Fallen London – Sailing the Sunless Sea

A while back I made a couple of posts talking about Fallen London, a story-based game set in a world where the city of London was stolen by bats around the year 1862 and carried into a gigantic cavern beneath the Earth known as the Neath. The game takes place about 30 years later. London is still the capital of the British Empire but now it’s just down the river from Hell. Don’t worry, the devils are civilized; they even have an embassy in London now. They still want souls, of course, but they’re quite happy to pay good money for them.

The reason for the theft of London (Did I say “theft”? Sorry, I didn’t mean that. There was no theft. Everything is well and will continue to be well.) is that it is now the home of the Echo Bazaar. It is the fifth city to host the Bazaar.

I won’t go into any more details except to say that Fallen London features some absolutely amazing and evocative writing. There are hundreds of thousands of words of text and the game still has secrets that I haven’t discovered.

Part of the setting is the Underzee; a vast subterranean ocean that fills most of the Neath. There are other cities and even empires out across the Underzee; the Tomb Colonies, the Khanate, the Iron Republic and others. Some of these you can visit in Fallen London while others are just mentioned.

Last year Failbetter Games ran a Kickstarter for a game called Sunless Sea, a game of exploration and trade where you play a ship captain out to make your fame and fortune on the Underzee. Sunless Sea is now out in Early Access.

If you’ve spent any time at Zee in Fallen London then you’ll recognize a lot of places. You start at the Wolfstack docks and your first few visits will be to places that are familiar; Mutton Island, Hunter’s Keep, the Tomb Colonies and the like. There are new places as well. For example, I’ve been out to Mount Palmerston where a group of devils and devilesses who were cast out of Hell after a failed rebellion have settled. They’re looking for souls, of course.

You start off with a small freighter and a very limited amount of Echoes (the currency of Fallen London). You have to hire crew and officers and buy upgrades for your ship (or even larger, more capable vessels) but initially you will have trouble getting enough Echoes to cover fuel and provisions for your crew.

It definitely feels like Fallen London. When you first start out your best way to gain Echoes is to ferry Tomb-Colonists up to Venderbight. You can make a little more money if you buy Prisoner’s Honey in London and sell it in Venderbight. You can buy Spider Silk for the return trip. You can also sell news from London in other ports and bring “Port Reports” back to the Admiralty in London for cash.

And there are stories attached to everything. Get to Venderbight and you get the option to explore. You may find a Temple. Do you pray, make a donation or simply leave? Or, you might come across a crewmember wanting to join your crew. They want to set up an idol to a god of the Neath. Do you let them? All of the stories have various effects. You can also find stories by talking to your officers or by having them occur randomly as you explore.

There are dangers on the sea. You can run into creatures, pirates or even warships from other nations but the main dangers are shortages of supplies and “terror”. You have to buy fuel and provisions for your ship. If you run out of provisions your crew starts starving and surprisingly rapidly turns to cannibalism.

Terror results from events (like one where I found a Snuffler among my crew) or from simply being out in the darkness away from port. When your terror gets too high bad things start happening (like having your crew start throwing themselves overboard). You can reduce Terror by carousing and the like, but that costs Echoes. (You can avoid Terror early on by hugging the shoreline and thus staying in the light but you don’t make a lot of Echoes that way.)

Darkness also affects combat. You have to illuminate or otherwise find your opponent before you can attack them. They’re trying to do the same to you.

It is a roguelike so when you die you start over. They do have a mechanic that allows you to pass on a “legacy” from one character to the next. The portions of the map beyond the immediate vicinity of London will eventually be randomized but at the moment it is fixed (to make it easier to test).

At the moment it is still very obviously a beta. It works for the most part but a lot of it is just placeholders at the moment. Also only a few of the storylets are in place. But there’s enough here to make me look forward to the full game.

And feel free to friend me up in Fallen London. I’m PaleoGamer over there.

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