Beyond a Steel Sky Review – Welcome (back) to Union City
OOne of the great point-and-click adventure games of all time in media history is Under the steel sky, described almost reverently as one of the ancestors of the genre that would become almost synonymous with the golden age of PC gaming. And yet, in an industry that is as happy with remakes, re-releases, re-imaginations and, indeed, sequels, as it is with implementing its successes, for whatever reason, Under a sky of steel never seen a follow-up in all the years that followed. Indeed, decades have literally passed and we’ve seen the rise, fall and resurgence of the style of adventure games it once launched – but we’ve never seen a real follow-up.
Until last year anyway, when Beyond a sky of steel launched to a whole new generation of gamers on PC and mobile devices. Now, this game is also available on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo consoles, exposing this sequel to an even wider audience – which is good, as it is certainly an unusual game that deserves a look from anyone who’s interested. interested in adventure. games, storytelling games or just good old world construction and dystopian tales. Beyond a sky of steel is decidedly a brain game and slower – it takes its time setting up the conflict and the stakes, there is obviously no action to speak of, and the bulk of the gameplay is about walking around, talking to people, to look at things, then to repeat them same actions in different orders to open new avenues of progression. Much like visual novels, it feels more like reading a novel than playing a game – and it actually exhibits many of the same strengths as a graphic novel, including artwork by famous people. Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons.
This art is actually the first thing you notice about the game, before anything else. The game begins with a comic book-style intro, with a quick recap of the original game’s history and an equally quick setup of the immediate conflict that kicks off this game’s follow-up to that narrative. This intro is presented in the form of comic book panels, with some pretty gorgeous artwork, speech bubbles and exhibition boxes, as well as random words in bold and italics in the tradition of some of the most popular comics. famous of all time. This strong art style and aesthetic is then maintained even as the comic book-style introduction gives way to the real-game side of things, which has you controlling Robert Foster, the protagonist of the first game, in a 3D space, examining objects. in the environment, talk to people and solve puzzles.
“This art is actually the first thing you notice about the game, before anything else. The game begins with a comic book-style intro, with a quick recap of the original game’s history and an equally quick setup of the game. immediate conflict that kicks off the follow-up to this narrative of this game. This intro is presented in the form of comic book panels, with some pretty gorgeous illustrations and speech bubbles and exhibition boxes, and random words in bold and in italics in the tradition of some of the most famous comics of all time. “
Now, in many modern adventure games and their derivatives, there has been a noticeable degradation in how they look when you control characters, compared to how they look when you’re only in non-interactive story segments. . Some of the early Telltale games from the previous decade, such as The walking dead, definitely looked worse for wear during gameplay segments, while visual novels like Zero time dilemma Looks great during cutscenes, then pretty awful during gameplay. Beyond a sky of steel manages to maintain its extraordinarily strong sense of aesthetics throughout – yes, those early comic book segments I mentioned are gorgeous, but the art style and execution of said art style continues to hold up even when playing the game. The characters look quirky and charming, and really well drawn, and the environments in particular create an extremely strong sense of place, from the outskirts of Union City to the city itself, with its shiny squares and its skyline stretching as far as the eye can see, to the pristine interiors you find yourself in.
Those gorgeous visuals do justice to the really strong writing that ultimately forms the crux of an adventure game like this – and yes, that writing holds its end of the bargain. The characters are colorful, with strongly defined personality quirks that never feel overdone or understating in a way we can often see in so many forms of media, the dialogue is lively and has the traditional spirit that one takes. waits for a sequel to Under the steel sky. And the world-building, from the flavorful text you can find in descriptions to Foster’s own monologues, is extremely effective at painting a verbal picture of the world you find yourself in and the dystopia in which the game is set. Union City appears to have come down. Through it all, the game manages to get hits in many aspects of modern contemporary existence in the real world as well, from the endless push towards ‘smart’ connected devices, to over-reliance on technology, to even how islanders can be many communities, turning a blind eye to the suffering of others that occurs just outside their borders, for it does not concern them at the moment. Beyond a sky of steel has a surprising amount of things to say, and he says them well.
Unfortunately, the pace of actual storytelling can be, well, slow. I mentioned earlier that this is a brain game, and even though I said it as a compliment, it can often seem terribly mundane to interact with anything that is possible to interact and talk to. same people over and over again while you try to fix the problem. know what you are supposed to do; when things do happen in the story it usually feels engaging and like a satisfying reward for the time you spent trying to make them happen, but getting there can take a while.
“It can often seem terribly mundane to interact with all that is possible to interact and talk to the same people over and over again as you try to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing; when things happen in the story , it generally seems appropriate, engaging and as a satisfying reward for the time you spent trying to make it happen, but getting there can take some time. “
Much of this has to do with the nature of the gameplay – it will always be talking to people and interacting with objects, sometimes in repeated permutations and combinations, and often in the service of a primarily designed puzzle. in a simplistic way that seems tedious to solve. The worst happens when the puzzle is simple, but still obtuse wired, which means the solution is particularly unsatisfying and deflated when you get it. The good thing is that the game includes a really good hint system that you can go through anytime – it starts by pushing you in the right direction, presumably hoping that you can figure things out on your own from its directions, but if you keep pulling it up, it will eventually give you the full solution. It’s also well balanced – you can only call a hint every 30 seconds, which means the game expects you to follow the hint it gives you first yourself before you do. let get more help. It’s a fine line between being useful and actually playing the game for you, and I think it’s done well. I just think most of the time the clue system ends up doing the heavy lifting for puzzles and problems that just should have and could have been better designed.
Not all puzzles are poorly designed – many of them can look like eureka moments in the tradition of the genre’s best point-and-click adventure puzzles from the pinnacle of the genre, for example, and hack puzzles are definitely a must-have. fun little distractions. These puzzles, which see you smash the many connected devices and terminals across Union City and then rearrange their logic into surprisingly effective visual representations of programming macros, showcase some of the best gameplay segments in the game – especially because they are often associated with some of the best writing in the game too.
How much you finally appreciate Beyond a sky of steel will depend singularly on your appreciation of its history, its universe and its characters. For fans of the original game, there’s a lot to like here – while this is clearly intended to be a standalone entry that newcomers can enjoy, it’s filled with references to the original game, and the story’s conclusion acts. as much as a coda to the original of 1994 as to the narrative arc of this game. For newcomers who are not already invested in the world, Beyond a sky of steel does a remarkable job of setting up its world and conflicts appropriately – but the slower pace of the storytelling along with the laborious gameplay could end up turning a lot of people away. Those who stay will find a very engaging experience – even if they lose some nuances, they will find a fairly effective story here populated by delightfully memorable characters in a richly realized setting.
Almost 30 years have passed since Under a sky of steel; much of the industry in general, and adventure games in particular, experienced an evolution during this intervening period. Beyond a sky of steel could easily have gone wrong. He could have stubbornly stuck to the past. refusing to account for how things have changed in the nearly three decades since the original game; he could have tried to chase the modern version of adventure games under the guise of the Telltale and Donned games, thus losing much of what made the original so beloved. Instead, it straddles a fine line between modernization and tradition, and delivers a well-told story that, while decidedly beyond a must-have love letter for fans of the original, Also manages to provide a fascinating experience for newcomers along the way, despite a few unfortunate stumbles.
This game has been tested on Xbox One.