About this project
Sunless Skies is a 2D, top-down, story-led game of exploration, corruption and jeopardy from Failbetter Games. It’s the successor to our first game for PC, Sunless Sea, but you don’t need to know Sunless Sea to play and enjoy Sunless Skies.
It is the dawn of the 20th century, and London has taken to the stars! As the captain of a spacefaring locomotive you'll behold wonders and battle cosmic abominations in the furthest heavens. Stake your claim. Fight to survive. Speak to storms. Murder a sun. Face judgement.
Sunless Skies is set in the Fallen London Universe, a deep, dark and marvellous world that we’ve been creating for seven years. In our games, hand-crafted narrative and emergent gameplay create compelling stories for your character.
We launched Sunless Sea two years ago, after a successful Kickstarter and fruitful Early Access period. We were overwhelmed by the critical and community reception!
Our influences include the science fiction of H G Wells and C S Lewis, the planetary romances of Leigh Brackett, Art Nouveau and Planescape: Torment.
The rails fall away. The Wilderness is wide before us. "Where to?" asks the Navigator.
Sunless Skies tells the story of one possible future of the Fallen London Universe. Ten years have passed since Sunless Sea, and Queen Victoria has led an exodus from London to the heavens. There, a revitalised British Empire - ambitious and authoritarian - begins to expand across the skies.
Travel between distant ports, unravelling stories, bearing passengers and news, and trading in exotic celestial cargoes.
The High Wilderness is space, but not as we know it.
The stars are alive. They are the Judgements: vast intelligences that govern all things. But they are dying. One by one, something is snuffing them out, leaving their thrones empty. An opportunistic Victorian Empire is colonising the domains they leave behind, painting its industrial vision upon the fabric of the heavens.
Despite the deaths of stars, the Wilderness is not dark or empty. It is harried by strange winds, coiled with mists, and traversed by improbable beasts.
The Reach is, from London's perspective, the frontier: a vast territory of untamed wilderness ripe to explore, to colonise, and to exploit. Here, the Empire is opposed only by the uncompromising environment and a growing movement of independent settlers determined to rule themselves.
The Empire's interests are represented by the great trading companies: Murgatroyd's, The Windward Company, Leadbeater & Stainrod. They are well-armed and well-connected. The Independents are a quarrelsome coalition of pioneers. Some believe they need to unify into a new nation to resist London. Others think that's trading one master for another. Can this rag-tag assortment of rebels resist Her Majesty's attentions?
Your captain's actions could tip the precarious balance of the region. Will you run guns for the Independents? Or spies for the Empire? Choose wisely – your decisions will affect the fate of the region; not just for yourself, but for your future captains as well.
The heart of London's celestial empire, illuminated by the greatest feat of British engineering to date: a clockwork sun! While the cream of society enjoy tea in their salons and scandal in their newspapers, the wheels of British industry thunder.
The Empress Victoria reigns from her Throne of Hours, exerting authority over time itself. Her favourites are rewarded with freshly-minted months to prolong their lives, while those who displease her are condemned to the Midnight Cells, where every minute lasts a day, and no one leaves until their hair is white and their bones are bent.
New industries flourish. Unseasoned hours are mined in the Reach, then shipped to Albion to be refined on soot-choked workworlds. Casks of stamped and seasoned hours are then delivered to Her Majesty, to be dispensed at her pleasure.
The Windward Company maintains a stranglehold on the trade in hours; but a bold captain could make a tidy living running unlicensed hours to interested parties...
Port Prosper is the stronghold of the Windward Company and the terminus of the Isambard Line, London's railroad to the Reach. The Independents call it 'Little London' – it's a caricature of its mother-city: all twee tea-shops, doilied salons, and gaudy theatres.
Meanwhile, in its smoky factories, hours mined from the Mother of Mountains are distilled, stamped and shipped to Albion. A daring captain might want to visit to the Chairman of the Thoroughfares Committee, who offers bounties for ridding the skies of "pirates, smugglers, insurgents and undesirables." It is a generous remit.
In Sunless Skies, you will leave your mark on the universe, and be marked in return. When you are creating your captain, every decision is a story, and every story has a consequence.
Choose your origin: were you a cunning street urchin, a condemned scientist, or a starving poet? The first favours the skill of Veils, used to deceive and evade. The last increases the skill of Hearts, used to convince and endure.
Your decision will also affect your Affiliations: the circles you move in. Do you surround yourself with well-bred society? Or do you prefer the company of more honest villains?
Choose your Ambition and set your own victory condition for the game. Perhaps you want to retire to a life of luxury, or chart the farthest corners of the Wilderness. Perhaps you will not rest until you have won a throne of your own.
As you play the game, your progress through stories will be tracked in your journal, showing at-a-glance the steps you've taken and your next goal.
As your captain increases in power you'll choose new Facets. In addition to affecting your skills, each Facet reveals more about your past. Did you learn the importance of subtlety because of a Feud with your Mentor? Do you still bear the scars of the Battle of the Horizon?
Sometimes, your accomplishments in the game will unlock new Facets. Perhaps you will become the Hero of New Winchester, or a Bloody-Handed Murderer of Suns.
The vessel with which you'll brave the heavens is a (distant, more sophisticated) relative of the steam-powered locomotives that once thundered through the British countryside. Its plating protects you from the killing cold of the High Wilderness. Its engines devour the endless leagues of the sky.
Accumulate enough money, and you can buy a new vessel, something more attuned to your particular tastes. Something nimble, perhaps, that packs a punch? Or something built for distance, with plenty of cargo space?
Equip your vessel as you see fit. Would you benefit more from reinforced armour plating, or the additional manpower allowed by external crew pods? ("Soundproof! Cosy! Detachable!")
Recruit a gallery of unpredictable characters to crew your locomotive as First Officer, Chief Engineer, Signaller, or Surgeon. Each brings their own skills and stories to your adventures.
The Clay Conductor
"Excuse me. I must polish the brasses."
The clay men provide tireless, unacknowledged labour in countless factories. You saved this one from an eternity on the workworld, and now he seeks the Forge of Souls. "There is someone who does not exist. Therefore it is necessary to invent them."
The Incautious Driver
"It's tight, but I reckon we can make it."
Their steering is at best reckless, and at worst deranged. But they're still alive, and luck is a more precious virtue than caution, out here. How did they get the scar? "In Her Majesty's service" they say, and then speak no more.
The Fatalistic Signalman
"Should've turned left, there."
A clerical error consigned him to a distant signal-box on the Trevithick line. Unfortunately, the Trevithick line was never completed, and he spent years alone, drinking pots of Murgatroyd's tea and watching for trains that never came. But when the Wind of Words tore through his boxy home, what it said led him to abandon his duty. Now, he seeks passage to ever-further corners of the sky.
The High Wilderness is unconcerned with your tiny life and the lives of your crew. Your every foray into space is as precarious as a Polar expedition. You’ll need to balance your resources carefully and keep an eye on your crew’s Terror to avoid mutiny and death.
It is not safe in the skies. A captain will need to defend themselves against pirates, scorn-flukes, the Cyst of Faces, and worse.
Combat takes place in real time, and requires tactical positioning and planning. Fortunately, you have at your disposal an array of the finest locomotive-mounted weaponry Victorian ingenuity can devise.
Harry your enemies with a fusillade from the popular Caminus Yards 'Brassraven', or fire a round from the less reliable (but profoundly satisfying) Leadbeater & Stainrod 'Pachyderm'.
The pace of combat will remain measured and deliberate. It will be more viable for captains to outmanoeuvre their opponents for tactical advantage than it was in Sunless Sea, and there will be more scope for player skill.
We want combat to be challenging, but we know that means different things to different players. So we'll provide a range of settings to adjust its frequency and difficulty, meaning that players can customise the experience to be right for them.
Leviathans that dwell in the belly of the heavens. Usually, they are only glimpsed as sliding shapes – grand as mountain-ranges – in the fogs below. It is said that the suns have an ancient pact with them. That they are watchful. That they eat time.
They drift like manta rays through the mists. These are the survivors of the Pergamon Manse – a house of records, destroyed by treachery – and their gowns are stitched from the pages they managed to salvage. The spinsters can pry locomotives apart with their bronzewood fingers. They harbour a particular hatred for devils.
The skies are dangerous. Arriving at the major port in each region will save your game and your progress up to that point. If you set off to explore a new area and die before making port, you’ll be reset to the last major port you visited.
Choose to accept your death, and the map ahead will reshuffle for your new captain’s first voyage. Your next captain will continue the legacy, inheriting a portion of their predecessor's wealth and experience.
Be warned, though – a captain’s actions are not erased when they die. Unlike in Sunless Sea, not all stories reset for a new captain. Many of the effects you've had on the world are remembered, and the achievements and follies of your earlier captains may haunt those that follow.
We are delighted to be partnering with Gametee to create and deliver our physical rewards for Sunless Skies. We have a lot in common as independent British businesses, and we admire not just their design aesthetic, but their whole approach - from their remuneration of artists to their environmental policies. When looking for a partner, we were especially impressed with the quality of their products and the creativity of their designs.
Gametee's premium t-shirts are individually silk-screened in Great Britain. Inspired by the world of Sunless Skies, each tee is a limited edition collectible piece of wearable art, available exclusively in this campaign.
Printed using the finest quality non-toxic water based inks, the design is long lasting and soft to the touch. Included with every t-shirt is a selection of unique printed collectibles.
These t-shirts are the highest quality, lightweight and tailored in a unisex fit, and available in up to 3XL.
We’re delighted to be continuing our tradition of offering backers the naming rights to geographical features.
Crafted using the finest archival quality cardstock, each magnificent astral map measures 42cm X 59cm (16.5 X 23.4in) making them an exquisite companion piece for navigators. Included alongside the star chart will be a selection of unique collectibles and a hand-numbered certificate of authenticity commemorating your special investment in the campaign.
We've completed 25 social goals, unlocking all of the social rewards! Congratulations, everyone! Some rewards will follow during development, the rest are here for posterity.
- Here are three cups of Darkdrop Coffee for your Fallen London character
- We've released the Sunless Skies avatar generator as a stand-alone toy for you all
- Claim your free Judgemental Hat in Fallen London
Reward for 25 Social Goals: BLEMMIGANS!
Beloved, beaked, sentient mushrooms with a taste for the written word! You’ll recognise a Blemmigan by its delicate violet colour and desire to see the world - and possibly write poetry about it.
Your final social reward comprises three Blemmigans, who will become pets or companions in three games:
The Blemmigan Gallivanter, a mascot for Sunless Sea
My, what a keen little mushroom! Raring to go, and eager to see every soggy corner of the wide, wide zee. But is it too young to be a zailor? Because you're pretty sure it drew that moustache on itself with a pen.
The Blemmigan Tourist, a companion for Fallen London
Its adventuring days are behind it now, but this plucky mushroom can still enjoy a leisurely excursion. One with a sensible itinerary, and plenty of stops for cake.
The Blemmigan Voyager, a mascot for Sunless Skies
This grizzled Blemmigan has seen all the world can offer. It has been a warrior - a poet - a king. But it finds no pleasure now in war, nor words, nor reign. Only a final voyage remains; beyond the arch of the world, across the windy wastes of heaven. It does not mean to return.
This final social reward will be available to all players of Fallen London, Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies, at the earliest after Sunless Skies enters Early Access.
"TAKE NO ONE'S WORD FOR IT"
The once-moribund Royal Society of inventors, explorers, and scientists has received a generous grant from Her Enduring Majesty and a renewed mandate: to unravel the mysteries of the High Wilderness!
Invigorated, they established their new headquarters deep in the frontier. Were they eager to be at the forefront of new discovery? Or were they keen to be further from the Empire's control?
All five parts of the Royal Society port have been added to Sunless Skies thanks to your support! We've collected information about all five parts on the Failbetter blog.
Three new origins to choose for your captain! An origin determines your character's background, affects your initial skills, and unlocks a new Facet to take during character advancement.
A Zee-captain: Once, you zailed the Unterzee. From Old London to Irem; from Port Carnelian to the Avid Horizon. Why did you abandon the seafaring life? Because of a zee-god's curse? Or the promise of a new horizon?
A Revolutionary: You fought against oppression and the establishment. Feet on the cobbles. Slogans on the walls. Bricks through the windows. And when that failed, bombs in the night. Liberation!
An Auditor of the Ministry: The censors of the Ministry of Public Decency have a duty to protect Londoners from material of a distressing nature. For years you served, but were ejected in a purge. Were your detractors correct to accuse you of 'uncensorious sympathies'? Or were you the victim of Ministry politics?
Three legendary wrecks for your captain to discover, each a storied locomotive that met a tragic end. Will they contain treasures? Dangers? Or the answers to mysteries?
The Wreck of the Berrenger: an experimental vessel designed to protect its crew from sky-madness, the Berrenger strayed where it should not. Now, it has been converted into a secret lecture-hall, where masked revolutionaries gather, and argue, and plot.
The Wreck of the Parzifal: the Parzifal was Her Majesty's pride, the first locomotive constructed at the Avid Horizon. But despite the pomp surrounding her launch, she never returned from her maiden voyage. What grim fate did she meet?
The Wreck of the Boatman: London has no room for corpses. The Boatman was a necropolis train carrying (for the standard price of a first- or second-class ticket) the coffined bodies of the dead to a distant cemetery-world. The stories say the dead awoke, commandeered the train, and set course for more pleasant climes. Nonsense, of course.
Be a smuggler! Trade in an enticing assortment of contraband goods! Demand exorbitant prices! Discreetly elude the ungentle attentions of Her Majesty's Customs Service! Enjoy a life of exciting illegality and occasional bombardment!
Will you outfit your locomotive with hidden compartments in which you can safely stow a Collection of Ministry-Condemned Literature? Or will you brazenly carry Illicit barrels of Unmarked Hours in your hold, placing your faith in bluffs and bribes?
Players of Sunless Sea may recognise a key figure in the smuggling trade: the Blind Bruiser returns, with his earthy aphorism and propensity to egregious violence. His attempts to go straight have not been entirely successful.
A beast of brass and steam! A midnight miracle of hydraulics! Furnished in the most indulgent luxury, with carpet so thick you'll lose your toes in it, and mahogany as dark as the inside of a confessional.
Manufactured by refugees from Hell, the Moloch is an experimental engine available only at the Royal Society. Devils are no strangers to locomotive engineering - in Old London, trains departed Moloch Street Station for Hell with absolute punctuality. If a train was delayed, the damned were released, and the devils took their timekeeping seriously.
The Moloch is a new locomotive chassis for captains who believe in faring the stars in comfort and class.
Who's this, freshly arrived at the Avid Horizon? Why it's your Aunt, eager to see all the High Wilderness has to offer! A formidable woman whose only weakness is scones, she will undoubtedly get herself into no end of trouble if you don't keep an eye on her.
She served as a nurse during London's campaign against Hell in '68 ("back when I was just a slip of a gel"). Her will is iron; her needles are sharp; she is accustomed to running a well-ordered household. Perhaps she'd make a good quartermaster? You'd better like scones, though.
An Inconvenient Aunt is a new officer who will occupy your quartermaster slot, and comes with her own questline.
The Guests are recent arrivals to the High Wilderness. They keep to the skies, avoiding ports. Some say they are cunning; others that they are shy. Some say they are drawn to mirrors. Probably best to turn yours to the wall, just in case.
The Guests crave the particular warmth associated with places that have been lived-in - they like stoves, and keepsakes, and knicknacks. A wriggling colony of them will fill a locomotive like a snail fills its shell. Be careful. That Windward Company trader that refuses to answer your signal might be hosting a writhing community of Guests, growing ever-more frantic for a new home as theirs grows cold.
There is at least one more stretch goal after these, too, so let’s keep our upper lips stiff and momentum up!
This stretch goal adds an advanced Ambition to Sunless Skies. Ambitions are victory conditions you choose at the start of play. This one unlocks a tale of folly, obsession, and myth, aimed at players who enjoy mystery and ambiguity in their stories.
It is only a story told on windy nights, while the coals burn low in the engine and the stars wink upon their mantle:
A wounded king.
A wasted land.
Some say the cup holds life; others say grace; still others, poison.
A pretty romance! Only a fool would believe it. But fools do, of course. And invent elaborate, chivalrous rules to govern their pursuit of a quest that will lead them into ruin. It is the obsession of lunatics, captains-errant, and dreamers.
But what if...
Over the last few months, we've been developing our vision of Sunless Skies – drawing concept art, writing the lore, designing and prototyping gameplay. We think it's going to be something special and we're excited (gleeful, even) about making it. Before we enter production, we'd like to take the opportunity to confirm that this is also a game you want us to make, and to begin gathering feedback that will help us make the game better.
We're asking for £100 000, which is around what we raised for Sunless Sea. The game's actual budget is higher – £330 000. If this Kickstarter succeeds, we'll fund the difference ourselves, using the proceeds from Fallen London, Sunless Sea and Sunless Sea: Zubmariner.
All funds raised via the Kickstarter will go directly on game development, Kickstarter fees and fulfilling the physical rewards. Other costs, like marketing the finished game, will come from our other income.
Risks and challenges
We now have a lot of experience with the main technologies we'll be using to make Sunless Skies – Unity and StoryNexus, our in-house storytelling engine. We have a firm foundation in Sunless Sea, and will be able to draw on the lessons we've learned about open development. We've prototyped the riskiest elements of the design to prove feasibility over the last few months and carefully planned out production, so can be fairly confident in our timeline.
The biggest risk is that we'll decide to expand the scope of the game during early access, or budget more time than currently expected to address feedback or improve features (as we did with combat for Sunless Sea). This may delay the final release, but should also mean that the game ends up being bigger or better than currently planned.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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