A passable instalment to an ever-growing subgenre of gaming
The Sinking City: Switch, Windows, Xbox One, PS4 - 7/10
Lovecraft-inspired media often tends to succumb to pastiche and hackneyed trappings. There can only be so many variatiOns of supposed nightmarish creatures with unusual numbers of appendages before the record begins sounding the same.
The Sinking City may offer absolutely nothing to refute this criticism - particularly with its almost overbearing reliance on Lovecraft references and riffs on canonical material - but what it does offer is another passable instalment to an ever-growing subgenre of gaming.
The main character almost feels like a meta-criticism of the genre. A private investigator of dry disposition with bad vision seems almost too cliche to not be deliberate, but nevertheless Reed grows to be a rather likeable and solid leading part. The same goes for almost every cliche element in The Sinking City - though well-trodden, they almost all end up combining to form a compelling and delightfully unpredictable story.
Another point scored for The Sinking City is in the environment - the fictional island of Oakmont Massachusetts that has suffered a devastating flood is indulgent with regard to the sheer density of eye-candy on offer. Taking cues from the greats of oppressive atmospheres - Bioshock and Silent Hill - you can never be sure what is lurking around the next corner - or in The Sinking City's case - what is lurking directly beneath you.
Outside of the thoroughly engrossing plot, The Sinking City is somewhat let down by baffling and clunky quest mechanics and an even more laborious combat and general control systems. Often bemoaned by critics is modern gaming's insistence on catering to the most casual of players with excessive hand-holding but it appears The Sinking City has taken these criticisms a little too much to heart with a quest research system that almost exclusively falls on the spectrum somewhere between head-scratching and hair-pulling.
Where the odd research system fails, the Mind Palace excels, allowing the player to catalogue and rearrange a vast variety of clues and moral dilemmas pertaining to characters within the game. It is a real exercize in immersion, particularly for a game revolving around a private detective.
The Sinking City is actually a very enjoyable game with some let downs that may be make-or-break, depending on your level of forgiveness towards clunky controls and your tolerance for often extremely obscure quest hints and prompts that could leave you gritting your teeth for hours on end.