This year, EGX Rezzed was fascinated with mysteries and being a cool detective and The Sinking City was no exception. This new IP from Frogwares caught Forge’s interest with its Lovecraftian setting.
The game is set, suitably, in a city that is mostly submerged in water. Travelling between districts on a small motorboat, you see a sombre and bleak environment. It encompasses everything gothic, but it also shares a reassuring familiarity with visuals that games like Fallout typically adopt.
The roughly 30-minute demo opens with the protagonist terrorised by tentacled monsters beneath the water. The nightmarish sequence comes to an end and our troubled investigator is met by a sad-looking woman who asks the player to find her husband. A moral choice – whether to take her engagement ring as payment or do the job for free – didn’t have much effect in the demo, although obviously consequences may come later.
The game captures a perfect Lovecraftian dystopia with a nice noir detective touch. There were brief moments of ‘insanity’, where the character encounters alien-like entities he has to fight, and in those moments the game feels very reminiscent to horror titles such as the original Resident Evil games. You are a detective first and a fighter second.
The most noticeable part of the game is how little guidance it gives you. It originally comes across as a lack of attention by the developers, but upon conversation with them it was made clear that that was the point. They don’t want to hold your hand, a daunting change for gamers. What was originally identified as poor game design was in fact a conscious decision to let the player do the work.
The player is given several pieces of evidence to flip through and several locations on the map, but you’re not told where to go and what evidence will help. You have a picture of an occult symbol: where would you go to study this symbol further? Perhaps a library? It’s up to the player to figure out their next course of action.
Still though, there were times that the game really was too ambiguous and the developers had to tell us what to do, due to the amount of mindless running around. Whether these more frustrating sections are cleaned up or not in the full release, spending some time in the charming-but-miserable city of Oakmont, Massachusetts is definitely an experience we’ll anticipate with eager eyes.