The Sinking City
|The Sinking City|
Frogwares (Nintendo Switch)
|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
|Release||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
|Genre(s)||Action-adventure, survival horror|
The Sinking City is an action-adventure mystery horror video game developed by Frogwares and published by Bigben Interactive, inspired by the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft. Set in the fictional city of Oakmont, Massachusetts during the 1920s, the story follows private investigator and war veteran Charles W. Reed as he searches for clues to the cause of the terrifying visions plaguing him, and becomes embroiled in the mystery of Oakmont's unrelenting flooding.
The Sinking City is an open-world detective game with a third-person camera perspective. It features an open investigation system in which the outcome of the player's quests will often be defined by how observant the players are when investigating different clues and pieces of evidence.
The town of Oakmont is made up of seven districts (Advent, Coverside, Grimhaven Bay, Oldgrove, Reed Heights, Salvation Harbor, and The Shells) which have all been affected by flooding to various degrees, and the player must use a boat to safely traverse the flooded streets to reach drier areas. The player can swim if necessary, but the water is infested and can fatally damage the player's health and sanity. The player also assembles an arsenal of tools and weapons, and at times must use them to kill otherworldly creatures and dispel hallucinations. However, as Oakmont is an isolated place with dwindling resources and deteriorating social order, bullets have replaced money as the preferred currency; expending too many bullets can leave the player unable to barter for desired items. Another major resource is sanity, which is spent on investigative powers used to reconstruct crime scenes and identify clues. Sanity slowly regenerates on its own, but can be replenished faster with antipsychotic drugs. Disturbing scenes and encounters can cause sudden, sharp drops in sanity, affecting the player's perception of the surrounding environment, and complete loss of sanity is fatal.
The Sinking City takes place in the secluded fishing town of Oakmont, Massachusetts in the 1920s, a place that is not marked on any map and few people know how to find due to its remoteness. Oakmont has a long history of association with the occult, and many of its citizens are not only eccentric, but unabashed practitioners of occultism. Cultists in bloody ritual garb are an unremarkable sight on the streets alongside fishermen, average townsfolk, refugees from the destruction of nearby Innsmouth, the destitute and desperate, and well-heeled members of the upper class. The town also developed its own unique dialect over the years, but the origin of many phrases is murky. Six months ago, Oakmont was inundated by a mysterious, persistent flood of supernatural origin that has submerged many of its streets and cut it off from the mainland. "The Flood", as it is known by Oakmonters, brought with it a dark force that inexorably instills hysteria and madness in the minds of the terrified citizens, and the struggling town is on the brink of collapse. In addition, droves of people from outside Oakmont who were reported missing have been turning up in the town, drawn by haunting, unaccountable visions.
Charles Winfield Reed, a U.S. Navy sailor and Great War veteran turned private investigator, travels from Boston to Oakmont at the invitation of intellectual Johannes van der Berg to discover the cause of the nightmarish visions that have been plaguing him for years, visions which are shared by numerous other people and most commonly occur in Oakmont. Reed is hired by Robert Throgmorton, the influential and physically striking head of one of Oakmont's leading families who has also been studying the visions, to help uncover the cause of the Flood plaguing the town. While Reed pursues this investigation and others using extrasensory powers of observation seemingly bestowed by his visions, uncovering the shadowy history and seedy underbelly of Oakmont along the way, he must guard his sanity as it is eroded by the town's darkness, otherworldly creatures attracted to death called Wylebeasts, and the use of his own powers.
When planning The Sinking City, developer Frogwares envisioned the open-world setting of Oakmont as a densely-built urban area that was two kilometers square. As the scope of this made handcrafting the entire town unfeasible, Frogwares turned to Unreal Engine 4 and followed the example of city generation techniques pioneered in Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed series to create entire blocks of Oakmont at once through procedural generation. These prefabricated blocks were assembled from assets based on actual early 20th century New England architecture, with blocks in different districts of Oakmont following different sets of rules to give each district a distinct purpose and atmosphere. Among the various generic blocks, the designers placed a number of unique buildings and landmarks, and also decorated the generic blocks with other assets by hand. The areas of the town designated for flooding also utilized unique assets in their generation, such as silt, seaweed, and barnacles, to make them stand out in their districts.
The Sinking City was first announced by Frogwares on March 9, 2016, with pre-alpha gameplay footage debuting on July 28, 2017. The game was originally slated for release on March 21, 2019, but it was eventually delayed to June 27, 2019. Frogwares Community Manager Sergey Oganesyan explained that the decision to delay the game was made in order to avoid a crowded release window and allow for additional polishing time. Frogwares later announced that The Sinking City would be a one year timed-exclusive release for the Epic Games Store on PC, but this would not affect the console releases. On June 11, 2019, Frogwares announced at E3 2019 that in addition to the three previously confirmed platforms, a Nintendo Switch port of The Sinking City was also in development. The Nintendo Switch port was planned for a release later in 2019, and would be Frogwares' first self-published game.
Three editions of the game were produced. The Standard Edition consisted of a physical or digital copy of the The Sinking City with no bonus content. The physical-only Day One Edition, available via pre-order, included the game, the Investigation Pack with an additional outfit, weapon, and aid items, and a paper map of Oakmont. The digital-only Necronomicon Edition included the game, the Investigation Pack, the Worshippers of the Necronomicon Pack with three additional side quests, and 48-hour early access.
The Sinking City has received "mixed or average" reviews according to Metacritic. Reviewers generally praised the game's writing, worldbuilding, and the lack of hand-holding in finding and drawing conclusions from clues to solve cases, but criticized the combat as slow and frustrating, and noted multiple technical issues, such as overly long loading times and screen-tearing.
Jeff Marchiafava of Game Informer summarized: "The Sinking City shares all of the same problems of Frogwares' previous games, but it also capitalizes on the same strengths. Reed's cases offer up surprising twists and memorable moments, and flesh out a twisted world and cast of characters that I enjoyed learning about. The combat and repetition may elicit the wrong kind of madness, but fans of Lovecraftian horror should still consider visiting The Sinking City."
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