A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sunless Sea is a downloadable adventure about exploring the high seas while trying to do right by your crew and those you come across. Being in a pirate sim of sorts, you inevitably cross paths and thus blades with other roaming crews with fewer scruples than you, which can send your ship into a state of disrepair or cause your crew's mentality and loyalty to erode. You do the best with what you have until supplies run out, and then you must start making compromises. The game is easy to control and learn, and players will have loads of content to read and explore. Violence comes from cannonballs that are fired between ships, but the top-down perspective limits the impact of each battle.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
In SUNLESS SEA, you start off as one of many seafaring archetypes or drifters choosing to take to the seas to make a better life for yourself and your country. In fact, to a point, everything in the game is up to you: who you are, why you're setting out, and what to do when you stumble upon every discovered new land or passerby on the murky blue. In general, you progress through the game by wandering through the randomly generated seascape from a top-down perspective, navigating both the waters and the many menus that pop up with incidental characters or serendipitous encounters with new lands and outposts. You'll report back to your original port in the Victorian land of Fallen London, earning the ability to upgrade your ship and your crew with the more news you bring back, eventually becoming able to wander further and further out. That's the meat of it, which may sound simple, but it's anything but.
Is it any good?
The game is a sheer delight. If you can recall as a kid wondering why your friends' parents played with train sets, this game is like bestowing that same level of control and curiosity on a young video-game player. There's a vast world here for players to explore and etch out, and discoveries are everywhere. Once you get over the initial head-scratching that happens with any strategy game, Sunless Sea shows itself to be alarmingly straightforward -- wander out, explore, see what you find, and bring news of it back home. All the way, you try to upgrade your crew and ship. Plus, there are so many chance encounters that make your story uniquely yours. No two playthroughs will be alike, and that's the mark of an interesting, riveting game.
On a more granular level? Combat is uncomplicated. You'll run across other ships or sea life, tap a key to engage battle, and click to fire your cannons. You'll need to keep an eye on your crew's hunger and fear levels, as well as your ship's fuel, making time- and risk-management the utmost priorities for players. But truly, what makes Sunless Sea shine are its story possibilities and the tales you can weave. For example, during one session, you can become a wandering poet-turned-captain, simply sailing in search of stories to write a memoir on and establish a legacy: Strange people in strange lands were met, and although the captain's ship was sunk, his unfinished works lived on through the crew. Thoroughly imaginative and a lot of fun, Sunless Sea is an easy one to recommend for adventure fans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in games. Does the top-down perspective limit the impact of the violence in Sunless Sea? Does the distance make the in-game violence more tolerable?
If you were going to leave your home behind and set sail, where would you go? Why? What would you need to bring with you? What if you ran out of supplies?
What do you when you get lonely? Why?
Why do good people make decisions that hurt others?
- Platforms: Mac, Windows
- Price: $18.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Failbetter Games
- Release date: February 6, 2015
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Pirates
- ESRB rating: NR
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.