineate inner regions but don't impede progress inside. So you still get these big pockets of wide-open space inside, but you need to more carefully plan your route in advance, because those walls can extend for quite a ways. (The one part I heartily dislike is the new area around the Royal Society, which is extremely obnoxious to reach, almost as bad as Hybras in The Reach.) Overall, voyages are a bit shorter and significantly more interesting than they used to be.

Maybe even more important than the mechanics of navigation, though, the overall look of Albion has drastically changed. I didn't have any issues with its original presentation, but the update looks gorgeous with a really stunning bronze palette. I think it's also the most alive-looking region now, with tons of subtle or obvious animations scattered around. London itself now feels incredibly alive, with lots of background engines chugging away on a lower plane.

The other major change was the tweaking of the Terror settings, basically making Terror rise faster and becoming a little harder to reduce. I'm really liking this change so far, since Terror is actually something I now need to think about. Before now, the only time I ever worried about Terror was when I was trying to deliberately raise it high enough to craft the Wrath of Heaven - which proved very hard! Otherwise, just sailing around and playing the freebie storylets was always sufficient to keep me well in the safety zone without ever needing to do anything in particular. With the update, I'm starting to care about terror and incorporating that into my planning: keeping an eye on the meter and periodically swinging by Achlys or the Mausoleum or Magdalene's as needed. One caveat: I'm still on my first Legacy so I have a ton of resources available to burn, I am curious if the changes would feel too punishing for a new Captain, but hopefully the first-time station-discovery dispensations would help with that.

Let's see, what else... the interactable Wonders and Horrors are cool, I've only visited a few yet but so far they've been interesting, had good lore, possibly some choices, and rewards that feel worthwhile but not unbalanced.

I kind of like the idea of giving shore leave to officers, but I doubt I'll ever do it. Why on earth would I get rid of the one and only Quartermaster I have? Even temporarily? Even for First Officers or Engineers, the ability to swap in +10 for a stat and +2 for an affiliation on demand is way more valuable than any item or Sovereign generation.

I think that's it. So far I haven't run into any of the new God stories or dealt with after-battle consequences. If those things do happen in the future, I'll include 'em in my upcoming report on The Truth!

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