The Sinking City by Frogwares is a third person action adventure horror game that has deep roots in the HP Lovecraft universe. The Cthulhu styled themes and familiar gameplay make this a joy to play even though there are a few issues around combat and movement.
Oakmont is the setting of the game which is a 1920’s seaside town that has been affected by a devastating flood of supernatural origins. The town feels old and lived in and the damage caused by the flood can be seen both the surface of the buildings and the pain on the NPCs faces.
It’s one thing this game does very well, immersion in the story. The voice acting is very good and the mannerisms of the character models are fantastic. Each person you meet has micro expressions that genuinely add to the narrative.
You play Charles Reed, a private eye with a military background, because this is “Lovecraftian” and that is always the cliche centre of the world, just look at the game “Call of Cthulhu”. The adventure begins with your character suffering from dark visions that call him to Oakmont in search of a cure before the madness sets in.
Along the way you’ll meet monsters known as Wildbeasts which come in various types and sizes. The combat in these moments can feel awkward and at times a throwback to the broken camera angles of previous generation games like Silent Hill. Your character can move extremely slow compared to your own reaction time at these times. This could be to add to the sensation of the monsters being faster than natural but it ends up feeling more like an unpolished mechanic of the game.
Combat is playable, but not necessarily enjoyable.
The part of the game that more than makes up for it though is the detective work. It really drives the narrative along in a way that makes every decision you make and every clue you find an important part of the process. Your own supernatural ability is reminiscent of the “Detective Mode” vision in the Batman: Arkham games if it was twisted with the incredible evil of Cthulhu. It takes you into the “Mind Palace” where you can see the shadows of events taking place to determine the motives of characters, it’s very well done. Don’t stay there too long, or you’ll notice the evil around you grasping to drag you in forever.
At times I compare this game to one of my favourites of all time, an Xbox title called “Alan Wake” which is one of the highest compliments I can give. The mythology focused world of evil surrounding the town without a doubt cements this as a game of depth and character and few tell it better than the Sinking City. The combat can let it down at times, but at the end of the day feels like a minor part of a much bigger story.
The Sinking City is available now on PC, Xbox and PS4