Sunless Skies PC preview: A surprisingly well-polished intergalactic adventure game

If the idea of the British Empire establishing a foothold in the cosmos and using trains in order to traverse them sounds cool to you, the wacky setting of Sunless Skies is right up your alley. In this universe, you fill the role as one of these trains' captains. From this position, you take full control over your vessel and crew and launch an expedition across space, with discovery in mind.

Despite being in Early Access, Sunless Skies offers a wealth of experiences for the player. And while some elements here or there are lacking, the game is still something you should be keeping an eye on when it is released later this year.

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The sun has set on the British

The story of Sunless Skies is completely up to you. You and your crew start the game off as members of the British Empire, struggling to survive due to the lack of a sun in the universe. However, the way in which you face this crisis is in your hands. Everything from working with the British, to betraying them completely and going rogue is possible, and the game never restricts you from doing what you want.

If your character dies, his or her legacy will end up affecting the experience you have with your next character. Alliances made, faction strengths, and important story decisions are all things that carry over from your dead character to the new one, and as a result, the story of Sunless Skies is truly infinite.

Slow start and an explosive payoff

Both the movement mechanics of your train and its logistical issues (such as supplies or fuel) take some practice to master, but the challenge of this is ultimately rewarded with gameplay that satisfyingly rewards good play and fairly punishes the bad. However, it's worth pointing out that the beginning of the game is pretty confusing, and the lackluster tutorial present isn't enough to teach players the basics before they begin their journey. This makes the game frustrating for new players.

Despite the issues early on, the gameplay is great overall. In particular, combat is the most fun part of Sunless Skies once you fully understand everything. Your train is capable of having two weapons installed at any given time, ranging from machine guns to cannons to laser weaponry. They are located at the front of your locomotive, and anything in front of you that doesn't get out of the way when you fire is turned to space dust.

It's not that easy, however. Enemies, such as ships, and even other trains, will strafe you and move erratically, trying to avoid your attacks while simultaneously finding angles for their own assaults. Of course, you can perform these maneuvers as well; several steam exhaust ports on the sides of your train serve to horizontally alter the vehicle's movement should the need arise.

A well-oiled machine

Considering that it's an Early Access game, Sunless Skies performs remarkably well. The experience is smooth, bugs are nearly non-existent, and the music and sound come through crisply and without issue. The fact that Sunless Skies is more polished than many other current titles and hasn't even released fully yet is to be commended.

The only issue with the game from a technical standpoint right now is the user interface, which feels messy and confusing to navigate, especially during intense gameplay moments. Hopefully, this is something that the developers plan to address in the near future.

Your thoughts

What do you think about Sunless Skies? Will you check it out during Early Access or wait until it launches officially?

Sunless Skies is available on Steam Early Access for $24.99, and is expected to be released fully in September 2018.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.