Fans of Lovecraftian horror, sleuthing, and video games are going to find themselves spoiled for choice in the near future. There are going to be some options available to sate the intersection of these fandoms, each with their own different takes. The Sinking City is Frogware’s entry and it has the potential to be one of the more interesting titles to crawl out of the Lovecraft mythos.
Taking place in 1920’s New England, the game takes place in a version of Innsmouth that has been victim of massive and permanent flooding, almost like an version of Venice populated with humans and fish/human hybrids. Yes, the town is populated by the inevitable result of what could happen from a relationship like those found in The Shape of Water. Players take the role of a private investigator that serves the needs of the populace in these dark times.
An interesting aspect of this title is the open nature it presents. How the players treat their fellow man will directly affect how willing the populace will be to help the detective, and affect the bottom line. One example was agreeing to finding a woman’s husband. We could either do it out of kindness or ask for our normal fees. The citizen’s outlook is extremely important for the gathering of information. If someone doesn’t like the player, they will be willing to lie just for the heck of it. When there are people out there with a real motivation for misleading the hero, it seems unwise to tick off potential friends.
The Sinking City is also designed not to hold the player’s hand. Navigating the “streets” by boat, it asks that we learn the layout in order to get around. There is a map to ease players through, but no real navigation system. If the player is told to check an address, they will need to look it up on the map. Fortunately, the game will have a journal system so a notepad and paper won’t be required.
Actual detective work will also require the player to be observant. There are no glowing points of reference here. It is vital that we pay attention to the environment, check obvious places for clues, and piece together the facts from these parcels of information. Getting all of the particulars of a case straight will help the process of solving the mysteries much smoother. When searching for the husband, we came across some information that gave us a good idea where to check next, but also found a logical thread that led us to a newspaper. Here, we learned that the husband was a fan of an underground group. This information proved useful when a fishman we were question tried to tell us that the quarry was badmouthing this same group and ran into trouble because of it. Because we knew better, we were able to call out the nonsense and get more accurate data. Had we not taken the optional detour, we would have needed to find the truth a different way.
All in all, The Sinking City looks like precisely the kind of game a player can sink the hours into. It’s deep and immersive, with plenty of lore to explore and a unique environment to memorize. If a criticism were to be leveled, it’s only that the graphics looked a little rough in the early build we saw. As it was an early build, though, there is ample opportunity to improve. Either way, The Sinking City is absolutely intriguing and we can’t wait to see more.