The Sinking City – Review
Follow Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Tested on: PC

The Sinking City – Review

Site Score
5.8
Good: Atmospherically strong
Bad: Hollow for an open world and largely dissapointing gameplay
User Score
7.4
(5 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.4/10 (5 votes cast)

It’s been a while since, at the E3 2018, The Sinking City showed a little bit of itself. Over time, it started releasing a lot more trailers and teasers. Mainly action-heavy visuals were eventually shown. Visuals that, after The Sinking City has been played, does not really seem to represent what you will be playing. But let’s get into the atmosphere and get deeper into the game in this full review.

Story

You play as Charles Reed, detective. As a previous member of the navy, you’ve already seen some stuff, yet somehow you started to have horrifying visions and dreams. In your dreams, you get to witness creatures of the sea, especially large ones, swallowing you whole. To find the origin of your feverish mind, you go towards The Sinking City, a city that’s being affected by madness after ”the flood” took place and half the city is standing under water. This world is filled with Lovecraftian influences, making basically everything possible and making you unsure what to expect. Some cutscenes show you how severe the condition of the mind of Mr. Reed is, and mostly the story will be the guiding reason for this game to exist. The main story is filled with mystery, giving you a reason to play.

Graphics

Graphically, The Sinking City is the most appealing thing for a long time. It breathes originality and does an impeccable job of translating the H.P. Lovecraft atmosphere to a story-driven game. A lot of the game is water, combined with a Chicago Detective novel from the 1930s. It works when simply looking at your surroundings, or when using a boat on deep waters as you expect something to jump out at any second. The cutscenes are a bit lower in quality though, as well as the model animations when you communicate with NPCs. But worse than that is that the game is actually extremely buggy with random spawns and weird models overlapping. At least way too buggy for a finished product that already hasn’t got its gameplay that well in order…

Sound

Probably, besides the story, the sound is the best part of the game. There’s plenty of proper voice acting going on, with many unique voices. Some crime scenes can be haunting with many small sounds surrounding you, and when you are low on sanity the cockroaches can almost crawl inside your ears. Accompanied by cinematic and dark background tracks, it’s definitely well crafted and contributes to the atmosphere by a ton.

Gameplay

The Sinking City is mainly a story-driven game where you run around like a detective to solve cases by finding clues and connecting evidence. There’s also some action involved where you shoot at malicious creatures. So it’s an action-adventure if you like. Let’s cut to the chase instantly. The gameplay is the weakest of The Sinking City, and that’s something to be mad about. Because the atmosphere is original, the story shows great promise as you start off, but the gameplay just ruins everything.

The game advertises itself as an open world type of game, and in a way, it’s set up like a map from a game such as Grand Theft Auto. There are multiple sections of the same city that each kind of look the same but house their own things such as a hospital, a police station, a university and more. The problem is that this open world advertisement is totally false in a way. Yes, the map is set up to resemble one, but where the story, aside from a few side quests, is very linear, the biggest problem is that everything is incredibly hollow.

As you walk around, the NPCs that are walking around look interesting but barely say anything at all, unless you occasionally bump into one and a simple ”Hey” comes out. Any animated interactions are buggy as hell, more than often making people appear and disappear as the game pleases. In similar games, you would have vendors that you can maybe buy stuff from, but the vendors in The Sinking City are just decoration. As a matter of fact, almost everything is decoration. So many houses and places are just inaccessible hollow models. You have health, weapons, and sanity, Your sanity drops when you look at weird things, spawning a type of shadow-creatures, but it’s all pretty redundant.

You see, if you are playing the game, or the things it allows you to play, there are pretty much two, nay, three things to do. You can go to an infected area, slay a monster and loot whatever is there. Secondly, you can follow the main story or do a side mission and get some experience and loot. This experience gives you the choice of small upgrades that allow you to be slightly stronger. But the question is: Stronger for what? The buggy and hollow experience that is fighting a little bit and, thirdly, endlessly walking around (really, you will spend a lot of time walking) are barely designed well enough to even require upgrades. The Sinking City really needs something from games that did it better. Games such as Resident Evil, The Evil Within, Eternal Darkness, and more horror-esque games that have proper, terrifying combat situations.

The most of the time when you are not shooting anything, the gameplay is story-driven and kind of alright. You will be trying to find clues by searching for objects with your own pair of eyes, as well as toggling a button on or off that gives you a special vision for clues and paranormal activities. When you have found all clues at a scene, you will often piece together the happenings that took place there, and also go to your ”mind palace”, an option in the menu where you connect multiple clues to build and unravel a case. At some scenes though, searching for the last clue present can be a bit of a Where’s Wally type of situation, just making you spend even more time that the game is taking from you. Which eventually, is just too much. Even the fact that you get to make big choices during the story doesn’t change any of this.

Conclusion

The Sinking City had a great setup and looked very promising when it allowed you a first look. It has some gameplay that’s just fine, but other than that, the gameplay goes against everything the game has going graphically. Your surroundings will quickly prove to be a hollow facade, disappointing in how much there is to be done, as well as undoing most that looked beautiful at first. The game has a lot of tension building up visually, but just utterly fails to put that tension to good use. Eventually, it looks like a project that was too ambitious for those involved.

If you want to see the game for yourself, look below for a better impression where gameplay is recorded by the reviewer.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.4/10 (5 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
The Sinking City - Review, 7.4 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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Find me on youtube to see some playthroughs! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuBrlulGywcb0EiYWBnA1ng

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