The Sinking City Review
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The Sinking City is an adventure and investigation horror game. The game is developed by Frogwares and published by Bigben Interactive. Just like Frogwares previous titles (Sherlock Holmes games), the game is very much a story-driven investigation game only this time it has a horror atmosphere and an open world to investigate. While investigating cases, the game moves along with smooth sailing and offers some unique and creative challenges that are mixed in with its gothic story and HP Lovecraft themes.
The Sinking City takes place in a flooded fishing village in Oakmont, Massachusetts during the 1920s. Players take on the role of Charles W Reed, a war veteran and private investigator, as he searches for reasons behind the horrific visions plaguing his dreams. The town has had a recent flood, so certain portions of the town are surrounded by water. You have to get past water areas by using a boat or by swimming. Swimming is highly dangerous because of the eels that lurk in the water however.
The environments are heavily detailed. Water in the flooded portion of the city looks very eerie and crustacean substances are often seen growing along the nearby walls of the city. Much of the gameplay starts out with you questioning civilians then leads into an investigation. Sometimes you'll run through tons of scripted dialogue with civilians and sometimes you'll unlock extra choices that will lead into some unique missions or other dialogue choices. The game has multiple solutions and decisions for cases at times.
One of the coolest parts of the game is that it does not exactly tell you where to go the majority of the time, but never leaves you totally stumped. You'll have to gain information either from conversations or notes then go to the nearest newspaper business, police station, city hall or whatever business is most related to the information that you are searching for and look through their archives. By selecting between three choices of information, you'll have to pick certain choices that fit the case you are searching for in order to look up more information and gain a lead as to where to go next. This is all handled very well and left me reasoning out my decisions quite often. I never did get truly frustrated when trying to find information since the game gives you just enough information to make the searching understandable for the most part, but this style of research does make the game time consuming.
Anyway, once you gain your lead, you'll be off to investigate a certain area, which you can mark on your map. The game offers markers that you can place on your map that have information about your current lead, which you can place in the area that you are going to. Once you get to the area, you'll either have to question people or start investigating a crime scene. Crime scenes have you searching over a certain areas for clues to piece together the crime. You have access to certain powers that Reed possesses that will reveal certain clues and hidden areas. Investigations are not easy since you'll have to search an area very carefully in order to find all evidence pieces. You'll get a message telling you that all evidence has been found in a certain area once you fully complete the investigation. Once all evidence is found, you'll unlock visions that will help you piece together the crime that took place - you'll have to number them as they appear in order to fully solve the crime.
Crime scenes sometimes lead to other crime scenes and you'll unlock side missions along the way. Sometimes you'll find creatures that lurk that in the dark that you'll have to deal with. The game's combat is where it falls flat on its face for the most part. The combat is extremely janky thanks to the bad aiming and overall feel of the weapons. Enemies will move around quite a bit and will attack aggressively as you try to aim at them making the combat much more frustrating than it should be. Reed gets access to many of the basic weapons or any game, such as a handgun, magnum and shotgun. You can craft bullets and other items using supplies gathered while searching over environments.
There is a sanity meter that lowers as you run across certain grotesque scenes or creatures. As sanity lowers, you'll experience strange visions and a total loss of sanity can be fatal. As you solves cases and explore environments, you'll gain experience which can be used to level up your character. There are a few skill trees where you can skill points to upgrade your character's abilities and attributes. Overall, the game runs fairly well on Xbox One but there are moments where the framerate drops randomly. When I first started the game, there was a major problem with screen tearing, but that was addressed in the latest online update. The game has some strange civilian AI at times. I've had civilians suddenly de-spawn while in view (literally disappear) then others would suddenly fall in front of me.
The Sinking City is an overall good game if you enjoy investigation games with a bit of horror elements in them. This is really not a game that I would recommend to a horror fans since it focuses far more on investigation and the overall story is slow from the start. Once you get deeper into the game, the horror atmosphere gets better, but it never does stray too far from solving cases in order to gain evidence that takes you to your next lead. Basically, it's not up to a Call of Cthulhu type of horror atmosphere, but it does have its moments where it gets a bit freaky in between all the investigation moments.
+ Overall investigation sequences and investigation gameplay
+ Many side investigations to perform
+ Environments are well detailed and have a good horror atmosphere
- Combat is forgettable and very janky
- Random glitches here and there
Final Rating: 75% - The Sinking City is a decent game for fans of investigation. Horror fans probably won't find much to enjoy here though.