A World of Possibilities
Beneath a Steel Sky, originally released in 1994, is an oft-overlooked gem from the golden age of point-and-click adventure gaming. Competing with the likes of giants LucasArts and Sierra, it was Revolution Software’s hidden treasure before they found notoriety with the Broken Sword series. So, when I sat down with writer Charles Cecil and artist Dave Gibbons at NYCC 2019 for a demo of the upcoming sequel, Beyond a Steel Sky, I went in with a fresh perspective.
First, I learned a bit about the backstory of the world and the main character, Robert Foster. Set in the same world as Beneath a Steel Sky, the game continues Foster’s journey, picking up shortly after the conclusion of the first game, when he finally escapes Union City. While I don’t know much about Union City, the barren desert he ended up in couldn’t have been much of an upgrade.
Cecil and Gibbons, who both masterminded the original game, revealed that the sequel was something they had wanted to do for a number of years, though the timing just hadn’t been right until now. Current technologies give them much greater freedom, as does the ever-expanding world of self-publishing.
Finally, I got to dive into the dynamic world of Beyond a Steel sky. It truly does look like a comic, as expected of a game with art by Gibbons. Oddly, without the constraints of comic book panels, the art contrasts with the actual medium of the game, but blends nicely, leading to it feeling like a more refined style of something like The Wolf Among Us. It also reminded me of a much more toned down version of the Borderlands style.
The key objective of finding a kidnapped child tugs at the heartstrings and does a good job of setting up the character motivations from the get-go. It also adequately explains why Robert would venture back into this hellhole that he spent an entire game getting out of. Of course, having played the first game and knowing who the child is and why they are important would obviously give a much greater emotional impact to this plot, but it works regardless.
Beyond a Steel Sky has a very interactive and living, breathing quality to it. Like several other recent adventure games, puzzles can be solved in different ways, though these are not constrained by story paths. If you can see a logical way to solve a puzzle, you can probably do it, but if your friend thinks of a different way first, that can also work, within reason of course. The game’s characters have their own actions and paths independent of your own and will respond to the way you set up and play through the world. Don’t expect someone you’ve tripped to have their memory wiped by the next time you see them.
All told, the game is expected to clock in at about 9 to 10 hours, though I could imagine myself just meandering around and checking out the world for quite a bit longer. The main locale is Union City, the post-apocalyptic city that Robert spent the entire previous game trying to escape from. It’s well thought-out and interesting, though I was disappointed I couldn’t see more of the characters of the world.
So far, I was impressed by what I saw in Beyond a Steel Sky. As someone who never played the first game, I was hesitant about how much I’d be able to understand, even though I was assured that the game is meant to be accessible to both old and new players alike. I find that’s usually a toss of the coin, which landed right side up in this case, and I’ll be keeping an eye for upcoming development news, personally.
Are you excited to play Beyond a Steel Sky? Have you played the original? Let us know in the comments below!