Explore a vast underground ocean in your customised steamship! A PC & Mac game in glorious 2D from the creators of Fallen London. Read more
This project was successfully funded on October 3, 2013.
About this project
Trade in silk and souls. Battle sea-beasts, pirates, sentient coral. Explore a map that changes every time you play. Discover islands. Establish staging posts. Win fame as a navigator. Learn the stories of your crew: assist them, seduce them or consume them as you see fit.
Sunless Sea is a game of exploration, survival and loneliness set in the award-winning Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London. Take the helm of your customised steamship and set sail for the unknown! Light and darkness are your greatest allies, but a stout set of cannon and a gunnery officer with a grudge will come in useful too.
And Sunless Sea is a game of stories; the dark pasts of your crew, the hidden coves of the soul-smugglers, the tentacled nemesis that you chased from Hunter’s Keep to the shores of the Elder Continent.
Your choices will determine the events of every game. Will you return to Fallen London with a hold full of loot or succumb to madness and cannibalism on the black waters? Will you free the colonies of the Carnelian Coast, or keep them in the Empire’s grip? Will you betray your father’s legacy or reclaim it?
You are the captain. It’s your call.
"Thirty years ago, London was stolen. Now it rests on the shore of the Unterzee, that old dark ocean under the world. Hell is close, immortality is cheap, and the screaming has largely stopped. Steamships ply all the wild black zee, between the Iron Republic and the Elder Continent, between Hunter's Keep and the Travertine Spiral and the Dawn Machine. Welcome. Delicious friend."
Sunless Sea is set in the same universe as Fallen London, our award-winning browser game. Fallen London (formerly Echo Bazaar) is a dark and hilarious Victorian-Gothic underworld, where every choice has a consequence, from the style of your hat to the price of your soul.
“Superlative... every bit as vividly drawn as the worlds built by Rockstar in Red Dead Redemption, or Irrational in Bioshock, or Supergiant in Bastion.” -Tom Chick
“Dripping with lore, obscure and refreshingly odd... the word-forging and world-building are quite brilliant.” - Rock, Paper, Shotgun
“A complex web of short stories and deliciously moist slices of fiction.” - PC Gamer
"This is hands-down one of the best browser games we've ever played." - Gamezebo
Sunless Sea will combine the choice-based storytelling style of Fallen London with real-time exploration of a dark and threatening ocean.
Choose your ship, name your captain, and leave the bustle of the docks for the wild and lightless depths of the Unterzee. Some areas, like Fallen London itself, are fixed and will always appear where you expect them. But once you get beyond the trade lanes, the Sunless Sea is unexplored, and the map will change every time you play. One time you might encounter a corsair's village in a forest of stalagmites, another you might come face to face with the vicious war trimarans of the New Khanate or the golden agents of the Dawn Machine.
Your ship controls like a steamship, with a rudder for steering and an engine telegraph to control speed. Fuel and supplies are finite resources. Running out of either may leave you in terrible peril.
Explore and survive. Grow strong and wise and rich and feared. With luck and skill you may achieve an endgame goal: find your father's legacy, found a pirate princedom or sail beyond the Unterzee into the strangeness at time's heart.
Recruit officers on your travels - some are familiar faces from Fallen London, some are new. Officers provide bonuses to your ship's stats - Iron, Veils, Mirrors, Hearts and Pages - but more importantly they're a source of stories. Get to know your First Officer and she might share the co-ordinates of a secret smugglers' cove stuffed with drowning-pearls. Feed your ship's cat a moonish sprat and it may begin to glow in the dark. Invite your surgeon to dinner in your cabin and... well, who knows?
Combat occurs in (pauseable) real time, with abilities on a cooldown. You and your opponent each have an array of abilities for defence, damage, healing and trickery. Your Iron stat allows you to attack; your Mirrors stat allows you to Illuminate your enemy, leaving them vulnerable; your Veils stat hides you from your enemy's Illumination; Hearts and Pages allow for healing, drugs, trickery, diplomacy. Your Officers enhance all these, so equipping the right Officers may unlock further abilities.
Once again, light and dark are key. Begin a battle with your enemy in your prow-light to have them begin the battle Illuminated, or turn your lights off to ensure your own Illumination starts low.
As your stats rise, and as you purchase new equipment for your ship, the number and power of your abilities will grow. Begin with a Splinter-Salvo and Evasive Manoeuvres: aspire to the Rarefaction Cannon and the terrifying Unclear Bomb...
"We went dark: we extinguished the prow-light, even the running-lights. We stalked the Pirate-Poet, the lap of the waves on our hull and the the soft throbbing of our engines the only hint of our presence. Her lookout heard them at the last."
The Unterzee is a realm of sombre beauty. The false-stars in the cavern roof glimmer: the lamps of the cities below answer them. It is always night. See the shapes of islands loom through the gloom, the distant glows that might be phosphorescent seaweed or running-lights or the eyes of monsters, and turn to pursue or avoid. You'll turn up your lights to see farthest, or let them sink low to escape detection... or to become the hunter.
Like everything else in Sunless Sea, light has its cost. Turn your light to its highest setting and you'll see farthest; but not only will you alert more monsters, you'll burn through your fuel faster, and risk leaving yourself adrift at the mercy of the tideless black.
"So here you are, boilers stoked, hold awash with chittering crab-things. Your scarred first officer pipes a melancholy tune. Your ship's surgeon strops her razors to a hearty stropping-song. Phosphorescent tentacles uncoil in dark waters. Cast off. Don't look back."
Every foray out from London may end in shipwreck. Stay among the near isles, where the seas are known and the rewards are small, and you'll be fine if you're careful. As you head farther out, you'll need to balance your remaining supplies against the tantalising possibilities lying just out of reach, and the lurking dangers. If you want to cross the Unterzee and explore the unknown ports there, you'll need to find staging posts and safe routes - perhaps use ocean currents to speed your progress and make best use of your provisions.
"We broke into the galley today and found appalling things: corpse-candles, graven images, and the mortal remains of Able Seaman Ayrton, rendered partially to stock. The wretched cook would only cackle: You liked him better salted..."
Keep your crew's Hunger low with Supplies; keep their Terror low by limiting their exposure to horrors, allowing them shore leave, encountering wonders. If Hunger and Terror rise too high, the fun begins: stories of quarrels, despair, nightmares, madness, cannibalism and mutiny. Too much of this, and you'll lose your crew, your captain and your ship.
"We sighted Mt Nomad again today, still afloat but listing, her dark glass flanks scored and pitted from the cannon-fire in our previous encounter. This will be the last battle. This monster has harrowed the seas too long."
You'll meet pirates, monsters, ill-tempered customs officers, many of them interchangeable. But some of your enemies will flee from you, to change and grow as part of a larger arc until you can finally hunt them down. Perhaps they'll become your obsession: perhaps you'll risk everything to end them.
Everything in Sunless Sea counts towards your personal story. We're using an offline version of our award-winning StoryNexus engine from Fallen London to build and recombine chunks of story, giving you a non-linear, choice-heavy, personalised experience. It'll take dozens of games to explore all the sub-plots, grand arcs, alternatives, mysteries, relationships and romances in the game.
"This is the day I finally listened to my dreams. I climbed the ladder to the attic. The box was there in the farthest corner. In the dream I had opened it and the crows had poured out like a black fog, but of course that was nonsense... there was nothing in there but the map, and the lamp. And my father's sword."
The Unterzee eats ships and their captains. Your character will die (or disappear, or lose her mind, or be hollowed out and filled with candle-wax and haunt a cliff-top chapel)... but their legacy may survive. Your next character may be a daughter, a student, or just someone who found an old ship's log in a curiosity shop. The risk of death remains, but that sting of frustration that makes you rage-uninstall will be lessened. You'll build up your own story across generations of zailors who braved the Unterzee and lost - or won...
As an Unterzee captain, you’re not limited to one role. You can be a privateer and a merchant, but also an explorer and a scientist – as much Charles Darwin as Francis Drake. Consequently, the riches of the Neath are more than mushroom-brandy, spider-silk, drowning-pearls. Those riches are also charts, secrets, journal entries, and the world’s hastiest and most terrified sketch of the Bound Shark. And you’re going to need riches – not just to improve your ship, but to cover the cost of supplies and fuel and repairs. That’s part of the ‘survival’ element. And Sunless Sea being the story-driven game it is, you don’t know when your hold might be more exciting than you’d expected. If you carry zoological specimens from a Benthic College encampment, they might escape. If you carry sealed shipments from Hell, will you risk cracking them open to unravel their secrets?
There’s more to the Unterzee than the surface. Travel beneath the waves and wax-winds or descend to the sea-bottom in a zubmarine; or keep your surface-ship, but send landing parties in diving-suits down below. Explore coral colonies, the Fluke-Legions, and the Drowning Feast.
This stretch goal adds submarines, or more correctly, zubmarines. We’ll peel away the surface layer of the Unterzee and let you manoeuvre and explore in the depths. It’s darker down here, but the rewards can be great. Of course, you’ve just exchanged the more familiar perils of the surface for the misbred, pale-skinned, bulging-eyed vileness of the sea-floor…
If we achieve this goal, we expect to deliver it as an expansion to the main game at the end of the third quarter of 2014. Anyone backing Sunless Sea at the Zailor (£10) level or above will get the expansion free of charge.
Dirigibles are expensive. But they’re fun. The fuel will cost you, but you can travel above the sea in safety. Well, mostly safety: there’s the feral bat-flocks, the moon-misers, the blood-stealing Mosquito Zeppelins …
With this stretch goal, we’ll add Dirigibles to allow you to explore the roof of the Neath – the vast cavern that contains the Unterzee. Fuel keeps range short, so this won’t spoil the fun of exploring the far archipelagoes, but the roof has its own dangers and its own rewards. Buzz New Newgate prison. Gather glim from the carapaces of creatures from outside the sky. Refuel at the stalagmite-citadels of the Starved Men: assist them in their desperate battles against the infection overtaking the roof…
If we achieve this goal, we expect to deliver it as an expansion to the main game at the end of the fourth quarter of 2014. Anyone backing Sunless Sea at the Zailor (£10) level or above will get the expansion free of charge.
Want to know more about Sunless Sea? Visit sunlessseagame.com
Risks and challenges
We've been a team for four years, making a careful living on spending small resources wisely. We're best known for interactive stories, but we have a working Sunless Sea prototype, we're devoting two full-time software engineers to the project, and Unity has really opened up possibilities for indie development. You can see how far we've already got in the video above.
Besides the award-winning Fallen London, we've delivered four major projects, including one previous successful Kickstarter (Machine Cares, Night Circus, the Black Crown Project and Silver Tree), on time and within budget.
And this is an extension of Fallen London - our passion-project, the world we've been building for four years. You've seen the stories we can tell in London itself. Let's take it out into the world.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Second quarter of 2014 - if we get funded! You saw those pledge rewards, didn't you? Kickstarter backers at Explorer level and above will get early access to the beta, though.
Windows and Mac.
NB that when we said 'a digital copy of the game for your preferred platform (PC or Mac)' we should have said 'PC and/or Mac'. All the distribution channels we're considering will allow you to download either or both as you prefer.
We want to distribute SS on as many platforms as possible. But because support issues may be more complicated, and we're a small team developing on Windows, we can't make Linux part of our formal Kickstarter commitment. Unity makes it possible, but not straightforward.
We hope to release an unsupported alpha Linux build to early access backers, and an experimental beta Linux build at project completion - but the Windows and Mac release - as our commitment to backers - have priority.
So, Linux users, we'd like your pledge! but the most honest answer I can give is 'we'll certainly try'.
Nope! It's pay up front, download, play the whole game. We want to offer both free and paid content updates through StoryNexus, but that’s connect-and-download, not always-online.
Yes: name, cameo, gender (including our traditional ‘Neither of the Above’ option) and background (street urchin? dilettante poet? veteran of the invasion of Hell?)
Yes! Though when you buy a new ship, it'll come with a name of its own. Possibly even a history. You'll be able to fit new lights and instrumentation; upgrade the engines; add weapons. And recruit and train the most savage and daring cast of characters ever to walk a ship's deck.
Emphatically not. The more you’re invested in the universe, the more you’ll get out of it, but our approach to story has always been to reveal the world one delicious fragment at a time.
Not directly, though you can carry across some non-core choices and stories. As above, we want to ensure that it isn't necessary to play Fallen London to enjoy Sunless Sea. We’ve gone into much more detail on this here: http://sunlessseagame.com/importing-fl-characters/
We're offering pledge gifting with add-ons. If you increase your pledge level by the cost of another pledge level, you can then gift the second pledge level to a friend - for instance, if you pledge the £500 Officer's Pack and increase your pledge by £100, you can gift two Corsair's Packs or a Pathfinder's Pack. We will send out a survey that will allow you to specify the recipients of any gift-pledges. However to avoid spiralling into an administrative nightmare, you can only gift rewards at £50 and up.
If I pick one of the creative-input options - design a monster, design an island - what kind of limits are there?
The usual disclaimer for KS applies - we reserve the right of veto in case someone tries to add a flesh-eating MIckey Mouse or a genitalia-monster or something. We'll work with you to find something that fits the game.
Kickstarter don't offer PayPal. but! If we get funded before the deadline, we will offer an option to pledge via our Fallen London currency - which you can buy with PayPal (and other payment methods). We daren't do that until we pass 60K, though, because it would be disastrous to miss the funding threshold because people are supporting us outside Kickstarter.
It would be a shame to rule it out for people who never heard of the KS - but we want to reward our backers properly. So we will only offer it (i) a minimum of six months after delivery to backers (ii) at a higher price than the pledge level that allows it.
Pledge £1 or more
The Able Seaman: Thanks for supporting Sunless Sea! This base-level pledge earns you a place in the game's credits, and our undying gratitude.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £10 or more
The Zailor’s Pack: A DRM-free digital copy of the game for your preferred platform (PC or Mac) as soon as it is released; your name in the credits; and a digital map of the known Unterzee to adorn your desktop while you play.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £15 or more
The Daguerreotypist’s Pack: DRM-free digital copy of the game, desktop wallpaper of the known Unterzee, your name in the credits, and a PDF booklet featuring concept art, game lore and tips for successful adventuring.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £20 or more
The Explorer’s Pack: All previous rewards, plus exclusive access to the closed beta of Sunless Sea, the moment it's in beta shape. Your feedback will help to shape the final game! (March is estimated beta delivery.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge £30 or more
The Pantherine Pack: All previous rewards, plus
a unique in-game ship’s pet: the deadly Parabolan Panther, scourge of ratty stowaways! If you’re a Fallen London player, you get the Parabolan Panther in your game too!Estimated delivery:
Pledge £50 or more
The Corsair’s Pack: All previous rewards (yes, including the panther), plus a unique enemy in Sunless Sea: the Pirate Poet! Backers also get
exclusive Fallen London content: The Museum of Mistakes - explore the Dadd Wing.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £80 or more
The Navigator Pack: All previous rewards, plus a unique ship: The Cladery Heart, a vessel with a dark history. The Navigator Pack also includes exclusive Fallen London content: Uncover the tale of the Cladery Heart and the Surgeon’s Child.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £100 or more
The Pathfinder’s Pack: All previous rewards, plus: a high quality matt-laminated A2 poster featuring a map of the Unterzee. And there's more: we will name a geographical feature in the game after you! This might be a bluff or a lonely outcrop, a group of stalagmites, a port, or even a deadly whirlpool.
*This pledge level also includes an extra downloadable copy of Sunless Sea to share with a friend.*Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £500 or more
5 backers Limited (10 left of 15)
The Officer’s Pack: All previous rewards, plus your face in Sunless Sea! Our artist will create a character (crew, pirate, mysterious stranger...) based on your likeness. The resulting character will appear in both Sunless Sea and Fallen London! We’ll also send you a high quality A4 print of the you-based character. *Like the previous level, this includes one downloadable copy of Sunless Sea to share with a friend.*Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £1,000 or more
1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)
The Monster Pack: All previous rewards, plus you get to create a Sea Monster! Monster backers will work with Failbetter’s artist to design and name a creature from the blackest depths of the Unterzee that will menace Sunless Sea players. We’ll also send you a high quality A4 print of your monster. *This pledge level also includes two extra copies of Sunless Sea - one more than the previous level.*Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £2,000 or more
3 backers Limited (2 left of 5)
The Pioneer’s Pack: Every single other reward on this list. All of them. And leave your mark in the world: design an island! Work with the Failbetter team to design a unique location in the game, with its own history and narrative. This can bear your name if you like (e.g., Smith's Landing). *Like the previous level, this includes two downloadable copies of Sunless Sea to share with friends.*Estimated delivery:
- (30 days)