It’s not often that we get an H.P. Lovecraft inspired game. The last notable one was Call of Cthulhu last year, but fans of this type of horror have had their eyes on another title. Back in 2016, Frogwares announced The Sinking City, a Lovecraftian horror title with detective themes. As the game approached its release date, publisher Bigben Interactive invited GotGame to demo the game at E3 2019.
Our time with The Sinking City was short, but it was enough to get an idea of the gameplay mechanics. We start out in a town, worn with water damage and clearly in some sort of turmoil. Our main character, Charles W. Reed, is following a lead on a murder case. Normally, players would have to use their detective skills to find out where they need to go. For the sake of time, the location was already marked on our map, so we made our way there. Taking a boat, we crossed a large mire to get to another body of land in the town.
As we continued toward our destination, strange creatures appeared to attack me. It caught me a little off guard, but luckily, I had plenty of weapons in my arsenal, clearly for the demo. One enemy was large and grotesque, seemingly more powerful than the average enemy. I took out a shotgun and blasted him to kingdom come. Lesser beings were also wandering around, clawing at me, only to get pistol shots to their disfigured face. Charles also has a trusty shovel for melee attacks, great for when enemies get too close.
What makes The Sinking City something special is actually a sort of throwback to a GameCube classic, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. During this adventure, Charles’ sanity is at stake, each disgusting creature able to drive him towards the brink of madness. Some enemies, upon defeat, will even spawn incorporeal demons. The vision will warp, things will grow foggy, and Charles will start seeing things. Of course, all this is translated for the player to witness as well, creating for a very immersive experience.
As we reach the location marked on our map, it’s the scene of the murder. We get ambushed by more demons, but we dispatch them quickly. The front door of the building is locked, so finding another entrance was required. Making our way into a back alley, we dispose of another demon and find clues to this entrance, including a corpse. Unfortunately, it’s not the corpse we’re looking for, so we make our way into the side entrance of the building.
Finally inside, we find a crime scene, having clearly been investigated by the police. Areas are marked and the scene seems practically untouched. Our victim is sitting in his chair, clearly shot. Blood seems to be splattered all over the place, medical supplies are displayed on the table next to the victim. It’s clear that he wasn’t alone and that someone tried to help him. Even clearer when we find the blood covered phone in the corner of the room. Somehow, our investigation stirs up another demon intrusion, so we take care of him before we continue.
The Sinking City truly makes use of detective style gameplay, feeling similar to the Batman Arkham series. The task is to reproduce the crime by looking at all the evidence. Once everything is explored fully, items examined and no stone left unturned, it’s time to recreate the scene. We enter a sort of detective vision dimension, allowing Charles to see the past as long as he pieces it together. Strange portals float near different segments of the scene, and players have to move between them to sort the order of events. Ethereal figures will act out the scenes, and all the player has to do is place a number on each portal in order.
Unfortunately, after figuring out the crime scene, our demo ended almost immediately after that. It was a brief experience that was a little light on narrative, which is unfortunate because that’s what I wanted to see most. Luckily, the game is only a week away, so we won’t have to wait too much longer to see the story unfold. As far as an open-world Lovecraftian horror goes, The Sinking City is shaping up to be an interesting game. We should have a review for the game in the coming days, but for now, look forward to the release on June 27th for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the Epic Game Store. The Nintendo Switch will be receiving the game later in the year. So let us know in the comments below, are you excited about The Sinking City?