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The Sinking City Preview

by Joost "Myrthos" Mans, 2018-09-03

Frogwares, who are developing The Sinking City, might be better known for their series of Sherlock Holmes games, of which they made several in the past. It is this type of investigation game that they wanted to port to the world of Lovecraft. The focus of the game is therefore on the story, taking place in an open world, where you are looking for evidence, talk to witnesses, cross-reference the evidence, solve puzzles and solve crimes, with some combat thrown in as well.
The game takes place in the partially flooded city of Oakmont, which has several public facilities, such as: city hall, the hospital, the police station, the library, etc. In these places you can cross-reference the evidence you have collected with the archives in these public facilities.

Charles Reed, the main character, is a world-war I veteran, who is a private detective in Boston and is having visions that are driving him slowly insane. In one of those visions he has seen Oakmont and feels that it is the place where he can find answers on how to cure his insanity. However he is not the only one getting those visions. The point of the main quest is to save yourself by finding out what it is, that is driving you and other people crazy. The game uses a sanity meter. Whenever Charles sees something disturbing, the sanity meter goes down and affects the gameplay as the player is starting to see visions and flashbacks and in combat situations even things that are not there, but seem real to you. Real enough to shoot it perhaps and waste precious bullets. Next to shooting creatures, Charles also carries a shovel with which he can hit things, but it doesn't do that much damage, so it is probably better used as a last resort.

For combat situations the game uses resources for ammo and health packs, which are scarce, so you cannot go into a combat situation with guns blazing as you simply do not have the bullets for something like that. You need to approach combat in a more tactical manner. That said, the combat I played in the demo was not too hard, but did take more bullets than it might have.
To complicate the use of bullets for a fight even more, bullets are the currency in The Sinking City, so you need them for other things than shooting as well.

The game has been in development for 3 years now. It is their first open-world game that is so huge. The city is 30 square kilometres and they have developed a tool for the Unreal engine, called the city generator, which allows them to build to city more efficiently. For this they also have a dedicated person from their team assigned for the architecture. The city of Boston was used as a reference for constructing Oakmont.

At a certain moment you will reach a point in the game where you get a 'final evidence completed' message and you are pretty much done with the story, but you can still proceed with the game. You can explore the town even further and more thoroughly and you can do the quests you missed before that were not essential to completing the game.

There is a skill tree system implemented with combat related skills and also resource related skills, where you can find such skills that give you more items when you scavenge a location that you can use in crafting scarce resources, such as ammo, health packs and sanity packs. Additionally there are travel related skills, allowing you to run or swim longer (yes you can swim in the game, although it is not very safe) and also other skills like being able to carry more, or regenerate faster.

Monsters are hand-placed, as they wanted to be sure that they appear only on locations where you can expect them to be. The problem with monsters however is that they negatively influence your sanity. There are a total of 6 different monsters, with each monster having 3 sub-types. There are monsters that can heal, teleport and even resurrect other monsters. There are also monsters that do not harm you, like a monster that just creates a cloud of smoke, which makes it hard for you to see anything, allowing other monsters to hit you more easily.

The hands-on demo that I played, was a side quest, somewhere in the middle of the game, where the player receives a letter with a plea for help.
It is supposed to be playable with keyboard and mouse, and controller, but the keyboard controls were not final. In my case they were definitely not final and in some occasions just did not work, so I switched back to the controller instead.
I started at the library, where I found a woman, I apparently encountered before. Her lips were stitched together, but she could still speak somewhat and asked for help.

The game is fully voiced and there are no markers to be found anywhere and you are free to go where you want. The journal and quest logs provides sufficient information about where you have to go to, so you can always check that if you lost track and search for the place on the map where you can zoom in and out. Custom markers can be placed on the map in case you want some extra information. The city is big, but fortunately there are fast travel options. One is by means of fast travel points scattered throughout the city, where you can travel instantly from one point to the other. It is also possible to travel by boat to the location you want to go to. As large areas are flooded you probably cannot go by foot, unless it is in the direct vicinity.

The game encourages you to look around for any clues that might be there and interact with them to learn more. Also if you see something disturbing the insanity of your character kicks in, resulting in the environment changing and seeing odd things. By looking around further I found several items. One of the skills my character had was that he could see visions of the past. This I used to learn more of what happened and to solve a puzzle, which consisted of interacting with 4 items I found in the room in the right order. I could have tried a maximum of 16 times obviously to find the right sequence, but with all the information available, the solution to the puzzle can be determined, so it took me just two tries. Solving puzzles provides you with additional evidence that you need to inspect closely in order to figure out where to go next.
Another skill that my character had was a concentration mode that could be used to find hidden items and other items of interest, by directing the player to the location by means of swirly lines moving in the direction of the item of interest.

The combat I had in the game was rather straight forward and takes place in real-time. Lock on the enemy and shoot it, with using as few bullets as possible. If there are more enemies, lock on the next one and shoot that one. However at times the sanity level of your character might interrupt things and make combat more difficult.
After finding all the clues I headed back to the library to cross-check the evidence with the archives. It provides a user interface, where the right options to search for in the archives need to be selected, for it to give the correct information back. With this information the quest can be continued. However this also meant the end of the demo. And if you like to see how this looks when actually playing the game, you can check out his video with developer comments.

The Sinking City has a concept of moral choices and depending on that moral choice the story is changed, but not much. Still, there are multiple endings in the game. You get to one of the endings based on what you did in the game, but also based on a final choice you make.

The game has an expected length of 15-20 hours for the main story and an additional 10-20 hours for side quests. and is completely voiced.
The Sinking City is scheduled for a release on March 21, 2019.

Box Art

Information about

The Sinking City

Developer: Frogwares

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Historical
Genre: Adventure-RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: 20-40 hours
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released: 2019-06-27
· Publisher: Frogwares

More information