The Sinking City is a detective adventure game set in the nearly submerged city of Oakmont. Things in Oakmont are dark, bleak and off centre from the start. On top of that you’re having crazy hallucinations, so whilst you have a job to do, you need to get answers for yourself too.
So why half submerged? Well there was a giant flood, but it’s the supernatural forces at play that are more concerning. First things first you need to get your bearings round the city and get your detective hat on. The game doesn’t hold your hand, so whilst the game points you in the direction of the clues, it doesn’t directly tell you where to go. So instead of following a designated wayward point like most open world games, The Sinking City gets you to put markers on the map. The marker will highlight the specific part of the case you are working on, and this system works really well. Once you gather clues you can then head to the Mind Palace in your menu and piece them together. Again this works really well. To put it simply, if you liked the Sherlock Holmes games you’ll be in heaven here. It’s genuinely thrilling figuring out and solving a case. Bar the first one, cases are pretty long. There’s lots of back and forth through different areas of the city but thankfully the more you travel the easier it gets, due to unlocking fast travel points. You’ll also get around by using boats which are simple to navigate. Whilst visually the game doesn’t offer huge amounts of variation on the streets, you’ll be visiting libraries, universities, hospitals and more to flick through archives, grill witnesses and more. Not to mention deep sea diving. So regarding the Detective elements, the game hits a home run.
The Sinking City also offers some light combat and crafting. Crafting is limited to picking up items and hitting X to craft them, so nothing too tricky there. The combat on the other hand is a bit more tricky. Bar your traditional human ones, enemies come in the form of creepy sea monsters who can a) kill you really easily and b) are pretty hard to aim at. It’s something that whilst I understand why combat is here, I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t need to be. When you’re excited about following a lead on a case but have to endure dying cheaply multiple times before you can progress it becomes tedious, and I was left wondering whether it really added anything to the experience. Throw in the game’s slightly long loading times and you’re doubling the annoyance. As mentioned earlier, the game thrives in its detective elements, and thankfully the developers don’t rock the boat too much with the combat scenarios. They feature more as a cameo role.
Depending on how clever you are, the game will take you anywhere between 12-20 hours to see one of the game’s 3 endings. And bar a few missteps, it delivers. The Sinking City is a dark place, with people who look like fish, an abundance of murders, racism with the KKK, psychotic episodes…the list goes on. But it’s a rewarding experience that makes you feel like a badass detective, which I’d imagine was the whole point. It’s clearly been crafted (or should that be Lovecrafted) with care and passion and honestly deserves your time. Ironically, The Sinking City doesn’t leave you with a sinking feeling at all.
If you’re willing to look past a few imperfections then The Sinking City will float your boat. It’s fair to say as detective horror games go, The Sinking City is definitely one to sink your teeth into.
Punk rating: 8/10