The Sinking City is a third person, Lovecraftian-inspired adventure game which borrows gameplay snippets from developer Frogwares Sherlock Holmes titles. However, it manages to carve its own identity, presenting an intriguing world, unnerving horror, and a compelling story that gives you an extremely unique experience, despite a few graphical shortcomings.
You take control of former Navy-officer turned private investigator Charles Reed, who is in a bad way. Full of nightmares, visions, and strange hallucinations, Charles finds himself searching for answers, leading him to Oakmont, Massachusetts. But Oakmont isn’t doing any better. Literally sinking, the inhabitants descending into madness, and horrific monsters roaming the streets, there’s clearly a link between the source of Charles’ condition and what’s happening in Oakmont. Cue crazy, supernatural investigation.
The story itself is really interesting and immediately extends way beyond Charles’ internal struggles, throwing you headfirst into the political, social, and seedy underbelly of what’s happening at Oakmont. This micro and macro look into Oakmont’s residents in order to find what’s behind these terrible events is a slow, satisfying burn that pays off massively. The voice-acting is top-notch, despite some facial animations not meeting the standards of the voice-work, but if you love a whodunnit mystery wrapped up in some supernatural craziness, this is right up your boot-soaked alley.
Gameplay-wise, if you’ve ever played Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes games, you’ll be immediately familiar with most of the mechanics, but if you haven’t, you’ll become accustomed fairly quickly. Players have to navigate their way around the large open-world of Oakmont (which is packed with bizarre characters and weird things to see), engage with a host of captivating and intriguing NPCs (with everyone from fish-people to articulate monkeys now living within the city), gather info, assess crime-scenes, build clues, and wrap up cases how you see fit – often either sending someone to jail/death, or letting them off the hook based on the circumstances.
The game gives you a few helping hands from the get-go, but then leaves you up to your own devices, which is a fantastic and rare feeling in today’s gaming landscape. You’ll have to use your common sense and logic to progress certain cases, as deciding where to go or who to speak to next is often a common hurdle, but hurdles can be tackled with some cerebral-tinkering and lateral-thought. Searching police archives to find a case-file which could help with your investigation, or revisiting the crime scene to ‘relive’ the events using Charles’ paranormal powers is thrilling. The only problem is the back-and-forth across the city, which would’ve been tremendously helped with a mini-map, as opening your full map in the pause menu becomes somewhat tiresome.
When you want a break from all the high-brow antics, there is some combat in the game too. Parts of the city are creeping with some spine-tingling creatures, who you can dispose of using traditional guns, traps, and melee attacks. However, ammo is scarce, so you’ll have to make your shots count or decide when to high-tail it out of there. The shooting mechanics aren’t up to the standard of a triple-A third-person shooter, for example, and the guns do feel a little less potent, but it is a serviceable sideline to the core exploration elements of the game.
The Sinking City‘s story and investigations are its best attributes, and when you have these ‘aha!’ moments during cases, it’s incredibly satisfying. However, the gunplay (while a welcomed addition to mix things up) leaves a lot to be desired. That said, with The Sinking City, you still have one of the most unique games this side of 2019, and the perfect option for those looking for something a little slower-paced, more intelligent, and different from everything else out there.
The Sinking City is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. You can find the best prices for The Sinking City on PriceCheck!