UK developers Failbetter Games, the team behind Fallen London, winner of the Escapist’s Best Browser Game (2009), have almost reached their Kickstarter goal for their new project, Sunless Sea. Sunless Sea takes place in the same universe as Fallen London in a dark, Victorian Gothic world.

The game is an overhead exploration game that focuses on survival and loneliness. Players will customize steamships and navigate through the dark waters of the Unterzee, battling sea monsters, pirates, and other enemies. Players can also explore freely, discovering new islands and watching as their surroundings (short of fixed locations) change each time they play. The game is self-described as a “game of stories,” where captains can learn about their shipmates’ dark pasts, explore the strongholds of soul-smugglers, and face terrifying tentacled creatures. Whether you’re more into making a name for yourself as a captain or becoming a prominent member of overseas trade, Sunless Sea will be ready to accommodate. Developers claim it would take over a dozen playthroughs to experience every story arc, romance, mystery, and subplot in the Sunless Sea. Just be warned, as your choices in-game will affect how the gameplay progresses.

Sunless Sea plays on light and darkness as key game mechanics. It is always nighttime, and only the occasional glow will manage to pierce through the sea’s sombre, gloomy shadows. The Unterzee is dark and murky, and it’s up to players how they choose to use their lights. A bright light will illuminate the area much more, but will attract enemies and burn through the ship’s fuel quickly. Another interesting mechanic is the crew’s sanity meter. As a captain it’s important to take care of your shipmates, and Sunless Sea makes this clear. If your shipmates become too hungry or frightened, you might want to feed them and dock. Otherwise, you and your crew face madness, mutiny, and–if things get particularly dark–cannibalism.

A pre-alpha screenshotAlthough Failbetter Games are close to their £60,000 goal, they only have 16 days left to make over £6,000. They also have two stretch goals set up. The first, requiring a backing of £95,000, will unlock submarines, allowing players to explore the depths of the Unterzee. The second, requiring a whopping £125,000, will unlock airships for exploring the roof of the mysterious cavern in which the entire sea lies.

Backers who pledge the minimum of one pound receive a place in the game’s credits. Pledging over £10 will get you the game for the platform of you choice (Mac or PC) upon its release. And just in case you really have the dough to dish out, pledging over £500, £1,000, and £2,000 will give you the chance to have a character created after your likeness, allow you to design a sea monster yourself, or to design an entire island, respectively.

Sunless Sea looks like a beautifully polished, promising new game. The top-down action game with strategic elements should be available to play in the second quarter of 2014.