Dive Into THE SINKING CITY
While it snuck in and out of E3 rather quietly this year, thanks to a killer new trailer at GamesCon, upcoming horror/investigation title The Sinking City is finally starting to land on gamers’ radar. Coming in March of 2019 from Ukrainian developers Frogwares, The Sinking City is taking the world of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and making it their own in a mind-bending mystery that will have players choosing the best way to investigate a supernatural mystery. That’s not even a very colorful paragraph and I got myself all excited.
The Sinking City isn’t an adaptation or continuation of any particular work of Lovecraft, in fact it is its own story, set within the grand extended Cthulhu universe. The developers praise Lovecraft’s decision to be particularly vague in a lot of his work, making it easy for new creators to step in and tell their own story with his grand cosmic horror as the backdrop. Despite having been around for almost 20 years, Frogwares is not a name most gamers are familiar with, although it is very likely you’ve seen their work on store shelves as they have had the fortune of handling the Sherlock Holmes license for the last 16 years. And it is that experience that is driving the core gameplay of their first fully original title.
Frogwares describes The Sinking City as a ‘third person action investigation’ game encouraging players to experiment with how they go about solving mysteries and conducting their investigation. They saw the game will not hold your hand, and they want you to know that failure is all part of the experience, you will not always get everything right. I have a feeling that sometimes things just have to go wrong, especially if you want to see everything the game has to offer, like it’s multiple endings. Talking with locals, searching for clues, breaking and entering, all the elements one might expect in a good sleuth tale are present.
The Sinking City takes place in fictional Oakmont, Massachusetts during the roaring twenties, America’s cultural explosion following the bleakness of World War One. While the game is not an adaptation of any Lovecraft story, the developers are committed to the being fully immersed within Lovecraft’s universe. The themes, characters, and events of Lovecraft’s writing are present and cannon within the game, and many of Lovecraft’s creations, like hybrids, will be featured. But what are you investigating, and why? Oakmont has been the victim of a great flood of supernatural origin, and despite the deaths of thousands there are newcomers flocking to the city. One of these outsiders is the game’s protagonist, a private detective with a mysterious past, who is determined to find the source of this calamity, as he believes his own future is tied to these events. Charles Reed is a veteran of the great war, and is willing to brave not just the rising waters but the supernatural horrors that now lurk in it to find the answers he is looking for to save Oakmont. Being a military veteran of such a particularly horrific war may have hardened Reed to the unimaginable terror he will face during his investigation, but it also may have left his psyche fragile enough to be exploited by otherworldly forces.
Frogwares has built The Sinking City with three simple principles (you can see them in the logo): Investigation, Lovecraft, and Open World. The team at Frogwares has really embraced the open world concept, going beyond just exploration to impacting actual progression and narrative. While most games are happy with open world meaning that the player can go where they want, The Sinking City expands on that, aiming to allow the player to go where they want, act how they want, and investigate what they want. In fact the game is going to force it on you, as more than just not holding your hand through the game with basic direction, the game will give very little to no direction at all, even denying the player a clear direction or main objective. With an ambitious design consisting of supposedly hundreds of explorable buildings, flooded streets, and back alleyways, finding all that Oakmont is hiding sounds like a pretty daunting task.
Through the course of the game, players will navigate the flooded city of Oakmont, seeking out clues and direction in solving what caused this horrible flood, how to combat the unspeakable monsters it has risen, and uncover Reed’s own past and his connection to who or what is behind everything that is going on around him. All the while players will have to fight for their lives and their sanity as they stave off hostile locals and the cosmic beats of Lovecraft’s fiction, defending themselves through combat and gunplay when necessary.
Frogwares has taken an ambitious approach and aims to give players a more detailed and in depth look at a world on the brink of madness at the mercy of cosmic powers unimaginable than prior games have been able too. It's a big step for an independant studio but so far things seem to be going well, and the team is committed to delivering a great experience. I for one cannot wait to see what unearthly terrors await down the flooded streets of Oakmont. For now the game is targeting a March 21, 2019 release date for PC, PS4, and XboxOne. Keep it tuned here for more updates, and check out Frowares for Dev Diaries and trailers.