The Sinking City Review
The Sinking City seeks to capture the Cthulhu mythos in video game form. Does it pull it off, or are you better off looking elsewhere for your fix? Check out this review and find out.
The Sinking City Review
The Sinking City follows the story of Charles Reed, a man who suffers from visions. He dreams of a drowning city, and feels the presence of something tremendous yet unknown. Charles is traveling to a town called Oakmont, a place where he might be able to find a cure for his ailment. Upon arriving, you speak to a man named Robert Throgmorton, who you are told can help you. Throgmorton has an ape-like face and is head of one of the wealthiest families in the town. His son is missing, and he won’t answer any questions until he is found. Thankfully, you are a private eye.
In typical video game fashion, you quickly put the police to shame and solve the case. Throgmorton has already sent an expedition to figure out the cause of the madness and visions, but lost contact with them shortly after they left. The team was searching some underwater caves in the sea, and now you need to go down there and find them. Good thing you are also a former Navy diver. What follows is a creepy, sometimes weirdly-paced story that is hit and miss when it comes to quality.
Visions and madness are not the only things troubling the city, as bizarre monsters have started to appear in the streets. These monsters invade homes, take over factories, and even attack people – including you. No one is doing anything about it, so you have to deal with it as you go. The trouble is that the gunplay is just not that good. The creatures skitter around quickly, the aiming is jerky, and the guns feel like they have almost no impact.
Melee suffers from the same problems, and proves to be clunky as well. They make up for this but letting you use traps, Molotov cocktails, and grenades, which do work wonderfully. Bear traps don’t care how fast a little critter is once it gets a leg caught in it. Molotov cocktails and grenades have a solid blast radius, so if you group up enemies properly you will take down a few at a time. Unfortunately, these resources are more limited than bullets, so often the best choice is just to run.
The Sinking City is not a survival game, but you will be crafting basic supplies very often. Throughout the city, you will loot abandoned houses and other building to find crafting materials. With these, you can craft bullets, explosives, traps, health kits, and anti-psychotics. Most of those are self-explanatory, and the anti-psychotics help you when you see visions. As you suffer from madness, you begin to see things like enemies that aren’t there, an evil doctor with a syringe coming at you, your lifeless body hanging from a rope, and other terrible things.
The madness mechanic is one of The Sinking City’s best selling points, and it can legitimately trip you up. The first time I saw a vision of an enemy on my screen, I turned quickly and shot at it. Once I figured out it was fake, I thought I was okay – how wrong I was. The more your madness meters fills up, the worse it gets. Those visions can start to hurt you and even kill you if you don’t get away from the source of madness. Just being in the presence of particular objects and creatures will raise the meter, so you always have to move quickly.
Madness and visions also affect your PI abilities. During your time as a Navy diver, you saw something that afflicted your mind. You are now “gifted” with retrocognition, which can let you see things that happened in the past so you can put together what happened. Using retrocognition effects your madness meter; not too badly at first, but it adds up quickly. This part of the detective work is fun, though the cases themselves drag on too long. You never go somewhere and solve a case; you have to do a favor, check another building, retrieve some potatoes, or kill enemies. I get that it is a significant part of the game, but it could have been toned down some.
A major reason why it is annoying is because there are no waypoints. You have to pull up a map, find the street, and place a waypoint there yourself. Sometimes you have to go through an Archive system and find the address, which takes even more time. This would be a neat mechanic if done once or twice, but it must be done every time. You can also only fast travel to specific points, adding even more time to the process. I understand the development team did not want to spoon-feed the player, but there are a lot of places you need to go in this game.
It must also be noted that this game is a technical mess, although it never crashed. You got frame drops, screen tearing, glitchy enemies and NPCs, bad pop in, floating NPCs, and other things I am sure I missed. NPCs also don’t fight back against the creatures, and ignore them for the most part. If they are in the same building, the humans generally die, but on the streets, it is like they are invisible to each other.
Those invested in the Cthulhu mythos might be interested in the tale found in The Sinking City, but most others should wait until the game is patched.
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