Beneath a Steel Sky, a point-and-click adventure game that came out back in 1994, has a lot to say about society in the future. A lot of scary things. It was a game that received a lot of positive criticism for it’s thought-provoking story line and it’s dialogue that conveys a pretty dark story at the core. The game, which was created by Revolution Software and Virgin Interactive, has a lot of good things going for it.
First off, the story starts with a young Robert Foster in a dystopian future who finds himself in the wastelands. The locals of a remote region called Gap, take him in and raise him for a while. One day, armed security officers from Union City come to take Foster “home.” After some thought, Foster decides to go with them, but soon sees his town that raised him become destroyed behind him. The helicopter, however, doesn’t make it a smooth landing once they arrive in the city. They crash, and Foster finds a way to escape through a nearby Recycling Plant. It’s from here where the game finally takes off and puts you in control, with the objective of leaving the city.
However, as you start to talk to the locales of the city, and get involved in their troubles, you soon see that there are some major social issues that are present. First off, people are fascinated with their technology, kind of like they are in real life. People would much rather find their information through the various Linc consoles throughout the city than have a proper conversation with someone.
It’s in Linc where a lot of these problems stem from. Linc is a computer system that basically “links” society together in a really warped way. People are separated into social classes (Linc statuses) and are divided into levels of the city. For instance, if someone has a D-Linc status, which is the worse status, they cannot go to the lower levels of the city. And the people with the highest status, have full access to the city. The technology behind Linc is essentially taking over and controlling the city and everybody that is within it. People can’t even leave the city, because that would “hinder progress”. The society in Beneath a Steel Sky” is so fascinated with their progress that nothing else matters to them.
Like I said before, it’s a thoughtful story-line that really makes you think. It makes you realize how close we as a society in real life to getting to this point. We are so attached to our technology already and it doesn’t take much for technology to essentially start controlling our lives. Technology is a way of life for some people. And that can be scary when you really ponder the idea.
On your adventure through the city, you are accompanied by a robot companion named Joey. He was one of my favorite characters in the game. He’s basically a smart-ass robot who always has something witty to say at the right moments. I thoroughly enjoyed the dialog between Foster and Joey because it is where a lot of the humor in the game is present. Picture a buddy-cop movie, minus the cop part. It’s just great.
It’s not the only place that humor is present though because the whole game is filled to the brim with really witty humor in the conversations that you have with people. There are some really funny moments that made me laugh and the accents that a lot of the characters had were pretty amusing. I heard some pretty good British and Australian accents that really made the characters seem unique in a sense.
The voice work however, seemed a little weird at points. The subtitles appear on screen but sometimes they didn’t match with what a character was saying. I didn’t mind this though because this led to some pretty amusing situations more often than not. For example, a factory boss named Lamb was talking to me about his “pussy” and how it always needs fed. (Of course the subtitle said pussy cat) It was just hilarious hearing a man talk about how his pussy need help. Maybe this was intentional, maybe it wasn’t.
The simple gameplay was also pretty revolutionary for the time. There are literally three main controls for the entire game. You can hover over objects and their name will be displayed to you. The left mouse button will have Foster look at an item and the right mouse button will have him interact with an object. Lastly, F5 will bring up the menu. That is literally all there is to it.
This is an adventure game made in the heyday of adventure games so all of your classic adventure game mechanics are here. You have an inventory containing all of your items that you can click and drag into the environment to interact with. The game also requires you to do some pixel hunting in order to find the certain item you need. Some parts of the game are also pretty challenging to figure out and know what to do next, but that is the fun of the adventure games.
If I had to give one complaint about the game, it would have to be the checkpoint system, or the lack thereof. There were some moments where Foster would die because of a certain thing I did. The game would then give you two options, restart the game in its entirety or reload from the last save. This may not be a problem for some people who spam the save button but it was pretty frustrating when I would not save for a long time and then come across a really cheap and fast death that would send me back a long ways. It’s too bad there wasn’t a checkpoint system or at least an auto save option. But then again, this game came out in 1994 and those kinds of concepts weren’t at the forefront of developers minds I guess.
I thoroughly enjoyed what Beneath a Steel Sky had to offer with its simple gameplay but complex story. The ending was pretty interesting and it wraps up the dark and foreboding story in a nice way that felt particularly satisfying. I have heard that Revolution actually has interest in making a new Beneath a Steel Sky game and I think that would be an awesome idea. I would play it for sure.