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Beyond a Steel Sky review


Need to know

What is it? A cyberpunk adventure game
Reviewed on: Windows 10, Threadripper 2950X, 64GB RAM, GTX 1070Ti.
Price: $35/£30
Release date: July 16
Publisher: Revolution Software
Developer: Revolution Software
Multiplayer: No
Link: revolution.co.uk

The 1994 adventure game Beneath A Steel Sky was considered quite good (like 91% good), and to call it fondly remembered would be to mine giant quantities of understatement from the red Australian sands. A collaboration between Revolution Software and comic-book artist Dave Gibbons, Beneath A Steel Sky addressed social divides, consumerism and totalitarian control through pointing, clicking, and solving puzzles.  And now, in 2020 of all years, it gets a sequel. 

The last time Robert Foster was in Union City it was under the benevolent authority of his pal Joey. Ten years later, he’s dragged back on the trail of a missing child, and rocks up at a vehicle-only entrance to the city (any excuse for a puzzle) to find it’s now under the control of The Council, and that everyone is really happy. They’ve got to be, because their lives hang on their Qdos scores, which quantify their social standing. It’s nudge theory run rampant, as things like turning up for work and taking part in daily votes (you never do this, which is a shame) alter your score, which affects where you can go and how low in the towering arcologies you can live. Industry and recycling are at the top, with the lower levels being a playground for the high-scoring.

(Image credit: Revolution Software Ltd)

Despite the existence of this system in the world, Foster, masquerading as Graham Grundy after taking an ID chip from a dead man in the desert, prefers to work around it by running errands for NPCs, using a hacking device to rearrange electronic information to his advantage, and directly manipulating the system in cyberspace. While you spend much of your time with the cream of society, it’s those at the bottom, or rather the top, who are actually more interesting. Thumb-obsessed murderers and genius hackers lurk among the Monty Python-quoting droids and piles of junk at the tips of the steaming spires, their dimly lit world of furnaces and garbage crushers in stark contrast to the bright, wide plazas they labour to support.

Upside down

Beyond might as well have been called Beneath Beneath a Steel Sky, such is the enormous shadow it chooses to live in.

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