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There isn’t anything like the universe of Failbetter Games’ Sunless Skies. Locomotives chug through the wilds of the High Wilderness, protected against the transformative light of the stars by stained glass windows. Enormous bats roost in the non-light of shattered architecture, protecting their space eggs from thieves. After all, train captains may be vicars, librarians, or from other heroic stock, but they’re also seekers of the unknown and collectors of mystery.
Some of those mysteries, like the explosive goals of the Calendar Council and the contents of a nice cup of Midnight’s Favour, receive clear answers that are great and terrible; other connections, like the relationship between devils and bees, buzz in the margin but remain tantalizingly oblique. Tracking these stories across a lonely sky populated by misfits and ragged saints is a journey into the unknown. Sunless Skies is darkly cynical and beautiful. It champions love and transformation in an era of mechanization and change that threatens to toss it all in the furnace. It sees humanity in the gutter as it looks to the stars, then asks with a wink if there isn’t something more pleasant we’d rather consider. Here’s looking forward to the Sovereign Edition!
Most creators would be happy to release a game that echoes just one voice from Disco Elysium’s chorus. ZA/UM brought together political and artistic commentary, Eastern Bloc social realism, low humor, ‘70s cop movies, world-weary grit, hope, and video game metacommentary into a single story. Despite the vastness of its inspirations, Disco Elysium doesn’t overcommit itself to ideas it can’t support. Self-selection is a large part of the trick. Players interested in drinking from the firehose can beef up on information-gathering skills like Encyclopedia, Shivers, Perception, and Esprit de Corps; players interested in a more focused experience can build their characters accordingly.
There’s little doubt that the SaGa series is one of the most original series out there. Always taking non-traditional approaches to combat, character progression, and gameplay structure, it should be no surprise to find the latest entry in the series among the most original titles of the year. SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions strips the console RPG down to its bare essentials, aiming to capture a bit of the tabletop experience. While Unlimited Saga focused on dungeon exploration, Scarlet Grace strips exploration down to the world map as players interact with locales for story and combat sequences. Though it looks simple, the combat offers an incredible amount of depth. Skills and magic have additional effects to consider as well, so it is usually not a matter of just picking the strongest attack, and the shared skill points ensures careful consideration. Combined with incredible music by Kenji Ito and a storybook art style, RPG fans would be hard pressed to find many games like SaGa Scarlet Grace out there.
by Zach Welhouse and Michael Apps