Review: The Sinking City
The Sinking City is a Lovecraftian game which combines elements from different short stories, focussing on the well-known ‘The Call of Cthulhu’. Set in the fictional city of Oakmont during the 1920s, the story follows private investigator and war veteran Charles W. Reed as he searches for clues to the cause of the terrifying visions plaguing him, and becomes embroiled in the mystery of Oakmont’s unrelenting flooding. Throw in some third-person combat mechanics and the result was a title worth checking out.
Frogwares and Bigben Interactive’s The Sinking City is without a doubt the best game of its kind. The compelling narative and gloomy atmosphere perfectly capture what it would feel like to be experiencing a H.P. Lovecraft story firsthand. The city of Oakmont has many different districts that all just feel different enough from one another. Keep in mind half of the city is already flooded when you get there, which means you’ll be traversing by boat as much as you are by foot.
Oakmont’s atmosphere is very well executed, but the city is not without its flaws. Traversing the many streets can be kind of a pain thanks to the many roadblocks and the often difficult to traverse watery streets. Fast-travel is an unlockable option, but the loading screens are a little too long to be fully efficient. Residents, both normal and so-called ape-like ‘Innsmouthers’ help make the city come alive with robberies, madness attacks and fights taking place randomly as you explore. Even though there are some occasional immersion-breaking encounters to be found.
The biggest flaw the game has is its combat system. No matter how many skills you invest in gunplay, combat is too slow and feels too cluncky to be enjoyable. We would have also liked to see a little more variety in Lovecraftian monsters around the city, each with their own lair. This makes it that a big part of the game, just like exploration, can start to feel like a chore. This is a shame because it takes away from the game’s interesting NPC’s and brilliant storytelling.
The way you solve cases as a detective is by gathering clues on your own and then making your own deductions from them. This mechanic can feel briliant at times and extremely frustrating at others. Some clues simply aren’t clear enough and whilst exploring a building, you are often left wandering about the same rooms for too long before finding the last piece of missing information. Nevertheless, if this system becomes a little more streamlined in a potential sequel, we are sure it will be great. The potential is there and you can feel it as you play.
The Sinking City is a must-have for any Lovecraft fan. Multiple stories converge in one of the many semi-open endings and the story itself is a great experience. Combat and traversing the city can sometimes get a little stale, but that doesn’t take away from the amazing atmosphere the city of Oakmont and its denizens have to offer. We can’t help but hope there will be a sequel to this unique game that helps sort-out this game’s flaws.
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Frogwares, Bigben Interactive