Yeah, I have a feeling I'd probably have the same reaction, which is why Vinland still sits so far down my wishlist. And maybe that's also why games like This War of Mine didn't stick, or why Vinland is joined by others like Frostpunk and the years-old Papers, Please as something I'm in no particular rush to pull the trigger on. There's enough anxiety and attrition in real life without grabbing for more in virtual spaces.
'course, I say that as someone who has been exploring Sunless Skies all week. Like Sunless Sea before it (with or without the Zubmariner expansion I never picked up), Skies is probably best described as a literary roguelite. But like Sunless Sea, and unlike most rogues, -like or -lite, it's so gradual in its pacing that its sense of attrition comes less from constant deaths and restarts and more from the smaller, more routine mundanities of its loop: whether or not you're making money faster than you're spending; do you have enough supplies to make it to the next port without starving; which trade good is going where again? That sort of thing.
That said, it's easier than Sea, even on its default settings (there are three ways to scale difficulty, and all downwards from default, which is nice.) Terror is less of a concern, at least where I am now. Making money is much easier and far less of a grind than it was in Sea, all thanks to better trading and new supplemental options. Combat is greatly improved by the addition of new mechanics and less reliance on firing arcs. Fuel and supplies drain a little slower. The world is less empty, which means more possible pitstops, which then means more potential restocks from events. So while some of Sea's slow-churn is still there, it's on a faster curve, it's better about onboarding, there's more to do along the way, and therefore it's more fun.
The literary part of course comes from its generous use of prose, and quite colourful at that, often times making me wish the game had a right-click > definition function for some of its more flowery choices. If you've played Fallen London (again, gotta shoutout Fallen London for the first time in a while, yo it's a free browser game any of y'all could be playing right now) and Sunless Sea and, apparently, a tabletop game that exists from the same folks called Skyfarer, or even the recent Cultist Simulator and parts of Stellaris' DLC penned by one of the same writers, then you know what to expect from Skies.
Wrap that fiction around this gameplay and I suppose the result is a slower, calmer, more evocative, less plain-jane Escape Velocity - with space locomotives instead of starships. It may also compare favourably to last year's Star Traders Frontiers, just with far less systems management. I should really mention that it's far prettier than both those examples, of course; EV's final iteration being from the late-shareware period and Star Traders being somewhat "programmer art" by small team necessity. Sunless Skies also has pretty great sound design and music which, hey, nice gets if you've got both cosmic horror themes and sanity gauges.
It's good stuff. Not for everyone, like Sea, but those who like it like it a lot and I'm probably going to be one of those people. And it flows well from Return of the Obra Dinn, a much different game which nonetheless stirred up quite a similar mood.