Review: ‘The Sinking City,’ a Lovecraftian Detective Game

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Frogwares and Big Ben games release an amazing new detective game set in a Lovecraftian Universe entitled The Sinking City.

The Sinking City is a third-person Action/Adventure, where you play as Detective Charles W. Reed visiting the town of Oakmont, Massachusetts in 1920s America. The Sinking City‘s aesthetics and world are inspired by the fictional lore of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Reed must solve several cases for the townsfolk of Oakmont while in search of the reason behind his own personal nightmares. Oakmont has recently suffered a massive flood which has put parts of the town underwater as well as unleashing ancient demi-gods. Throw in a healthy dose of xenophobic tribalism and murder and you have a lot of drama on your hands to investigate.

A few months ago I reviewed Call of Cthulhu by Focus Home Interactive.  My initial thoughts were very lukewarm on the game and that may be attributed to my passion for Lovecraftian lore. The game did have a lot to offer but I felt as if I needed more. When I first saw a demo of The Sinking City at Pax East 2019 the hope was that this game would meet the expectations that this reviewer had previously for Call of Cthulhu. Luckily the people at Frogwares and Big Ben games allowed GeekDad the opportunity to play The Sinking City early. Frogwares previously developed the popular Sherlock Holmes games The Devil’s Daughter, Crimes and Punishments, and The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. After Playing The Sinking City I had to add those games to my want list. Because The Sinking City is one hell of an investigation game.

Collecting information in the field goes into your casebook to organize each case

The Sinking City offers some great mechanics for detective work. To break down the process, you collect information from the field such as letters, artifacts, interviews, and evidence and it is stored in your casebook. The clues will point you to different people and places in Oakmont. When you unlock a location it will show up on the map and will turn green when you have collected all the pertinent information in that spot. The prior tab is called: The Mind Palace. Here you compile the larger theories on the case to form your final conclusions. You have to match thoughts together until they become cohesive and build out the story. I really enjoyed these mechanics and felt they helped me feel as if I was playing an active part as a detective. This also kept me organized and focused in the open world.

The Sinking City offers a Mind Palace where you collect your thoughts on the case to form your conclusions

One drawback I felt the game had was the fighting mechanics. Shooting and melee felt very clumsy. In a game where ammunition is scarce, this can be an issue. I found myself in peril often and in need of quick response and the system available was slow and inaccurate. The Sinking City could be well served with some kind of lock on mechanism so that the gamer is not flailing around during a confrontation. I was able to survive in spite of this and in the end, it did not hamper the gameplay too much. It was more of a nuisance than anything else.

Fighting Creepers can be touch and go with the shooting mechanic

The story behind The Sinking City is not directly based on any of H.P. Lovecraft’s works but inspired by the lore Lovecraft created. When you consider that the game designers did a great job of creating a world that mingles the creatures and mental illness that are the cornerstones of Lovecraft’s mythology. One aspect to be aware of is the inclusion of some of Lovecraft’s more questionable beliefs, specifically Xenophobia. The conflict between humans, Innsmouthians and Throgmortens. The Throgmortens look like apes which are cringy, to say the least. The Inmouthians are human. fish hybrids directly from the stories The Shadow over Innsmouth and Dagon. This is so clear that there is a warning at the beginning of the game that warns the player about the views being true to the writings of Lovecraft. Was all of this needed? Probably not. I can only assume that the game designers felt it important to reflect the world as Lovecraft saw it and chose not to sugarcoat the messages in his writings.

There is something fishy about the Innsmouthers

In conclusion, I really enjoyed The Sinking City, and if you are a fan of L.A. Noire and Horror survival games like Vampyr I think you will, too. The design of the game is solid and engrossing with a healthy amount of creepiness.  There are a few drawbacks, but taking those into consideration I found myself playing The Sinking City for hours. I was fully engaged in the cases and jobs I was given, and look forward to spending many more hours in this world. Pick up a copy of The Sinking City on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and soon on the Nintendo Switch for $59.99.

A copy of the Sinking City was made available by Frogwares and Big Ben Games.

You can read my previous reviews and articles Here.

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