Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition Review PS4
key review info
- Game: Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition
- Platform: Playstation 4
- Gamepad support: Yes
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Whenever you get home from work, and you pick up a console, you'll probably be browsing some action-packed game where you save a kingdom, beat your opponents into submission, or generally just do stuff to let out some steam.
Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition is not that type of game, as it requires you to dedicate your full attention to it, mainly because of the story.
A peculiar mix of game genres
Sunless Sea is not one of those AAA titles that everyone and their mother has heard of, but the select few who have given it a try will surely be in for a big surprise. It packs elements of: adventure, RPG, navigation, exploration, trading, horror... and more. While some of these genres have been successfully combined before, having all of them mixed together at the same time is something else entirely.
A never-ending story
Besides the combat and actual act of navigating, your only interface with the game are the raggedy logs, old books, and reports that are given to you, and then its all up to your imagination to do the rest.
As far as the story goes, calling it non-linear would be an understatement, since your campaign is custom made from the moment you create your character.
Live out a wide variety of back-stories
Motivation is the driving force of any action, and this game provides you with all the motivation you may ever need. Are you a troubled poet seeking the remains of your father lost at sea? Or are you a priest fallen from grace, seeking redemption in the eyes of Divinity?
Choosing a backstory doesn't just serve a flavor role since each of them will allow you to start with a bonus to a specific set of stats, all of which are equally important at some point of another.
Not the most straightforward game you'll ever try
Because the game tries to be as unique as possible, it abandons the standard nomenclature used in other games used to define specific stats. This can cause some confusion the first time you play the game, since never in my right mind would I have figured out that "Mirrors" allows me to find a firing solution in combat, or that "Iron" is my attack damage.
This ambiguity regarding what each feature does is also reinforced by the fact that the game does not offer a tutorial mission as is nowadays customary, so during the first half an hour of playing, you'll probably want to read as much of the tool-tips as possible. For patient gamers, this will be part of the charm.
Madness envelops you
To fully enjoy the game's dark and dreary atmosphere, I'd strongly suggest that you play with your headphones on.
While the art style may not lean towards realism, the dark Victorian theme along with certain abstract elements and caricatured features do add a note of creepiness to pretty much everything you see.
It also helps if you have a wild imagination and you try to see yourself within the game, actually living out the stories that are told and firmly believing in the choices you make and the paths you choose.
As far as difficulty goes, there's no reason we should avoid what you'll probably figure out yourself soon enough: you will die, a lot, and it will cost you, a lot. There are numerous ways in which you can find your demise within the game, be it food shortage aboard your ship, the disappearance of your men or them dying off one-by-one, fuel running out while in the open waters, hull deterioration due to combat, etc.
To top it off, not only are there plenty of ways you can die, but death is also permanent, meaning everything you've ever gathered and achieved so far will be lost forever. This is especially nasty if you've had beginner's luck and managed to stay alive for a good couple of hours and managed to make progress on your first try.
Your legacy lives on... sort of
The only silver lining to the brutal death system is that subsequent characters will inherit some of the aspects of their ancestors, but none of their story progress or worldly possessions.
This means that each character you create will eventually start with better and better stats, and presuming that you do learn your lesson not to die the same way twice, the game's difficulty curve starts to seem less steep.
There's no way you can talk about Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition without talking about the base game first, since besides the feature of turning your ship into a zubmarine, and thus gaining access to new areas in the form underwater worlds, there is nothing new added to the game. They really did it this time since what better way to enhance the horrors of the sea than by adding in the horrors beneath it?
You should know that in order for you to gain access to the zubmarine feature, you'll have to provide quite a fair amount of resources first and follow an intricate quest line. Beginners should rejoice, since this means that by the time you do manage to access the zubmarine feature, you've already managed to comprehend all the basic features of the game.
- The story
- The atmosphere
- The heavy emphasis on realism
- The character legacy system
- The lack of a proper tutorial
- Character perma-death
- Confusing interface at first
While the horror may not come in the form of gore or jump scares, sometimes the ever-present feeling of dread and fear of the unknown can be the thing to keep you on the edge of your seat the most. If that doesn't impress you, then the fear of losing a few hours' worth of progress will surely do.