One thing I’m absolutely terrified of is the ocean, the idea of getting out on open water scares me right to my core. It’s not the possibility of drowning that gets me, it’s the thought of what could be lurking in the murky depths that sends a chill up my spine. This fear carries into video games I play that feature deep water, I know I’m completely safe and it’s just a game but at the same time I still feel uneasy. So, you can imagine my comfort level when I started messing around in the new undersea DLC for Sunless Sea.

We have covered Sunless Sea before on Indie Haven, but here’s a brief recap: Developed by Failbetter Games, Sunless Sea is set in the fictional steampunk setting of Victorian London that’s been stolen by bats and secluded miles under the earth on top of an underground ocean.

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The main game puts players in the role of the Captain on board a tiny vessel and you’re tasked with exploring the Unterzea with a cast of strange and colourful characters that you pick up along the way at the various ports dotted around the game’s massive map.

What I got to play around with was their newest piece of DLC, Zubmariner. What this brings to the table is the ability to turn your ship into a Zubmarine to head beneath the waves and explore the sunken depths of the Unterzea.

But of course, like the main game you can’t just get this for free, you need work for your new toy by first befriending the Fierce Philanthropist in the new area Port Carnelian. After getting to know this eccentric billionaire I had to invest in experimental equipment for the Zubmarine and recover a sonar. It was no easy feat for a newbie to Sunless Sea like me, but will probably be pretty simple for experienced players with a lot of money to burn. After a couple hours of schlepping back and forth to different towns and saving up cash I managed to get the equipment for my new Zubmarine.

Upon plunging into the murky depths I took a tentative explore around the immediate area, misjudged how durable the sub was and was destroyed by a horrible monster.

Luckily Zubmariner is pretty forgiving because as soon as you unlock the Zubmarine for one captain you can immediately upgrade all subsequent ships for free. Which is pretty handy considering how happily and often this game will beat you into the dirt when you get overconfident. In my case running into a Thalette, which for those that are interested is the cross between a giant floating meatball and the Sarlac pit from Star Wars. Think giant blob with too many teeth and you’re halfway there.

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But it’s not just Lovecraftian horrors like the Thalette you need to watch out for, there’s other Zubmarines and your O2 also dwindles constantly, so you need to keep an eye on it along with your fuel gauge and supplies. So there’s a lot of micromanagement in every trip you make underwater. There’s also new areas to explore in game and each is more interesting than the last. One of my favourites was Wrack, a town that’s composed entirely of sunken vessels that’s home to the Fair King who tries to convince you to lure other ships into sinking for a cash reward.

Zubmariner is where I feel this game really took a hard turn into the weird and wonderful side as setting it beneath the waves gave them the perfect opportunity just go nuts with the creativity. From cities sitting atop gigantic crabs to colossal sunken statues and chasms that are just gaping maws of mysterious sunken creatures; there’s always something to run into and then run away from.

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I also completely fell in love with the writing in Zubmariner. With no real cut scene’s or dialogue to speak of the writing is the major crutch of this game and thankfully it’s one of its best attributes. Of course, there are no pictures so your imagination makes up the rest and it works in the games favour. It has this Choose Your Own Adventure feel to it as they describe everything in minute detail to add depth to their world; like the crooked blades and rusted blunderbusses of the guards of Wrack.

Combine the exceptional writing, the various monsters and the crushing loneliness of the blackness surrounding you at all times when you’re exploring and you really get that claustrophobic feeling of sitting inside a tiny tin can miles beneath the surface.

Sunless Sea is not an easy game, not by a long shot and Zubmariner doesn’t make it any easier. You start off with nothing and slowly build up your empire inch by inch, which in turn makes every loss feel worse and every reward oh so sweeter.

Like when I first got my Zubmarine I cherished my new toy, I was so happy that I had worked hard for it, scrimped and saved all those trades and port reports to get closer to my goal of a Zubmarine. But when I quickly lost it I was devastated, the thing I had spent so much time trying to get was gone and I would have to do it all again. I was upset, I was frustrated both at the game and even more so at myself for letting my guard down, but when I saw that the next Zubmarine upgrade would be free I felt so relieved.

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I think a good way to sum up my experience with this game is that it provided an equal balance of carrot and stick that incentivised me to keep going when I normally would have called it a day. It would reward me when I made good decisions and would beat me into submission if I made a mistake, and it made sure that I felt the repercussions of my bad decisions.

It hit that part of me that XCOM used to fill, that feeling of knowing that every bad thing that happens to you in the game comes directly from your own actions. Be that leaving port with not enough fuel and food for your Zubmarine crew, or spending just one minute longer underwater than you should have and then running out of air like an idiot. Every death or stressful situation was something of my own making, “you’re the captain and you should know better” says the game, “I know but how can this go wrong” I respond…then the Zubmarine sinks and I start all over again.

The Zubmariner DLC for Sunless Sea is something that I would suggest checking out but with a note of caution attached to it. If you’re going to give it a try I highly recommend you play the main game first for a while before diving into the DLC, unlike me you should go in prepared because you will regret it if you don’t plan ahead.

About The Author

Contributor

A self-described child of the 90s, Matt is obsessed with everything nerdy in that era from Transformers to G.I Joe. Found inside a bargain bin of Doctor Who DVD's, he was quickly adopted by the Indie Haven team and tasked with writing humorous articles.

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