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Crying Suns lands in stores, a grim story-driven FTL-like

(Image credit: Humble Bundle)

There are few scenarios in games as inherently doom-laden as being told you're a (mostly) expendable clone. Granted, in Crying Suns—released today from new studio Alt Shift—you're an important clone. A famous admiral, even, rolled out along with a ship and crew as a last ditch effort to restore power to an entire (ostensibly evil) galactic empire that has mysteriously gone dark. But you're still a clone, and that means that you're probably going to be exploding at some point.

With your expendability confirmed, it's not too surprising that Crying Suns bills itself as a "tactical rogue-lite", and bears no small similarity to the high-stakes spaceship management sim, FTL. Where it diverges is its focus on narrative. It's a large, strange universe out there, inspired by Dune, the Foundation novels (which I admit to not having read), and I can't help but feel a bit of Warhammer 40,000 and Lexx inspiration in here, too. Understanding what makes the factions prowling this dead empire tick is essential for survival, and your clone's memory is a bit fuzzy on the specifics, at least until you have a chance to ask some questions.

As with FTL, there's a mixture of large-scale navigational decisions to be made, tactical real-time ship battles (commanding wings of support craft instead of individual crewmen, as in FTL) and away team actions. Planetary excursions in particular are a lot more fleshed out, with the status of each crewman involved being broadcast back as they explore the map below. While having certain officers assigned to a mission can option up more options and improve the odds, it's your life and death call in the end. From what I've played of an earlier version, it feels like it expands nicely on previously established concepts.

All this death and suffering is at the behest of Kaliban, a sardonic and intimidatingly squid-like robot. He's an OMNI, and machines like him were servitors for the entire empire. They kept everything running, from maintaining volatile reactors to growing food for the people. As far as you know, he's also the only one still functioning, throwing the colonies into chaos and murder. The good news is there's backups of him too, and he'll restore your memory of past excursions (as well as delivering plot recaps) when you die and have to start again. Even when you're dying, there's a sense of constant forward motion as you uncover more mysteries and meet more characters.

I've had my eye on Crying Suns for a while, and I admit that I've been a little smitten with it since its Kickstarter debut, accompanied by a dark and brooding trailer. Now that it's complete, I'm eager to dig deep into its dark and hostile universe.

Crying Suns is out now on Steam and Humble for £19.49/$24.99/€20.99 along with a recently-expanded free demo.