SUNLESS SEA vs SUNLESS SKIES: Death, Legacies and Repetition

By Hannah Flynn, January 30, 2019 · Sunless Skies

SUNLESS SKIES is launching tomorrow, 31st January, at 1800 GMT. Failbetter Communications intern Lucy Jones has prepared a primer on death, legacy and exploration in SUNLESS SEA and SUNLESS SKIES. You can follow her on twitter at @lucyannjo.

The feedback we got about SUNLESS SEA was that death was too punishing. Captains wouldn’t only lose their minds to the Unterzee, but also a large chunk of their progress. When designing SUNLESS SKIES, we wanted to address this, and make the ever-present threat of death less of a setback, and more of an opportunity.


In SUNLESS SEA, you can choose from two game modes: Unforgiving or Merciful. Unforgiving, as its title may imply, isn’t too kind to players. The game autosaves when you dock, and if you die, you restart the game from scratch. If you manually save during an Unforgiving game, you are switched to Merciful mode, where you can freely save and reload to revive lost captains.
In SUNLESS SEA, choosing to carry over your prior Captain’s map would lock your next captain out of the experience points gained from discovering new areas on the map. Not passing the map to your next captain meant the areas would shuffle. You’d be able to discover them again, but possibly at the cost of a beneficial trade route.


In SUNLESS SKIES, we’ve swapped out Unforgiving for Legacy mode. In Legacy mode, your Captain still suffers whatever death they’ve brought on themselves, but they will also pass a lot more to their successor. Including:

  • Half their Sovereigns
  • The contents of their Bank
  • Their locomotive
  • Story items, based on your prior Captain’s affiliations
  • Half their experience points (see below)
  • Your prior Captain’s map, including everything they’d discovered before their last dock at a major port

Players can also still choose to play in Merciful mode. Upon death, you may reload to the last port you docked at, brushing off your grisly end as unsubstantiated rumours.

In SUNLESS SKIES, any experience gained from map discovery is passed over to your successor, essentially creating a minimum amount of experience your Captains can have. Any experience gained through other means is then halved and added.
New features in SUNLESS SKIES
Here is a quick list of some of the other ways we’ve encouraged replaying, exploration and embracing death in SUNLESS SKIES:

  • The High Wilderness remembers. Not all of your past captains’ decisions are wiped clean, and some quests will not reset on your death.
  • No ‘home’ port. Regions are more circular and encourage travelling in all directions. Captains lock parts of the map they’ve discovered by docking at a major port.
  • Certain actions in game will unlock new Facets on level up, revealing new elements of your captain’s past.
  • More choices on how to command your ship – how can you help your crew cope when they’re five men down?
  • Weather: tackle the Peacock Wind, the Candle Wind and the Storm That Speaks- huge, area sweeping effects that your Captain must navigate.
  • Redesigned Terror and Nightmares: you may be out of danger’s grasp, but how do you cope with the memories?
  • Frequency and variety of Discoveries. There will be little downtime for your tired Captain!

We hope these improvements to death and legacy in SUNLESS SKIES mean your voyages are as captivating and as terrifying as we’d love them to be.


Leave a reply

Nathaniel Feb 3, 6:48pm

Hello ! I've one question about the new Sunless skies game ! I wanted to know if during your game you can create/find legacy item has there was in sunless sea ? Personnaly, it was with great excitment that I wanted to gather them all. Thank you !

Matt Feb 3, 5:19pm

Just a question about this: if I choose to play in Merciful mode, but let my captain die and pass on a legacy, will the legacy include all of the same things you list above for legacy mode?

B. Blappo Jan 30, 5:07pm

Been waiting a long time for this game, avoiding everything possible so I can go in blind. I even took off work for tomorrow. Everything sounds great from the design concepts. Congratulations on your upcoming release!