Sunless Skies PC review | A superb RPG takes flight

Failbetter’s latest fantasy adventure title really shines. Our review of the narratively perfect Sunless Skies…


Nobody does game worlds like Failbetter. Fallen London and Sunless Sea are masterclasses in making settings that are dense, detailed and unique without ever needlessly falling into cliché. The atmospheric, gorgeously realised Gothic Victorian adventures never let up, cementing the studio as a leader in game narrative. It should be no surprise that Sunless Skies is yet another example of sublime writing in a fascinating setting, but it’s also a streamlined, more approachable title, too.

Following London’s escape from deep underground, Queen Victoria has defeated the sun and achieved immortality, spreading her empire throughout the stars. Picking your own backstory, ranging from academic to street urchin, you are the conductor of a flying train in the vast expanse of the skies. Through careful resource management, you’re tasked with exploring this bizarre world of clockwork suns and time fissures, and the more human issues of war and labour rights.

It’s in these many stories where Sunless Skies truly shines. It’s more enjoyable when the combat difficulty and resource usage are turned all the way down to their easiest settings to let you get out into the Skies unimpeded. One moment you’re on an expedition into the abandoned tourist centre in the middle of an artificial star, the next you’re picking up a Devil desperate for escape from the nearest port. It’s like Jules Verne distilled into a game – a celebration of adventure in all its weird, wonderful and horrific forms.

Storytelling aside, the details of commanding your train are slightly simplified from Sunless Sea. The world is split into multiple regions now, rather than the singular, massive Unterzee of Sunless Sea, making managing your resources easier. Permadeath still plays a big role, too, but it’s more forgiving as some money, items and the map you painstakingly developed over your previous runs are passed down from one ill-fated captain to the next. This helps the game break free from its starting area a lot quicker, while also making a new run feel like a continuation of a storied history and less like just rolling a new game entirely.

Sunless Skies makes one stumble in its combat. It’s not diabolical, but the 2D dogfighting is simple and shallow compared to everything else on offer. Circle around an enemy, let off a few shots, occasionally dodge a volley of fire, rinse and repeat. Gunfights are plodding and, compared to the constant sights and sounds of the Skies, terribly mundane.

Regardless, you’d be missing out if you skip Sunless Skies. Its endless enthusiasm in its own world is infectious, constantly pushing you forward to explore the unknown reaches of said world. This is how writing in games should be.


Limping back to the nearest safe port from an expedition gone wrong, escaping from impossible monsters while your crew turns on you, your train spews acrid smoke, and your resources run low. Life in the Skies is a constant balance of risk and reward, making every run unique and exciting.


Sunless Skies will pull you into its world and never let you go. This modern take on the old Choose Your Own Adventure-style books is a lesson in narrative perfection.
## 83%

Genre: Adventure/RPG
Format: Windows (tested)
Developer: Failbetter Games
Publisher: Failbetter Games
Price: £18.99
Release: Out now

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