The Sinking City is the latest title by Frogwares and it is an investigation action-adventure game coupled with horror elements. We all know that Frogwares is not new to the investigation genre as they have released a good amount of decent Sherlock Holmes titles so The Sinking City’s core formula is not new for them. This is our review of The Sinking City. For our review, we played and tested the game on a PS4 Pro system.
Starting with the backstory of The Sinking City, the game is set in the 1920s and the city is Oakmont, Massachusetts. The city of Oakmont has been overcome by a supernatural flood that s casing strange visions in the residents and has caused some mysterious monsters to appear as well. No one knows the mystery and secret behind this supernatural flood and this is where the main protagonist of the game comes into play.
You play as Charles Reed who is an ex-navy man and now works as a private investigator. What brings Charles Reed to Oakmont City is that he is also one of the people who are getting these strange visions and to find a cure for this madness, Charles has finally landed in Oakmont, the flooded city where he must try to mix in with the locals, gain their trust and ultimately find the source behind the supernatural flood as well as his own haunting visions.
Right from the starting screen of the game, the game sets a very gloomy environment which is perfect for the setting of the game. The world is detailed very well and you will often forget that this is the work of the same developer who made the earlier Sherlock Holmes games. The game does a very good job in explaining its mechanics to players that someone who is not a huge fan of investigation games will easily get the grasp of the basic mechanics.
Probably the most detailed and the best mechanic of The Sinking City is the investigation. Since the game is basically an investigation game, the developers have worked hard to make it feel like a proper investigation game apart from all other mechanics present in the game. The crime scene designs are amazing and will really test your investigation skills as you try to look for clues and strive to deduce conclusions from them. Having the right amount of clues is vital if you want to solve the case properly. Miss a clue and you will end up with a wrong decision at the end.
The new Mind Palace is also a welcoming addition to the game as it gives complete freedom to players in how they want to solve the case. At the end of the case, it is up to us to decide whether the criminal walks away or gets punished for crimes committed. Apart from the Mind Palace, the exploration of crime scenes and looking for clues is also solid. I absolutely loved the parts when you would get something out of the blue when you were expecting nothing.
Apart from pursuing the main case which is to cure the visions and solving the mystery behind the flood, you are free to explore the city of Oakmont. You can interact with the citizens, gain their trust by solving their cases, helping them out in different scenarios and getting some extra coin out of them. Since money does not work in the city anymore, you can get supplies, gain XP to obtain Knowledge Points or get deeper into the lore of the game and the flood.
The side cases are also an excellent way to explore parts of the game which you will not explore while playing the main story of the game. These are also an excellent distraction if you want a break from the main case and want to explore more of what Oakmont offers. As you explore the more hidden parts of Oakmont, you will get to know more about the history of the city and how the flood has affected it.
The city of Oakmont is really well made and it certainly feels like a city which has been under the influence of a flood for a long time. Some of the areas and streets are completely under water so you will need to use a boat to get to the other side. The boat mechanics are nothing too special or too boring but they get the job done. Despite numerous cars littering the streets, you cannot drive them around and are forced to run around the streets.
Apart from the city, your investigations will also take you deep underwater where the mechanics would drastically change and will put your life in the hands of the forces beyond your control. During these moments, you will really get to see how vulnerable you really are in the game with only a harpoon in your hand and nothing else to protect you from the monsters. The underwater sections are in my opinion the best ones and also the most terrifying sections.
The character design is also pretty good however sometimes the facial expressions of Charles Reed does not look right in the place. The facial animations could have been a little bit better but it is not something that would kill your gaming experience. Overall the animations are pretty fluid and nothing feels out of the place. You can clearly see if a character is upset or worried about something as the emotions appear on their faces quite well.
Coming to the audio of The Sinking City, the audio design is pretty solid as well because sometimes you will need to listen to certain audio cues as well which will help you in collecting clues. Keeping this in mind, the audio is pretty good however the soundtrack of the game is nothing that will want you to burn a CD and take it with you everywhere. Sometimes I had to mute the soundtrack because it was too annoying.
With all this said, The Sinking City is not short of its problems as well at this point. The PS4 version takes a long time to load and the gameplay is extremely choppy at some times. Very often it happened that I was sprinting in the city and the game would suddenly show me a dark screen and the loading sign as it would try to load the open-world again. I also experienced some screen tearing here and there which is the first time I have ever seen it on a PS4 console.
Sometimes entering a building after roaming outside would trigger yet another loading screen which is a little bit annoying considering the fact that The Sinking City is an open-world game. Apart from these loading issues, another weak link in the game is the combat. I’ll say that since the game focuses more on investigative mechanics, the developers have clearly not worked much towards the combat aspect of the game.
The guns are boring and nothing special and combat itself feels dull and bland. Firing a shotgun does not feel like firing a shotgun at all. There is no weight to weapons which makes combat extremely boring and annoying. I enjoyed the story of the game, the investigations were solid but I hated the parts where a gunfight was involved because it is just so weak in the game. If developers want to improve the game in the future, they have to start with the gun mechanics.
However, I am willing to forgive the weak combat mechanics over the fact that game delivers everything else so brilliantly that I enjoyed the game right from the first time I stepped off the boat to the point where I finally solved the final case of the game. The environment of The Sinking City is amazing and I loved the underwater treks which really gave me goosebumps. The story of The Sinking City is really intriguing and will keep you on your toes and you will want to solve case after case quickly to find out what happens next in the game.
The Sinking City is easily the best investigation game at this point you can purchase and it will make you forget all investigation games of the past as well because of its unique and solid mechanics. The environment and setting of the game are excellent and how the story unfolds right in front of you is really amazing. The game starts slow however it quickly builds up its pace and it never makes you lose your interest throughout to the end. Despite its weak combat and other performance hiccups, it will surely keep you entertained from the start to the finish.
Final Score: 9/10