The Sinking City – Review

Name: The Sinking City
Developer:
Frogwares
Publisher:
Big Ben Interactive
Released:
25.06.2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 4 Pro
Acquired: A copy of this game was provided by a publisher for review purpose

The Sinking City took a whole different path in the genre than I expected when they first announced this title. And after a few scary feedbacks from one of our colleagues who has seen this game in action in diverse previews such as Gamescom, I was a bit excited to dive into this game. But I learned fast that my experience might have been a totally different experience than my colleague had.

Story

First things first, the script or the story in The Sinking City might be one of the strongest elements. I do love some of H.P Lovecraft’s work such as Call of Cthulhu, even World of Warcraft’s lore is inspired by Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s work can be summoned up with supernatural powers, monsters, tentacles, obscene scenarios, etc, and from what’s it’s worth, The Sinking City doesn’t miss any tentacles.

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This is a title which is a bit difficult to talk about the story without spoiling anything, but the main thin red line is that we play as Private Detective Charles Reed, who is a newcomer to Oakmont town in the state of Massachusetts, who is tasked to figure out why the city is sinking, and why the residents are going mad. (Cabin fever maybe?)

I thought the storytelling was decent enough in the beginning, but it didn’t take long before I lost interest. Not because of the story, but how they presented it. I will talk about the gameplay segment further down below as this impacts on how they present the story. But the dialogs didn’t match up, example: We can ask five different questions but will get the exact same answer, you can talk about one subject while the key point NPC you talk with can talk about a whole another thing. So I thought, well, this might just be a one-time thing so I moved on with the story. I found it very difficult to pay attention to the dialogs, as the voice acting is horrendous, emotionless and monotonic.

The Sinking City_20190711220900
Picture: Kim Haug | Ulvespill

Frogwares did a great job presenting a few relevant topics such as racism and how miserable the residents in Oakmont town has it. But the bottom line is that the story got much better potential if Frogware had handled it differently.
5/10

Graphics

One thing Frogware did handle correctly, is the visual feel of the art direction in The Sinking City. The atmosphere is spooky, mysterious and makes you wonder why in the hell do I want to be here. Tentacles growing out of my face, humans with fish heads, ape people, what is this place? So bravo to Frogware for creating this scenery with great visuals and lighting.

But then again, characters, monsters and some of the environmental objects have to move right? The animations look unfinished, it’s clunky, the smoothness in walking and facial animations are almost non-existing. And when you’re in dialogs the scenes cut brutally between the characters.

NPC’s tend to disappear or stand in the air or on objects, some of the key objects such as opening safes might fail because of design. There is a lot of bugs that should have been noticed and fixed by the developers before releasing the game.

Normally the music helps to set the atmosphere feel to the game, this is not the case in The Sinking City. It’s emotionless, uninspiring and you go mad of desperation to hear something else (maybe this was intended?)
5/10

Gameplay

There is a lot of weight on self-exploring and finding clues, solving diverse clues to proceed. There are no markers, arrows, lines of some sort to guide you, and in the beginning, this mechanic made me feel proud and smart. To smart I think, as I didn’t find it challenging enough, and I lost interest pretty fast, one reason is because of the control setup and gunplay (more details below), the second reason is that the amount of clues and information available is too much for the User interface/menu to handle, so it’s just a mess and chaotic. You got unlimited access to files from the local police department, hospital, local newspaper, and library.

As in Red Dead Redemption 2, you will be spending a bit of time traveling. Not that the map in The Sinking City is big, but you will be pausing the game a lot to look on the map. However, you will be unlocking fast travel locations, so you can decide if you want to look at the loading screen (for a long time) or manually traveling by yourself.

Gunplay is horrendous and clunky (again because of the controls), which destroys a huge amount of joy. But collecting clues, interviewing suspects and witnesses, and putting every clue together in your ‘Mind Palace’ is fun. So you can say that the “detective” part of the game works decent enough.
4/10

Controls

The default control schematic might look fine in theory, and in some cases, it works just fine. But once you start playing you will find the controls a bit challenging and irritating. As mentioned above, a lot of detective work and collecting clues goes through by using the ‘Mind Palace’ and your map. The menus are clunky to handle, I spend lots of time arguing with the menus, and you have to go in/out of the menus a lot, and this isn’t something I signed up for. I would believe a better way to bring up the map and ‘Mind Palace’ could impact my experience in a much more positive way.

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The controls aren’t good enough to handle the gunplay in The Sinking City, in the heat of action you might find it difficult to handle your character and using the weapon. (Aiming with the guns feel heavy and slow, which makes it almost impossible to use against monsters).
5/10

Replay Value

Other than collecting all of the clues in every region of the city, make different choices in some of the cases I can’t say I’m desperate to play through the game once more. And sadly I can’t see why other players except for trophy/achievement hunters should do it either.
3/10

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You can check out our review policy right here if you wonder how we set our scores.

Overall
4.4/10
4.4/10
  • Story - 5/10
    5/10
  • Graphics - 5/10
    5/10
  • Gameplay - 4/10
    4/10
  • Controls - 5/10
    5/10
  • Replay Value - 3/10
    3/10
Sending
User Review
0 (0 votes)

Verdict

H.P Lovecraft’s universe is exciting and The Sinking City is one of those who should be presented as a video game or movie. Frogware has done a worthy effort to create Lovecraft’s vision visually, but the gameplay mechanics and the fight against the controls destroy the experience. I lost interest fast because of the mechanics and how the story was presented.

Pros

  • Inspired by H.P Lovecraft’s works
  • The visuals create a great atmospheric feel
  • Worthy effort

Cons

  • You will fight against the controls as much as against the in-game monsters
  • The music is uninspiring and boring
  • The voice acting destroys the fun of having a dialogue.

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