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Skybreak!

by William Dooling

Science Fantasy
2019

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Number of Reviews: 2
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Huge space exploration-and-trading game, November 28, 2019
Skybreak! is a huge space exploration-and-trading game, with RPG elements and multiple win states. You can explore star systems; mine planets, asteroids, and comets; recruit spies; unearth lore; acquire alien artifacts; and collect beetles - among other things.

Skybreak! feels like a cross between Superluminal Vagrant Twin and Sunless Seas. Skybreak!'s setting, method for moving between locations, and text-based format are reminiscent of the former, but it has some of the features (such as lore-gathering) of the latter, and its scope is closer to that of the latter.

That isn't to say that Skybreak! is as large as Sunless Seas. It doesn't take nearly as long to win Skybreak!, for instance. (A few hours, three playthroughs, and judicious use of UNDO got me a nice ending in Skybreak!.) However, much of the reason Sunless Seas takes so long is that you spend a lot of your time moving your boat around on the screen and managing your fuel. Strip Sunless Seas down to its item- and knowledge-gathering aspects and its quest trees, and the scope comparison between it and Skybreak! starts to seem more reasonable. Skybreak! really is huge; I can tell from the few hours I've spent on it that there's a lot to the game I have not seen.

Where Skybreak! surpasses both Superluminal Vagrant Twin and Sunless Seas is in its number and variety of role-playing options. At the beginning of Skybreak! you've got a choice of five species (well, four and then an "other" option), two of ten background characteristics, and three of sixteen talents. These affect your win-state goals (as in Sunless Seas), your secondary goals, and the kinds of tasks you're most likely to succeed with. They really are meaningful choices, too: On my first and third playthroughs I made very different character selections, and those two playthroughs looked quite different. By comparison, SVT has no RPG elements, and Sunless Seas allows you fewer options.

By biggest criticism of Skybreak! is the random navigation. I can see that this prevents players from doing as much grinding, which would destroy a lot of the fun of the game. But it is also frustrating to be presented with half a dozen or more interesting options for a particular solar system and yet only be able to choose one of them before having to move on, perhaps never to return on that playthrough. The UNDO command does mitigate this frustration somewhat, though, as it allows you to try out the different options and then select the one you like best.

There's a great deal to see and do in Skybreak!. If you enjoy games like this, there's enough content to keep you engaged for many, many hours.