Sunless Skies Update: THE REACH

By Failbetter, October 10, 2018 · Sunless Skies

Our REACH update is now live! This update completely transforms the first region of the game and features improvements to Terror, Condition, Fuel and Crew.

In case you missed it, we’ve also just announced some other exciting pieces of news:

Sunless Skies has a release date! It’s coming out 31 January 2019! Those of you who have been holding off until we’re finished now have a date for your calendar: hooray!

To accompany Sunless Skies, we’ve released a free pen and paper RPG system, called SKYFARER, set in the Fallen London Universe. If you want to check it out, it’s available via digital download at (for free)!

Our free-to-play browser game Fallen London has a new face! It’s the site’s first makeover since its origins in 2009. Besides having a more modern look, it’s now on HTTPs, has some nifty sorting/organisational features, and has received improvements to help it run more smoothly in mobile browsers! Our festival of secrets and masks, Hallowmas, also begins 24th October.

The Reach

After creating the Albion and Eleutheria regions, there were a few improvements we wanted to make to the first region we created: The Reach.

These improvements focused on two main aims:

  • to adjust the segment design and pathfinding within the region to match the more evolved design strategy used in the later regions
  • to ensure the atmosphere of the region matched the depth and complexity showcased in Albion and Eleutheria



One of the reasons we evolved our strategy for segment design across the three regions is that earlier on in development, players gave us feedback that areas like the Reach felt empty. It was possible to fly for long periods of time without seeing anything but the sky below your locomotive.


So when we started building Albion and Eleutheria we made it a rule that players should always be able to see *something* physical, preferably something you could hit with your locomotive.

In his talk at EGX, our Creative Director/CEO Paul Arendt explained that this actually came from an idea of replaying Sunless Sea for the PS4 port, as Sunless Sea is largely about coastal navigation – you follow walls.


So with this update, you’ll be able to see we’ve redesigned the segments of the Reach to be more labyrinthine. Captains may find that journeys now need to be more planned, which should make flying feel more engaging than before. And, if you’d like to look even further behind the curtain, Paul’s also written a design blog about this very topic, which you can find on our blog.


Many different art tools and strategies are used to create that more contiguous atmospheric feeling, to make sure it feels like you’re flying *within* something not just on top of it.



As you travel through the new Reach you’ll notice branches and other luscious (often horrific) foliage that the player locomotive will sail beneath, as well as more complex middle layers to add that visual depth and richness.



Upgrading our post-processing tools in Unity also meant our artists could add more intricate ‘profiles’ to specific areas within the region. Profiles can contain things like colour grading and lighting effects. For example, one of the things they control is blooming, which is a term to describe a light effect that looks like a glow on brighter objects or diffused light. These effects are great for areas like the Nature Reserve that should look quite humid, or Lustrum for that snowy haze.




Our next build in November will focus holistically on Survival upgrades, but we’ve made changes already that you’ll be able to see in this build, most notably with Terror. Terror is now less predictable, which will encourage desperate tales of survival and reduce the reliance on central ports to manage Terror. We’ll be monitoring the effects of the changes closely, and gathering feedback to make any tweaks that are needed.



  • Terror now increases at about half the rate it did before.
  • Falling below half crew no longer increases the rate at which you gain Terror (expect to see new consequences for low crew in a future update).
  • Terror reduction opportunities are quite different: Wonders now lower your Terror much more quickly, docking at hub ports like New Winchester will no longer set your Terror to zero (they will reduce it by a chunk if you haven’t visited them too recently), other ports now have opportunities which include terror reduction options.
  • As your Terror rises you will begin to experience Terror Events. The higher your Terror, the nastier they may be!
  • If your Terror reaches 100 you will experience a dangerous event that is likely to kill your captain.
  • However, a number of options there and on the Terror Events give you the chance to reduce your Terror by 50 in exchange for increasing your Nightmares. Oh yes, nightmares!



We’ve changed how Condition works, and renamed it Nightmares. It now begins at zero and can go as high as four. It no longer increments automatically; Terror events will offer opportunities to drastically decrease your Terror at the cost of increasing your Nightmares. As Nightmares rise – as before – you will experience increasingly horrifying story events.

You’ll also notice we’ve changed:


The rate at which fuel is consumed is now determined by your locomotive’s weight, taking into account cargo, equipment, and the locomotive itself. The chart will now make it easier to see where fuel and supplies can be bought. When you run out of fuel you will no longer die immediately. Instead, you’ll enter a story event where your captain has three last, tantalising options to find a way to keep going.



As it’s now possible to recruit crew through Port Opportunities, this means we’ve now removed shops where crew could be acquired.

The game now keeps track of if you have enough crew aboard your locomotive to run it properly – dubbed the ‘Minimum Safe Manning’ quality. We’d recommend remaining fully staffed, after all, you’ve got a lovely locomotive. It’d be a shame if something happened to it. Out there. In the dark.

Join Our Stream!

Kat Brewster, a Sporadic Academic and occasional streamer, will be streaming from the REACH update today at 15:30 BST with our Editor/Writer/Content Manager, Olivia Wood, on her Twitch channel!

We hope you’ll join us there and come with many questions, brave skyfarers.


Nextime, on Sunless Skies

In our November build, you can expect even more updates to Survival mechanics! Plus an overhaul to the New Winchester segment, the final opening game experience, and more player weapons (hooray)!


One Comment

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Tazgo Oct 17, 11:39pm

Looking great! Can't wait to check it out come the full release. Been drooling in anticipation.