The Sinking City | Rotten Reality - Gameplay Trailer
Who it Caters to
The Sinking City is a game that caters to 2 specific audiences: those who like detective games set in the past, and those who cherish the Cthulhu mythos, created by the renowned author Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Even if it has some action moments, this is a game that invites you to take your time and explore every corner of Oakmont in order to solve its mysteries, so you definitely need to be in the mood for long walks (and sails, and dives) and a lot of logical thinking. If you're OK with that, then go ahead and keep reading. We're sure you're gonna love The Sinking City!
What to Expect
As with every story inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, The Sinking City has a depressing tone that will instantly swallow you. You play as Charles Reed, a troubled private investigator from Boston who needs an answer for his hallucinations, but as soon as he arrives at Oakmont, your own worst fears will ignite. After all, who would want to explore the dark seabed when there are people missing and fish-like monsters (a lot of them with tentacles) all over the place?
This is all about carefully exploring the city and solving every mystery you encounter, walking or sailing through Oakmont and looking at the map every 2 seconds when trying to figure out an address. You'll need to craft, you'll need to piece together a lot of clues, and you'll need to survive as a newcomer when nobody respects you... but most importantly, you'll need to stay alive and not descend into madness.
If you have a beefy enough setup to run the game on its full glory, there's no way you won't enjoy Oakmont. We say this because even though character models are very good, some animations and textures feel kind of weird if you play on low graphics. Plus, The Sinking City's gritty atmosphere is better enjoyed when no matter how dark things get, you still can distinguish stuff... or you'll have a hard time trying to find some evidence.
If we had to mention something that we didn't like, that would be the enemies designs, who still look straight out of a nineties video game. Oh, and some of the animations for when you're going mad. That's another reason to watch your sanity!
One of the best things about The Sinking City is how its music perfectly fits the distressing mood of the story. Sometimes you only hear your own footsteps, some other times the sound of the crows and the voices in your head will play its part, and let's not forget about those moments when you feel the pressure of an ocean above you, but the soundtrack is what ultimately helps you recognize you're in a psychological horror game. The voice acting is nothing otherworldly but it also compliments the general narrative, especially the whispering inside Reed’s mind.
The Sinking City is by no means a survival horror game, so don't expect it to be like Resident Evil but with Lovecraftian monsters running around the flooded Oakmont. Yes, there are enemies here and there, but avoiding them is not that hard and, in fact, that would be the most intelligent thing to do.
Charles Reed arrives at Oakmont in search of answers, and even if he knows how to use a gun, his best weapon are his wits. He's no regular detective since Reed has a gift that allows him to find what other investigators can't, and that's the substance to The SInking City's gameplay. In order to solve a case, you first need to gather as much information as you can, both by talking to the townspeople or by reading notes scattered around Oakmont. These clues often give you directions as to where to go and what to look for, so you must familiarize yourself with Oakmont's districts and streets if you don't want to end up opening the map every two steps.
Once you reach your destination, it's time to meticulously examine the area in search of clues, and this is the part when your supernatural powers pay off. The Mind's Eye lets you experience flashbacks associated with certain objects while Retrocognition is the process by which all your clues come together. However, you can also use the Mind's Eye to follow the omens that point you to essential evidence, and if you still don't have enough information, you may need to browse the archives at the hospital or the police. At any moment, you can access the Mind Palace to group all these clues and form deductions.
With 9 main cases to solve and a lot of sidequests to discover, The Sinking City takes full advantage of what Oakmont has to offer... both on the surface and underwater. Some areas of the city are only accessible by sailing, while some segments of the story take you for a deep dive. In terms of combat, you can find enemies crawling inside some buildings, lurking underwater, or running rampant in the infested parts of the town. Although you can find and craft weapons to defend yourself, the most important part of staying alive is watching your sanity: if you stare at the hallucinations for too much time, you may go crazy and die... and the same will happen if you try to kill innocent people back-to-back.
Another thing we should mention is how killing monsters and solving cases grants you exp, and how you can unlock new skills thanks to it. Sadly, this feels like a gimmick since you can completely ignore this and still successfully finish the game, the same way you can unlock all 3 endings by reloading a save, making all your previous decisions feel worthless.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
The Sinking City's slow pace is perfect for a game like this, but we’re aware that some people may find it tiresome. With so many steps and options in the investigative process, solving cases and getting used to these mechanics is not that easy either, something that can make you feel even more overwhelmed. All that being said, this game flawlessly delivers what it promised: an intricate story that directly ties-in with the Cthulhu mythos.
Will you be lost if you know nothing about Lovecraft's work? Not really because everything you need to know to understand the plot lies within the game. Would it be better if you know a thing or two about Lovecraft's work? Yes! That way you won't miss all those references and easter eggs, and trust us when we say there are a lot!
Great for those who like environmental storytelling and immersive atmospheres.
Playing without cues is a magnificent test for those who like detective games.
The endings are H. P. Lovecraft in a nutshell.
Speaking of the endings, we’d have loved that our actions and decisions had more impact on how it all develops.
You’ll need some time to get used to some investigation mechanics, just like you’ll need time to get used to the slow pacing.
Honey's Final Verdict:
The Sinking City is a more than recommended experience for all Lovecraft fans, but don't come to it expecting anything new to the formula. If you're new to Lovecraft, you definitely can take this game as an entry point and soon you'll be researching about the Esoteric Order of Dagon or the coastal town of Innsmouth, for example. If you're already well-versed in the Cthulhu mythos, then you most certainly have read a lot of similar fanmade stories, so it's up to you to judge how good The Sinking City's plot and characters are.
If you feel like leaving a comment, we’ll be more than happy to read your thoughts on The Sinking City or H. P. Lovecraft himself. And if you want more reviews or the best anime-related content, keep browsing Honey's Anime!
Author: Rod Locksley
Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...