This story starts, like most epic stories, with a huge plane crash in the middle of the Australian Outback (‘cept it’s the inevitable dystopian future now, so it’s called “the Gap” instead). This kid called Robert is the sole survivor, but it’s totally his lucky day (sort of), because a bunch of local tribals find him and take him in. The tribals call him Robert Foster, partly because he’s now all fostered and everything, but mostly because they also find a discarded can of Foster’s Lager near the crash site, and naming a kid after beer is always a good idea. Oh, except in some regions where, due to copyright issues, the name “Foster’s” was replaced with other names, and made the whole joke not work. Anyway, Foster scurries off to grow up among the tribals, and learns all sorts of tribal survival stuff like hunting kangaroos and eating dirt and building robots.
Then one day, all this watercoloured pastoral bliss is rudely interrupted by the arrival of shock troopers, who drag Robert off into their transport, and nuke the tribals. In an eerie reiteration of his childhood, the chopper subsequently comes crashing down in some place called Union City, and Robert negotiates a bold escape into a nearby factory.
WHO IS ROBERT FOSTER REALLY? WHAT DO ALL THESE BAD, BAD MEN WANT WITH HIM? WHY IS THIS GAME SET IN AUSTRALIA, OF ALL PLACES?
So getting started, Beneath a Steel Sky is a simple take on the point and click approach, with interactive items highlighted on mouse-over, and a sort of all purpose do-stuff action assigned to the right button. Move Robert around, click on stuff, and once you’ve moved Robert around enough and clicked on all the right stuff, you win the game. Unlike some of its contemporary titles, however, it’s entirely possible to do something stupid and wind up dead in Beneath a Steel Sky (but, fortunately, entirely impossible to accidentally end up in one of those terminally irritating unwinnable game states), so save frequently.
I’ve always loved this game. It’s partly because I’m such a slut for point and click adventure games, but also because I’m such a slut for cyberpunk. In fact, the only thing that could make me sluttier for Beneath a Steel Sky would be if Richard Morgan had written it, and signed a copy for me. As it is, however, much of the story and artwork was penned by Watchmen mastermind Dave Gibbons, who’s obviously not as cool as Richard Morgan but still kinda cool in his own right.
On a scale of King’s Quest 8 to Day of the Tentacle, I’d probably rate this somewhere around Quest for Glory 3.