Oh boy, now this game scratches a very particular itch, doesn’t it? It’s got pirates! In airships! Trading, quests, airship battles, numerous characters, steampunk aesthetics… have I got your attention yet? Good.
This is 20,0000 Leagues Above the Clouds, which is an indie game being made by three Swedish developers who together make up a company called That Brain. The gist of 20,000 Leagues, in the developers’ own words, is this: “You are the captain of an airship with its crew, on a steampunk voyage across the seven skies. You’ll find your success through missions, trading, resource gathering or piracy.”
And because comparisons are so often used to illustrate the aims of a particular game, you can think of 20,000 Leagues Above the Clouds as Sid Meier’s Pirates! meets Baldur’s Gate. Yep, that’s a comparison that That Brain has dreamt up as well. It’s making me all tingly in my tingly places.
It gets better: when it comes to aesthetics and design ethos, That Brain has paid very particular attention to the works of Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli – the creative force behind anime feature hits like Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and (my personal favourite) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Judging by gameplay footage released so far, you will primarily be piloting your upgradable airship from a third-person perspective. Docking at the various floating islands will allow you to interact with other characters to trade and find quests. When not piloting your airship it seems as if most navigation is done by simple clicks and menu navigation – it doesn’t look like there’ll be free-roaming and exploring as a character once docked. Some people might be a little put off by the fact that disembarked gameplay mechanics will be distilled to simple menu clicks, but this style has been used to great success in other titles like Freelancer. It also means that the development team can focus on nailing down airship mechanics instead. That and, well, just look at the artwork we’ll get to stare at when not piloting airships. It’s gorgeous. And those character portraits? Delightful.
20,000 Leagues Above the Clouds is heading to PC and Mac, but there’s no release date as yet. You can sign up for more information and an invite to the beta however. As for asking price: the team has aspirations of a “pay-what-you-want” approach for the game, similar to Humble Bundles.
So while you shouldn’t expect multiplayer, you can expect great music, lovely artwork, pirates (!), airships (!!), steampunk (!!!), creaking galleons and an aurora borealis. It certainly is looking rather charming, isn’t it?