Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic entity ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, The Sinking City is an adventure, investigative and open world full of horrors and distorted reality. You get to play as Charles Reed, who once was a Navy diver who is now tortured by the death of his crew aboard USS Cyclops where he is the only survivor.
Plagued by memory loss and unearthly visions, he now became a Private Eye in Boston, MA. To solve this mystery once and for all he traveled to the sunken city of Oakmont as the alleged source of his ailment. Little did he know that this great city now flooded with sea water is also engulfed with lies, blood, and paranoia that only he can solve or he may just fall victim to depending on your actions.
Right out the bat, hellish fiends, paranoia, and murder are the perfect mix of a great cocktail that’ll leave you smiling for the rest of the night. But this game pushes it a bit further by adding investigative mode to its mix. Just like how Sherlock does it, he goes to the possible crime scene/location of the target and analyzes the scene before him. Now Charles doesn’t really have those razor sharp wits of Sherlock but he has more. Somehow blessed or cursed by the sleeping giant he has the power of Mind’s Eye.
Mind’s Eye is an ability of Charles that appeared after the death of his crew where it can reveal images of the past, illusions, omens or tracks/symbols that are otherwise difficult to see with a human eye. When you hear a ringing sound or a distortion appears around your screen – activate it and it will guide you to your next destination. Pretty cool I might say but this ability cost sanity points and will be quite dangerous to activate if monsters appear as your vision gets distorted and it will prove futile as you won’t be able to hit them as accurately. Use them carefully!
Another skill that Charles can totally brag about it Retrocognition. If you have collected enough evidence on the scene, a bluish vision will emerge. Once you step into it, it will show you critical scenes and you have to solve as the order it happened. This sometimes is the key to finding out where do you need to go next or key evidence on your investigation. Quite honestly, I don’t really have that kind of patience in dealing with clues and going back to the crime scene over and over again. But, it is so easy to neglect the little details if you don’t have that attention to detail. That is how good the items are placed in the game. You just don’t know if they are the game changer – much like how it is in the real world. To think, reality is much more difficult.
Tutorials in this game are rather limited and you are only stuck with a How to Play guide in the Option interface, controls are pretty simple but the difficulty of game leans more on how well you can aim and keep your wits with you as monsters drain you of your sanity. Well, you have two bars to keep a lookout for. The red bar is your vitality or health and the blue one is your sanity levels. As I’ve mentioned, Mind’s Eye costs sanity and also fighting monsters. The more you get to be around them alive, they drain your sanity and the bigger they are – the more sanity they drain from you.
You have to figure out their weakness fast and kill them or suffer paranoia and distorted images once you are low on sanity. At times, shadowy figures appear and harm you if your sanity is too low and this might prove very dangerous for you as ammo’s and scraps are low. This is another feature that I really admire about this game.
The player gets to be a normal human being. No armor, no beef up leveling and no hardened skin bullshit. All you really can do is raise those bars and increase melee and gun attacks. Skill tree doesn’t even have an upgrade of increasing the effectiveness of a first aid kit.
Not only you have to juggle that but the more clues you get, the more information you will have on your mind palace. This interface helps you deduce the nuances of the case. They can lead to different interpretation and different conclusions. But this isn’t limited to what you can do in reality. You might conclude that a particular person is guilty of your mind palace but totally save him in the real world.
It is completely up to you how to solve it and this is where the major fun starts. Every interaction you get is a chance of changing the future of Oakmont. Just like any other city, it is riddled with corruption, deceit, and murder. You are charged with the responsibility of possibly reshaping Oakmont and it’s inhabitants or leave them be with their traditions and suffering. At times, you will have no choice but to stain your hands in achieving your goal. You might want to ask yourself who is the lesser evil or which one is the noblest choice. Do note that these actions have consequences and you will get to hear about them as you progress the storyline. Choose wisely!
Now are the hard truths of the game. It is not perfect and seamless as it should be. Of course, only a handful can carry out that kind of perfection upon release but as you go along the storyline, the missions that I get are getting familiar: look for this person in this location map, then you get a few bodies, fight a few monsters and solve the crime. Yes, I too am hungry in solving this hysteria but getting there is quite stale. Sure there are a few side quests that you can turn into but they just really start out the same though.
I hated the part where I do not have a mini-map on the screen because whenever I travel within the district, I have to constantly open the Map interface to know exactly where I’m going and the transition is not that smooth yet. It takes a few seconds to open and to me, it feels like minutes. Other times, the frame rate goes down and Charles freezes when walking around the city. Back at his apartment in The Devil’s Reef, when you progress the storyline you can unlock outfit than he can choose but sadly when cinematic runs – he is seen wearing his default clothes which is a shame actually since he really looks good in the Gangster outfit that I just unlocked!
Alas I hope the cliche ‘first impressions don’t last’ will be true for this game. I truly believe a few hours can redeem this game. I am optimistic that my final review will have a better insight of the supposedly deep story line and I am quite excited what can the other characters give to the table. Is it betrayal? Are they really there for the long haul? Are they truly helping the inhabitants of Oakmont or are they just looking to save themselves? Who is that sleeping giant and why gift Charles with Mind’s Eye? Stay tuned to my final review in the next few days!