Sun­less skies

Rails? Where we’re go­ing we don’t need rails…

Games Master - - Contents - Ian Even­den

The Vic­to­ri­ans explore space in fly­ing lo­co­mo­tives, and do not like what they find up there.

De­layed af­ter lay­offs at Fail­bet­ter Games, Sun­less Skies con­tin­ues to add new con­tent through Steam Early Ac­cess, the most re­cent up­date bring­ing a sec­ond re­gion to explore: Al­bion. Your fly­ing steam lo­co­mo­tive – sure to raise some eye­brows among train spot­ters – is the least strange thing to be found in these skies. Imag­ine some­one had tried to draw the Bri­tish Em­pire at its height, but taken the term ‘ex­ploded di­a­gram’ too lit­er­ally, and you’ve got Al­bion. You’re cer­tain to run into a fa­mous West­min­ster clock float­ing about in Sun­less Skies’ weird grav­ity-free world, but it’s the un­fa­mil­iar and the un­known that carve the heart of this nar­ra­tive/ sur­vival RPG.

Sun­less Skies, like Sun­less Seas be­fore it, is a game of ques­tions. Who are you? What do you want? What is the air­speed ve­loc­ity of an un­laden steam train? It then goes on to pro­vide an­swers, in some depth, as each choice you make builds a story around your cap­tain’s deeds. No ex­pla­na­tion is given for the shat­tered state of the world, nor how, shorn of the nec­es­sary mass to re­tain an at­mos­phere, life is able to con­tinue on the rocks, crys­tals, and gi­ant plants that make up the float­ing re­mains.

Lon­don calling

When fly­ing, a neat trick is the use of the lo­co­mo­tive’s head­light – if an ob­ject casts a shadow, it’s in the same plane as you. If it doesn’t, then it’s be­low you and can safely be crossed with­out a col­li­sion dam­ag­ing your hull. There’s more to pi­lot­ing a fly­ing train than avoid­ing dam­age, how­ever. You’re armed, but fir­ing gen­er­ates heat, and too much heat is a bad thing. Your loco runs on fuel and your crew on sup­plies, both of which must be hus­banded, while your crew’s fear must also be man­aged. The cold ter­rors of the High Wilder­ness – metal fish and swarms of bees are the least of your wor­ries – ex­tend to the amount of read­ing on of­fer, but it’s worth squint­ing slightly to draw in the ex­quis­ite ex­po­si­tion and char­ac­ter por­traits on of­fer. Much of the game is ex­plo­ration, plug­ging for­ward into the mists with an eye on your sup­plies, but the re­wards for new dis­cov­er­ies are am­ple.

The Clock­work Sun fills your crew with terror as you ap­proach it.

The set­tle­ment of Ti­ta­nia, built on a gi­ant plant, is look­ing for money to grow. At least they’re not ask­ing us to haul them a city’s worth of fer­tiliser.

Com­bat with other air­borne lo­co­mo­tives is a good way to gain cargo – or to lose your life. Who knew steam trains could be so de­mand­ing to drive?

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