The Sinking City

It seems that a lot of H.P. Lovecraft ‘s books are getting some love as of late. With Conarium reviewed by me in February of 2019, and Lovecraft’s Untold Stories by Rafael in May of 2019? There does seem to be a rising interest in his stories and lore! And who could blame them! He’s the father who birthed the ancient old one Cthulu and its consorts. Let that just be the one who the story revolves around in The Sinking City! So let’s get on with the introduction. You play as a war veteran now turned Private Investigator, Charles W. Reed. You have come to the city of Oakmont (which is a fictional city by the way) to investigate an increasing number of disappearances across the U.S. which all seems to point to the very same place you have traveled to. But not all is what it seems, as on your arrival you are greeted by a mix that can only be described as a cross-breed between ape and man. In order to get to the bottom of your investigation? You’ll have to assist the suffering population of Oakmont. What you’ll be encountering during your investigations will scratch at the edge of sanity and will question what you are seeing is correct, or a warped reality. Want to know more? Then look no further! As this is my review of, The Sinking City.

Oh look, a family portrait!
  • Looks nice: The Sinking City surely does one thing right! And that’s actually looking good. That Unreal Engine is really being used to its fullest in this game and that really makes it look wonderful. Sure it’s not the flashiest one out there, but when you look past that you’ll come to agree that the game could pass as a believable game that was copied from a real-life situation. The way the lighting toys around with its surroundings, how the shadows in the water scenes dances and bobs around. Those moments of awe when you’re exploring the depth of the ocean? You’ll surely feel your butt clenching.
  • Voiced Dialogue: Overall the voice actors that narrated their respective characters did an amazing job into bringing them to life. Of course, it’s not all straight A material. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that their voice work isn’t appreciated in the slightest. From a deep grumbly voice for the authoritarian people to the more timid work for scared characters. They all put their soul into the voice and it shows… Or can be heard, to say the least. Not once will you come across a character and think that they sounded not believable.
  • Intriguing Characters: The Sinking City has a diverse cast of people for you to meet. Not one will feel like a copy/paste of the other. And not only are they unique as a character. They look unique as well. And that’s something I admire a lot in this game. It doesn’t try to remodel the lore to make it more believable to look at. It gives you a bit of a backstory even as to why some of the people you’ll come to encounter look different than the others out there. And really? I love it that Frogwares didn’t shy away from the source material.
  • Quite a lot to do: Got any plans before you want to dive into The Sinking City? Then you better execute them before you start the game up! There is a lot for you to discover in here. You can easily go up to 40 hours or more if you want it. The side missions are widely spread and take you from one end of Oakmont (which is where you’ll be playing the game most of the time) to the other and back. Sure you could say there’s a lot of backtracking. But, it is an investigative game. And with the fast travel points all strewn about the map, you can rest assured that you’ll be using them for quite a bit. This is in no way a short novel for you to rush through. Take your time. Enjoy the surroundings and the lore. Because this is truly a diamond in the rough.
Now that’s a lot of potential sushi!
  • Soundtrack: Hello? Is this jukebox on eternal replay? Where are my mysterious songs? Of course, the game needs to be dark and broody… But does that mean that there can be only one track for most of the game? Why can’t there be multiple ones? Is it that much to ask from a developer to invest in a bit of a switch-up in the soundtrack department for the normal gameplay? Ugh… And if the song was anything decent, okay but. It’s just a few chimes and doodads, sadly to say. A pity, since it doesn’t portray the mood of the game most of the time…
  • Quite a bit of reading: Okay, this is a bit of a choice thing. Not bad nor good. If you’re into the lore and really getting every tiny minute detail? Then you’re going to have an amazing blast with this one. If you’re NOT into it? Then this is going to be very annoying for you, as tiny clues and hints are written in these notes and letters that you’ll find strewn about the game. There’s even a quest that gives you a TON of letters, to begin with. And sure you can just pin their directions immediately on the map… But the game kind of wants you to read them. So that you get more immersed into the game’s atmosphere. To which it actually does a very good job. It’s just… A lot to read.
  • Inventory System: Another one of those “you’ll either love it or hate it” debates. On one hand, the inventory screen will show you everything you’ve got. Which is nice for someone who wants to know exactly what they’re carrying. On the other hand, it bunches it all up into one screen. Making the search for a certain item that much harder. Other then the inventory screen, you’ll be able to swap through other tabs as well. Again, love it or hate it part. For me? I hated it. I couldn’t get used to it being so cluttered and information filled. I want a nice clean menu system. So, if anything, you’ll have to experience it for yourself to check if you like how the inventory works or not.
Its a bit breezy today so you might want to wear warmer clothes!
  • Combat system!: I have rarely felt anything stiffer in my hand, then this combat system. There’s nothing fluid or smooth about it. Firstly you’ve got the aiming part that you’ll have to tackle… Which is slow and cumbersome. Good luck with hitting enemy weak spots. Especially since all the enemies are fast-moving and VERY jittery! Secondly, you’ve got the running mechanic. Which would be fine, if not for the grandpa style turning! There’s a tooltip in the game that says that you’re better off running away from a fight instead of engaging it. I can see why! The combat feels tacked on and, in my opinion, should’ve been left out entirely. I would’ve been more at ease with the “combat” being psychological. Since there’s a sanity meter. Keep your sanity low, or face the consequences. Something like that… But nope, a full combat system with guns that do almost 0 damage in areas that are sometimes cluttered with fast-moving sons of b*tches…
  • Awkward animations: Is he having a seizure? Is he going to be okay? Are his lips even moving? Where is his speech coming from? My gosh… The sinking city has a very bad case of “I hear your voice but your lips aren’t following…” And then some. You’ll often be staring at the screen blank-faced, trying to figure out how this went past quality control. Or, getting in or out of the boat… There is no animation at all for this one! You just, run-up to the boat. Press the button to get in and BOOM. You’re in. Why. Why! At least put some effort into it, or leave it out entirely. Since this game relies heavily on your boating skills, at least put some love into it so it doesn’t look like you’re warping in and out of it. This is a supernatural game, not a science fiction one.
Score: 70%
I was on the fence for this one. On one hand, the story and the immense world that Frogwares has created for us? Is really top-notch and on point. But on the other hand, the totally stiff and awkward combat system destroys any possible chance for this being a fully fledged AAA game. Though don’t let this discourage you from trying this one out though as The Sinking City has a LOT to offer. Just, not a good combat system. Give it some time or maybe wait for it being on sale, but definitely give it a try if you are at all interested in psychological horror games or investigation mechanics!

Developer: Frogwares   Publisher: BigBen Interactive
Played on: Xbox One X Also available on: PS4 – Switch and PC
Alexis spent 10 hours investigating Oakmont and delving deeper into its story.
Achievement difficulty for 1000 Gamerscore: For everything? Count up to the easy 40 ish hours if that’s a good guess.
Perfect for: Psychological horror fans, or anyone who played games like L.A. Noire.
Xbox Game Store link: Click here

Written by: Alexis

Writer for LifeisXbox

A dedicated writer who is determined to bring out the best or worst in a game and bring it to you in the most honest of ways.