Back in 1994, LucasArts ruled the roost on point and click adventures but one title, Beneath a Steel Sky from Revolution Software, managed to catch people’s attention with its tale of dystopian future mixed with dry humour. Now after a long time away, the story continues.
Robert Foster’s past is coming back to haunt him. The first game saw him forcibly leave his adopted home in the wilderness known as ‘The Gap’ before the whole place was blown sky high. Dumped in a world of shiny building bullying and bureaucracy, the story eventually found him catching up with his dad and solving the problem with the city before leaving his home built AI in charge and heading back out to The Gap again.
That’s where we find him at the start of Beyond a Steel Sky, adopted by a new clan and living life out of the way of the city. But things have a habit of coming back around and it isn’t long before he finds his best friend’s child captured by android guards. Vowing to follow them, the path takes him back to the familiar Union City, a place he thought he left in good hands…
While the comicbook style cut scenes reminded me strongly of the first game, Beyond is a different beast in terms of visuals elsewhere. Acclaimed artist Dave Gibbons returns to provide the polish but this time the game is given the 3D cel shaded treatment, with more of a similarity to games like the Borderlands series. The detail in the art and voice acting is matched by the story and thankfully travels a similar path of sci-fi dystopia meets humour that made the original so famous. Presentation throughout is pretty great but the complex visuals do sometimes lead to a few bugs such as characters walking through objects or into your path as you try to solve a puzzle.
Gameplay will also be familiar to fans of both the original and of the Lucasarts or Telltale games. Objects need to be used on other objects and simple puzzles need to be solved to continue. Early on you get a scanner that can be used to manipulate various computer systems and rewrite their AI and it’s this that forms many of the more logical puzzles in the game.
For those truly stuck there’s a helpful hints section that gradually feeds you hints every so often, giving you a time limit between hints to push you towards working things out for yourself first. Most of the main puzzles are fairly logical and require a little bit of wondering around and checking out the scenery, plus some dialogue, before they become more obvious. It does mean that the game doesn’t have a long running time, though, but that’s no different to the original.
While I was nervous for a sequel to such a classic game after all these years, Beyond A Steel Sky is a fitting follow up to a classic point and click adventure with a great story and top production values. Fans of the first game should pick this one up right away.