Beyond a Steel Sky (2021)

Beyond a Steel Sky (2021), directed by Charles Cecil, story by Charles Cecil, Dave Gibbons, Neil Richards, Kevin Beimers, Nina Roussakoff, developed and published by Revolution Software

In a perfect world, Beneath a Steel Sky would have sprung an adventure game series, but alas, Broken Sword ended up being a better option for Revolution Software. As the original came out in 1992, it looked for a long time, that no other games would ever be done for the series. Then, in 2021, a sequel did come out, mere 17 years later. Better later than never.

For a decade or so, Robert Foster has been living in the gap, the wastelands where the scraps of humanity dwell, far from the gigantic megacities like the Union City. Decades ago, Robert managed to escape from UC after he was kidnapped. The troubles begin again when a big dog-like vehicle manned by faceless androids attacks his home village and a little kid called Milo is taken. Robert promises the boy's parents to get him back and heads out after the vehicle.

Robert follows the tracks of the vehicle and ends up, again, in Union City. After getting in by using an ID chip of a dead man, Robert needs to find out what the cadaver he found had to do with the kidnapping and what is going on in the city. Joey, his robot friend, whom he left in charge, has left the city and while it looks seemingly a flourishing society, there's clearly something wrong under the surface.

Technically, a lot has changed from 1994 original. While Beyond a Steel Sky is still an adventure game, it's not a point-and-click game anymore. Away are the hand-drawn background images, as Union City is now shown in full 3D and the controls are now more akin to any 3rd-person adventure game, sans the action. 

A good bulk of the puzzles utilize Robert's new, fancy scanner he can use to hack the logic commands of different devices all over the city. For example, he can use it to alter the behaviour of the many droids flying all over the city or get into forbidden places by making the door open when an unsanctioned person tries to open it. There are some more traditional puzzles as well, but those are a minority.

Robert soon gets company for his travels as well, after he finds an old logic board of Joey from a museum. Just like in the first game, this board can be inserted into suitable robot shells, allowing Joey to exist once again, this time in the state of moments before he was inserted into the android, which became the guardian of Union City. So instead of getting Joey that was influenced by his actions as the runner of the city, you get back the old Joey.

Joey provides some additional commentary for the scenes as well as gives some hints on what you could do. On that note, there's also an internal hint system, but it's not quite as good as it could be. It's basically just a list of things you can do, each hint revealed in 30-second intervals. It's not a kind of intelligent system that was mastered decades ago by Tex Murphy games. It's more of a barebones system, that doesn't really keep tabs on what you do, so you usually have to slough through hints on things you've already done before you get an actual hint that helps you out.

The gameplay is, overall, what you'd expect from a modern 3rd-person adventure game. Beyond a Steel Sky isn't doing anything new or groundbreaking in those terms, but that's completely fine. There are some minor issues here and there like at times interactive points don't quite register despite you are in front of them and the movement feels a bit slow at places, but those are just small annoyances that don't really detract from the game itself.

The story is decent, though after you get to Union City, it does feel like it has some issues kicking in gear again. Luckily the ending manages to pick up the slack. Some of the voice acting is a bit iffy, but a good soundtrack greatly compensates for it. 

So, while a lot has changed in terms of technology, Beyond a Steel Sky was a solid return to the world 1st created in 1994. While it has some blemishes here and there, it should provide fun enough or a sci-fi adventure for anyone interested. It's not as memorable as the first game, but it is fun for what it is.

Beyond a Steel Sky can be bought for GOG and Steam for PC. It's also available for consoles, so there are plenty of options for playing it.