Game Review: Sun Dogs

Royal Polgyon’s latest release is not your average text adventure

2015 11 08 00004Rating: ★★★★☆
Platform: PC, Mac
Release Date: 29 October 2015
Developer: Royal Polygon

Sun Dogs presents a bold vision of the future. Humans have settled across the inner planets of the Solar System, while Earth remains abandoned and depopulated. Mind and body appear to have separated, allowing humans to switch to a new ‘sleeve’ upon death. Despite these feats, there is still exploring to be done, and adventures to be had.

Sun Dogs is essentially a text adventure. The game follows a lonely space traveller as they go about the universe, visiting planets and going on missions. Upon exploring a planet, the player will be presented with a block of text describing the situation they find themselves in. Sometimes, a mission will be offered, and the player must venture off into space to complete it. The writing is subtle but expressive – the brief story-like passages are a joy to read. There’s a sense of depth as well, and text often refers indirectly to historical events as well as a violent conflict on Jupiter, the consequences of which seem echo the wars of our own time.

Transhumanism plays a big part throughout – a similar theme can be found in the Deus Ex series. Transhumanism revolves around the idea that new technologies should be used to improve the physical and intellectual capabilities of the human race. In Sun Dogs, we find that humans have developed to point where their thoughts and memories can be uploaded to new ‘sleeves,’ so that death is no longer an issue. Different ‘sleeves’ offer different capabilities, and each one is designed to suit the environment on a particular planet. As a result, we see human settlements flourishing on planets as inhospitable as Venus and Mercury.

The visual style is on point – a neat and tidy minimalism that is easy on the eyes without drawing attention from the game’s written content. The player assumes a top-down view of the Solar System, with each planet and asteroid represented by a simple circle, with its own colour. At first it seems as if the planets are static, but a keen eye will notice their slow movement, each following its own orbit.

Sound is worth a mention too. The background music adds much needed atmosphere to the game, turning the experience of playing Sun Dogs into a lucid one. While the music is not quite in the same league as his, it definitely nods towards the likes of Brian Eno, with its soft electronic beats and continually repeating rhythm.

I have little knowledge of astronomy, but having played Sun Dogs for just a short while I felt eager to learn more. I found myself looking up the various asteroids present in the game, none of which I was familiar with.

For some however, Sun Dogs might end up testing their patience. After a while, the travelling and exploring part of the game becomes aimless, and new missions become difficult to find. However, these problems can be overcome through modding the game, which is surprisingly simple, and openly encouraged by the developers. By altering the contents of a text file that accompanies the Sun Dogs, new events and missions can be created stretching out the game’s appeal.

Sun Dogs is a promising game, and I’d be glad to see it grow and develop over the next few months. Modding the game is relatively simple, so hopefully players will get stuck in and start writing their own adventures as well. While it may not appeal to everyone, Sun Dogs is definitely one for any wannabe astronaut.

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