Have you ever looked into the night sky, looking past the tiny dots of lights into the darkness and wondered the existence of other life? Not aliens, not something to a civilization. More to a being, so ancient that it somehow have not been detected because we could not comprehend its very existence? Will there be a day when it sets its intentions on our planet? What would happen to us when it comes? Cosmic horror is something that's not often explored to the intricate nature on trying to visualize but of all the attempts, one has succeeded in sowing a seed of helplessness and dread in the form of literature. His name is H.P Lovecraft. And the cosmic horror is more commonly known now as Lovecraftian horror. And someone made a game out of it. I mean why the hell not?
The Sinking City is based around H.P Lovecraft's literature, so you bet the atmosphere will somewhat spooky and will definitely feature in heavy occult activities. Here's a compact breakdown on the game, without giving any spoilers to the game plot. Here we go!
I'm going to try my best and not give out everything, potentially spoiling the story for you. Basically, there's a town that's located in a remote area with half of its area submerged underwater due to apparent flooding, caused by supernatural occurrences. And the town's history is rich with instances of occult activities. So you'll definitely see cult members roaming around the streets talking to other locals or getting their morning coffee. Here's where you enter, as a private investigator who's been hired by one of the wealthy families in the town, to uncover what's causing the floodings, as well as the slowly rising cases of hysteria and paranoia in the town. So off you go, as the only person that talks and dressed as a sane person in the game. You'll be meeting with a lot of whacky and zany characters throughout your gameplay. Well mostly horrifying, and sometimes accidentally hilarious.
There's much to talk about the gameplay mechanics, although more does not equate good sometimes. So a third-person perspective game with detective/ monster killing scenarios scattered around the map. Like most detective games, you're given an interface to help you piece the puzzles of a particular case, figuring out the sequence of events that have taken place earlier.
Your detective relies on supernatural powers to get his detecting done. So imagine Arkham detective mode, but instead of tech gadgets, you're using supernatural portals and shadow figures. There's definitely shooting involved as you get rid of monsters called wylebeast along the way.
Now, the gun-combat is okay, nothing too spectacular about it. It also feels like a game mode that's included in the game for the sake of having a more diverse gameplay experience. Personally, I think you don't have to force a game mechanic that's going to enrich the gaming experience. I can do horror detective experience without guns. Although, bullets are used as currency in this town, so there's the conservation of your ammo that you need to consider as you encounter monsters from time to time. There's also a simple crafting mechanic, as well as skill tree where you can enhance your abilities in different elements.
Graphics & Sound
When you first start playing this game, everything will look and sound amazing. The bleak environment of a town ravaged by a flood and the growing paranoia that reflects on how the townsfolk behave and react to their environments does rub off in the initial phase of playing it. However, this being an open-world game that allows you to traverse the landscape many times, the novelty wears off. It's depressing. There's nothing to keep the generated world interesting.
There are definitely awesome sites to explore scattered across the map, but an overall bland and repetitive experience with no variation, paired with A.I that's more A than I waters down the experience by a lot. At the halfway point of the game, it feels more of a chore than actual gaming. Grinding/farming in certain other games poses a better time spent than running around in this game, to be honest.
The sound does a good job to encapsulate the horror, but it does not add any remarkability to the game. So it does a solid job to help with the atmosphere, but nothing much to highlight about it.
There's definitely a great detective game lurking somewhere in the game, but it somehow got overshadowed by the unnecessary game mechanics which bloated and watered down the experience to an extent where it feels less cosmic horror and more to personal existentialism regarding on the time wasted playing this expecting a reward of some kind. The story is great overall, however, the A.I feels bland and you don't really feel a slow descent into the collective hysteria of the townsfolk, even though the game also features instances of your sanity getting corrupted. I would definitely recommend you buying this on sale, because it does not encapsulate the detective genre well, and the cosmic horror slowly gets diluted through the game. Have you tried the game? What was your experience like? Let us know!