Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Sinking City ★★☆☆☆

Out now, ‘The Sinking City’ is an open-world action-adventure horror game played in the third person. The game is created by Frogwares, who are probably most known for their work on their ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series of games. They are an indie studio and mainly develop what you would call AA games, which typically have a much smaller budget than most large developers.

‘The Sinking City’ is their first real foray into the horror genre - not just any horror, but the wonderful Lovecraftian style.  I was quite hesitant at first when I began playing as I was sorely disappointed ‘Call Of Cthulu’, another Lovecraftian horror that was out last year. Upon beginning the game the style and detail in the world is immediately apparent, and if the developer has done one thing right it’s that the game is gorgeous and really evokes Lovecraft.

Of course, like many games in this style, you play as a detective trying to solve mysteries and you are always treading the line between sanity and insanity in your own mind whilst suffering from terrible visions. If I’m honest it felt a little bit like deja vu as this is a theme and story that has been tried many times before, not just within gaming but other forms of media as well. Luckily, the characters of the game and the twisting story was compelling enough that it was able to pull ahead of the crowd and feel a bit more unique than it could have done.

The real issue with ‘The Sinking City’ is that the actual mechanics of playing the game feels very… off.  The combat feels like an afterthought, perhaps something that was tacked on – as if the developer needed the player to be doing something in-between cutscenes and dialogue. Frogwares created such a stunning and detailed world in the fictional city of Oakmont, but what you actually end up doing in the city feels lacklustre. This is worsened still by the fact that the protagonist is supposed to have a long military history, so frankly I expected him to have better combat skills than the ones displayed.

Even as you gain skills throughout the game you never really feel powerful in any way.  Thankfully the difficulty setting of normal, which most players will play the game on, is quite easy and the A.I didn't give too much of a problem on there, but it’s not too good for those who want both a challenge and the feeling that they’re really doing well.  There was also a lack of enemy types and boss characters throughout, which I felt was actually quite odd considering the genre.

It really does feel like the developer would have been better suited to creating more of an interactive story type game instead of an action open world. I’m not suggesting that aspirations aren’t a good thing when developing a game, but perhaps this also would have suited their budget better.

Ultimately, the story and characters of ‘The Sinking City’ are the one shining light in an otherwise underwhelming experience. The game is being sold at a price expected for AAA games and feels a bit too much for me. If it was priced at around £30 then I think this would be well worth the asking price, but I can’t recommend the game for anything more than that. Wait until it’s on sale, or buy second-hand instead.

Hannah Read

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