Published on May 11th, 2020 | by Lyla Saudi
Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition Switch Review
Summary: Undercover the mysteries of the deep as you explore the Victorian-Gothic themed underworld of Fallen London. This 2D adventure is heavy on decision-making and heavy on the consequences as you navigate the dangers of the 'Unterzee'.
This game opens with the following words: “The sea has never been friendly to man… Explore. Take risks. Your first captain will probably die. Later captains may succeed.” These act no so much as a warning for players, but instead a statement of fact and a promise of things to come…
“Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition” is the sequel to the crowdfunded “Sunless Sea”. By Failbetter Games, this ‘rogue-like’ game incorporates text-based gameplay elements, procedurally created maps, and perma-death to provide a ‘dungeons and dragons’ style experience for Nintendo Switch gamers.
For experienced fans of ‘rogue-likes’, there is a lot to enjoy. The world is fascinating and worthy of complete exploration, the text is rich, the graphics are eerie, the pace of the game is methodical, and the journey is ultimately rewarding. For those new to this game style, be prepared for a complex, mainly text-based game, played at a very slow pace, designed to test your patience. With limited instructions you have to build your understanding of the world through experience, exploration, failure, death and repetition.
The gameplay is for the detail orientated amongst us. Built on the slow and methodical exploration of the ports and islands across, and under, the sea. Each port offers new options to trade and provides another detailed layer of stories. The lore is rich and detailed presented in the form of a text based decision-making adventure. Text is presented in your ‘log-book’, which I wish was at times larger on the screen to make the text easier to read. A commitment to the game is demanded for success as you sift through detailed text-based information for a clue on where to go next. The continual threat of death and restarting your exploration puts a weight on every decision you make, creating an immersive experience, which could also be described as frustrating.
The dark, glowing green graphics set the scene for this dangerous adventure. The ink black corners of the screen are barely lit with your weak searchlight from your boat, providing a constant reminder of the mystery and danger that lurks off screen. The dark depths unlocked by your ‘zubmarine’ thrive on this low-light setting, as the underwater mystery slowly reveals itself. While effective in helping to set the gothic and mysterious scene, the 2D graphics are only simple. Accompanied by a gentle music backing track, neither the graphics nor the soundtrack are the highlight of the game but do their job to set the scene and let the story and mystery take center stage.
The game is ultimately hostile, with no hint of handholding as you search blindly through the dark. The allocation of your precious resources will define whether each trip from home is one that allows you return with tales from the deep, or the last time you will be seen or heard from. The game can be completed in a variety of ways depending on your style choice; Trade goods, loot and plunder, search for buried treasure, the choice of how you explore the depths is yours.
This ‘rogue-like’ gaming experience is rewarding for those who are fans of this methodical genre. It is slow, patient game, built on the acquisition of knowledge and resources to uncover the mysteries of the deep. It appeals to a certain type of gamer, one who embraces the challenge and has the patience to explore the lore which is waiting for you. The persistent darkness sets the scene of mystery and the ever-looming threat of perma-death has your every decisions loaded with implications.