Some of our most eagerly anticipated releases in these past two weeks have not been original games, but rather ports of games that were first released on other platforms. Time for a closer look at Sunless Skies: Sovereign Edition for PlayStation 4/5, the PC port of Days Gone and the new next gen version of Maid of Sker.
Sunless Skies: Sovereign Edition (PS4)
Originally released on Steam, Sunless Skies has now launched for consoles with the ‘sovereign edition’ tag attached to it – meaning you don’t just get the original game but also all of the post-launch content that was released for it. These were free additions and not DLC that’s now been bundled, but there certainly was a lot of it since the early 2019 launch – including plenty of additional story content and characters.
Backing up for a second though…. Sunless Skies was Failbetter Games’ follow-up to the critically acclaimed and beloved Sunless Sea, though the narrative is standalone and doesn’t require you to play their first game before starting with this one. And we’ve rarely played anything in which storytelling is so richly intertwined with a game since the classic text adventures of the early 1980s. With an almost literary feel to the experience, Sunless Skies is the indie sci-fi action/survival equivalent to Disco Elysium – a game you just want to play and replay to delve more into its storytelling.
As the captain of a flying locomotive, you set ‘sail’ towards the stars against the backdrop of future British colonization attempts – complete with pirates and constant danger. When you reach the safety of a dock, interesting characters can be found who all have their own unique stories to share with you – very often to great effect as the writing here is sharp and engaging and a reward in and of itself to encounter.
Getting from one port to the next can be rough and there are certainly strong survival elements to the game, transporting, trading and fighting, especially if you enable permadeath. Uncovering what the game world has to offer keeps you pushing forward though, and that doesn’t just include the stories that are shared with you by others, but also the way the game deals with character development for your own protagonist – letting you make narrative choices about your backstory as you go along, thus enriching your place within the game world. And with so many branches, the potential for additional playthroughs is immense.
The console version of the game that we tested was for the PlayStation 4, and it performed very well, without any slowdowns or glitches. We also found the gamepad controls to work well, though with the exception of combat this one isn’t too demanding in terms of precise controls. If you enjoy narrative-driven gems, then this is a true indie gem worth picking up.
Days Gone (Steam)
Sony is continuing their trend of bringing some of their successful PS4 exclusives to gaming PC with Days Gone, which we reviewed just over two years ago when it first launched. At its core, and in terms of content, this is the same game that PlayStation gamers received, but it’s also a version that received several PC-specific enhancements that are worth exploring.
So while the narrative still isn’t as engaging as we feel it could have been, and the pacing is off in places, Days Gone is still a thoroughly entertaining action/survival/zombie adventure. Even more so in its current state on the PC, because although we assume a lot of the changes we saw have also made it to PlayStation in post-launch updates the experience is much smoother than we remembered. Everything feels more optimized this time around, and although glitches in Days Gone on the PS4 were never game-breaking for us it’s nice to see they’ve been addressed.
Having recently played Days Gone on a PS5 – which is essentially the PS4 version running at 60 frames per second, it’s great to see what Days Gone can look like with all the trimmings turned to full on a PC. With minimum specs being a GTX 780 or similar, it’s also surprisingly easy going on your gaming rig, and unless you want the full 4K HDR treatment this should run smoothly on even a modest system. It’s not perfect, but without The Last of Us or Uncharted on the PC this is one of the best console adventures you can get right now.
Maid of Sker (PS5)
When we first learned that Maid of Sker was being developed and published by Wales Interactive, we were fully expecting it to be an interactive movie type of experience. With games like The Complex, The Bunker and Late Shift they’ve been responsible for a bit of a resurgence of the genre, so imagine our surprise when we found out that Maid of Sker is a first person survival horror game instead. It’s now been ported over to the PlayStation 5 though, and the end result shared many of the cinematic qualities of WI’s earlier titles as a result.
As Thomas Evans, you’re called to a haunted hotel where people are turning into horrible creatures for some reason. Your loved one is also there, so you have a personal stake in the matter and rush over there for a largely linear adventure that’s somewhat reminiscent of walking simulators in terms of visual fidelity.
Despite the linear nature of the game there is still a branching narrative in Maid of Sker, but the format doesn’t translate as well to first person as it does to the full motion video games we’ve seen from the developer – resulting in a fair bit of backtracking in an already short game (which clocks in at under five hours). And although this is billed as a survival horror game, there is little action to be found – most of the adventure sees Thomas relying on stealth whenever an enemy is around.
If you’re missing combat, then the game has a FPS challenge mode that introduces guns – a post-launch addition to the original game. You can also play while wielding an axe, or turn off enemies completely – for a game of this type there’s a lot of thought that went into replayability. At its core Maid of Sker isn’t an action game though, and more about exploration and suspense – which it does well thanks to great visual design and atmospheric effects.
Looking at the technical details behind the new next gen port, Maid of Sker now supports 4K visuals running at 30 FPS or a 60 FPS mode running at 1440p, offering improved visual quality. Even on a 4K screen then we’d recommend at least considering running the game in ‘fidelity’ mode though – since apart from the FPS mode this game relies more on atmosphere than it does on quick frame rates.
Also included are improved load times, which are near-instant on the PS5, as well as improved textures. What’s especially noteworthy, however, is the excellent use of the DualSense controller, which includes both haptic feedback and use of the adaptive triggers. Both add to a sense of immersion that works great in conjunction with Maid of Sker’s atmosphere-rich environment (for instance by indicating how much noise you’re generating), making this the go-to version of the game if you haven’t played it on another system yet.