The Sinking City is a narrative-driven game developed by Frogwares and published by BigBen. The city of Oakmont is infected, as certain districts have been overrun by otherworldly creatures and many more have been completely flooded. Players take on the role of Charles Reed, a veteran of war and a private investigator who is trying to unravel the mystery of Oakmont.
E3 2019 The Sinking City Preview
This is the studio’s first open-world game and I have to say, they’ve done a great job bringing a rudimentary gothic, eerie tone to the architecture and vibe. After I picked up the controller and one of the developers talked me through how to track quests in my journal, I took time to just wander the city, exploring the differing streets. Everything feels accurate, but just slightly off. The atmosphere is unnervingly pleasant, as everything feels very much like an early 1900s city, but…off, as if something just isn’t quite right. That’s before you get the flooded or infected zones of course.
As much of the city is waterlogged, you can use a boat to row your way through the flooded sections. Rowing will be a big part of the traversal, so fortunately it works quite well and I took to navigating the boat fairly easily.
Throughout your exploration, you’ll gain access to a variety of weapons: a revolver, a shotgun, even a small submachine gun. The more powerful the weapon, the more limited ammunition is however, so choosing when to fight and when to run past your monstrous foes is vital. The disgusting, twisted monsters are relentless and plentiful, easily capable of catching you off guard and ending your investigative career. Shooting and combat feel fine overall, though there’s definitely a bit of jank.
In my demo, I made my way to a house where my contact had been murdered. After carefully observing and identifying the different clues left in his home, I had to make sense of what happened and order the events in my head. You’ll need to piece these different clues together in the correct order. If you fail to do so, you might end up going into a situation with less information, or not really understanding what might be at stake.
Whether explaining your innocence to police officers or investigating witnesses, you’re going to be doing a lot of talking. There’s dialogue options available for most conversations and while I didn’t witness it myself during my limited demo, I was told major things can change based on your choices – for example, a powerful, wealthy but strange resident of the city might or might not choose to aid you, depending on how you’ve interacted before.
I do need to mention some issues I saw in my time hands-on with the game. The framerate was less than stable during fights with lots of monsters and a couple of times, NPCs would spin in place or start walking in small circles. Still, I was told it was an older build, so the final release should have some of these issues cleaned up.
If you’re a fan of Lovecraftian works or you’re looking for a good mystery game, The Sinking City is worth keeping an eye on. It’s coming out soon, as The Sinking City releases on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox on June 27th, 2019. A Nintendo Switch version of the game is also in development, to be released at a later date.