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The Sinking City review for PS4, Xbox One, PC


Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Developer: Frogwares
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

The Sinking City may be a brand new IP, but it’ll look awfully familiar if you ever played any of Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes games. In nearly every respect — from the voice acting, to the gameplay, to the graphics — it looks, feels, and plays almost identical to Frogwares’ take on Sherlock, so, really, if you have any opinion on those games, you’ll probably feel the same way about this game, too.

There are much worse things that could be said about a game — particularly because The Sinking City is more like Crime and Punishments-era Sherlock than the iffier The Devil’s Daughter Sherlock. The game is built around solving a somewhat engaging mystery, and it doesn’t bog the game down in too many gimmicks. The only real difference is that rather than drawing from the mythology created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this game is built around HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos — which, I’ll admit, is unfamiliar to me even though this game represents the fourth Lovecraft-based game I’ve played in the last year (after Conarium, Call of Cthulu, and Tesla vs Lovecraft, the last of which is kind of a stretch).

Thankfully, The Sinking City doesn’t require that you go out and read At the Mountains of Madness or The Shadow over Innmouth, though the game takes quite a few cues from the latter. It lays out its story pretty clearly on its own, and even when the game calls on you to make deductions in your Mind Palace, you only need to know things that have already been revealed via the story.

Mind you, just as those Sherlock games are the definition of what used to be considered mid-tier, The Sinking City isn’t going to wow you. The characters all look more humanoid than human (which, considering some of them are supposed to be fish-human hybrids, isn’t entirely a bad thing), the voice acting is stilted, and the writing is wooden. Movements are awkward, and combat is a challenge at the best of times.

The worst part of The Sinking City, though, is its open world. Nearly everything looks the same, and even though you can set waypoints, you’ll constantly be switching over to the map just to find your way. The city also feels oddly sterile — which is an odd way to describe someplace that’s partly underwater and so rundown. Everything feels like it’s there just to fill space; contrast that with the best open worlds, where it feels like you’re in the middle of a city that exists independently of you, and you can see the problem. Even if you run into other people, they don’t really seem to react, though you’ll usually get some kind of vocal reaction that sounds piped in out of nowhere.

Still, even with those complaints, I wouldn’t describe The Sinking City as a bad game, by any means. Much like its Sherlockian predecessors it’s very much for a niche audience, but if you’re part of that niche — and I think I am — it’ll be a fun way to pass 15-20 hours.

Bigben Interactive provided us with a Sinking City Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B-