There have been several games coming out this year that have had my expectations heightened. The Sinking City is just one of these games, however, I soon found myself disappointed by the lack of quality in the game. During my review, I experienced consistent crashes on the Epic Game store. So we switched to a console review on the Xbox One which was stuttering but far more stable. Seeing it stutter as frequently as it did however on the Xbox One made me feel uneasy about how optimized the game was going for full release.
Now when it comes down to the narrative of the game the story is mediocre at best, establishing the world by the inspiration of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. Which in this case uses it as a basis for entry-level racism people of color would experience every day. Because we have the freaky fish people known as Innsmouthers and the Throgmortons whose family comes from a robust bloodline (their father literally screwed a Gorilla.)
The story is simple everyone is going mad, delightfully mad, and not the Alice in Wonderland tea party mad. In it, you play the detective Charles Reed trying to get to the bottom of the mystery as to why. You discover through the series of events that not only your arrival has been predetermined as a fated event. But you are the crucial piece of a puzzle to prevent the release of an ancient Lovecraftian tentacle creäture. Because the events of Oakmont repeat endlessly in a cycle of death and rebirth. So, if you’re looking for a happy ending where everyone in humanity ends up on top this is not your game, even considering it has multiple endings. If you’re expecting a light-hearted game The Sinking City isn’t for you.
When you arrive in Oakmont it’s a cold dark damp rainy day and to make matters worse when you arrive. You arrive to find that there is a murder you must solve right from the start. Taking the role of Charles Reed a private investigator from Boston, Massachusetts. You’re tasked with solving this crime and bringing the perpetrator to justice. It’s here that the game begins to explain how to play. You go around collecting evidence at crime scenes and talking to witnesses to find clues. In some cases, you may even have to cross reference at places in town the library, hospital, or police station. Once you have gathered enough information you open your menu and access the “Mind Palace” where you piece the evidence together. But, the solution isn’t that simple because now you can choose which outcome you want from the evidence you collected.
Now with a game about being a detective, it would be wrong of me not to mention the issues. That I’ve detected the first being how bad it was on the PC, the second being how stutters on. The Xbox One game console but I think the biggest issue that I’ve encountered was. The fact that the game recycles its entire layout for everything. When visiting areas they repurposed the 3D models from other areas of their map. It’s the same room, the same building, just repurposed again for a different site. They also use the same animations for Charles Reed adding no uniqueness to his design as he speaks and moves his hands. Instead of aiming for a unique feel for the world they’ve created, we are left with a simple thrown-together map of repeating buildings to the point where. There is nothing unique about it.
The design of the game feels hastily made and lazily made. The best feature of the gameplay is that we get a true detective vibe when cross-referencing information for the crimes at the places in town. But even then it still feels a bit like a cop-out because of the occult vision. Much like Batman’s detective vision it helps you replay the scenes of the past to know what had transpired. For the crimes that you’re investigating.
The Sinking City as a whole just feels cheap. It uses the Lovecraft name to lure in suspecting players trying to set a tone of mysterious dark horror only to disappoint them with what we are given. At the end that is the true horror of this. Like forcefully holding our heads under the ocean and drowning our expectations. But if you’re a gamer who just happens to like detective games collecting information it’s pretty solid. It is, in my opinion, a cheap cash grab using H.P. Lovecraft but for gameplay from a detective standpoint, it’s pretty solid. But when you consider that the developer Frogwares has been developing Sherlock Holmes titles for some time. That makes a lot of sense as to why these mechanics are perfect.
Conclusion time! Is The Sinking City a bad game? The answer is solely based on perspective. As a person who has been excited about the H.P. Lovecraft standpoint of things the horror, the tentacles, and hoping to see Cthulhu I was really disappointed. But my need to know and solve crimes outweighed that negative view. The Sinking City did re-use so many of its assets in its layout which for me did kill its uniqueness. For others, this could be acceptable considering the designs of some American towns. Really, there were just some aspects of the Sinking City that I liked and other parts I didn’t.
It’s not something I would recommend paying full price for, but if it was ever on sale I would say it’s worth checking out because it was a fun game to play and a good time killer.
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