The Sinking City is a solo third-person perspective P2P RPG investigative horror adventure from Frogwares set in the open-world fictional city of Oakmont, Massachusetts. Inspired by Lovecraftian lore, players will be exploring this 1920s coastal city as it slowly sinks beneath the waves and a slimy horror slowly stakes its claim over both the city and its inhabitants. It is scheduled for release on June 27, 2019 for the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Mr. Charles W. Reed is a private investigator from Boston who is fleeing from the memories of his past in an attempt to stave off the madness that is slowly overwhelming him because of them. Unfortunately, he has chosen the wrong city to calm his nerves and heal his breaking mind.
He arrives in Oakment only to find a city that is slowly sinking beneath the waves. However, he soon discovers that the inhabitants of the city are highly secretive people who do not welcome outsiders. They are superstitious people who cling to the old rites and rituals of the original inhabitants of their land and believe that an unknown menacing supernatural force is emerging from the ocean and sending its emissaries to take over the city as well as the minds of the inhabitants.
The overarching plot is obviously to discover what is happening in the city and trying to figure out a way to restore the city and its inhabitants to its normal state. As the game progresses, the player will also likely discover Reed’s past and possibly save him as well as the city. Or not. This is a horror after all.
Players will take on the role of Charles Reed as he explores the coastal city and tries to unravel the truth behind what is occurring around him. He will meet and interact with various human and non-human NPCs, some of whom will help or request help from him and others with more hostile intent. Due to the nature of the citizens’ religious beliefs, Reed will discover as many human inflicted horrors and tragedies as he will supernatural, which makes the cast and city all the more unsettling.
When he interacts with other characters, Reed will be faced with choices on how to proceed with the game or interact with them. Some choices will simply develop his own character, while others will have long term ramifications in the overall story.
As he explores his surroundings, he will gather information and receive various side and main missions that will be stored in his casebook to be resolved as he chooses. An example of the human-inflicted horrors of Oakmont is shown to us in Frogware’s gameplay from the alpha system, where we are introduced to Joy the librarian, whose mouth has been sown shut by the cult. Although she moves around freely, she doesn’t dare remove the stitches despite the obvious pan and difficulties that they must be causing her.
Aside from missions, all of the clues and lore that Reed gathers will also be stored in his casebook. As the game is investigative, Reed will need to find the way to locations without the map providing him with a built-in guidance system. Fortunately, players can zoom in and out of the map to pinpoint their desired destination and to figure out the (hopefully) best route to get there. Players can toggle between the map and actual location to check that they are still heading in the right direction. Once locations have been verified, players will be able to access fast travel points located nearby, so they won’t have to worry about cumbersome journeys every time they need to backtrack or review a crime-scene.
As players explore, they will find items that they can collect and store in their backpack. Presumably there is a storage limit, but this has not yet been confirmed. The trailer shows that he has rented a hotel room, so it is possible that Reed will also be able to store excess items there.
Reed fades in and out of sanity, with bouts of insanity being triggered when he encounters something disgusting or disturbing. When he is experiencing insanity, the perspective will turn grey and blurry. However, his insanity has its perks, as it also allows him to access visions and auditory recollections from the past – even if he wasn’t there to witness them himself. Once he has pinpointed all the visions, the player will need to guess the sequential order in order to develop a clear picture of what transpired. Similar puzzles will pop out throughout Reed’s various jobs. Another bonus ability is his ‘concentration mode’ that assists him when he is seeking out specific clues.
Reed will be able to gather firearms, ammunition and other weaponry as he explores, but they are limited in supply, so he should use them sparingly.
A full playthrough of the ‘Silence is Golden’ playthrough can be viewed here, but it is rated Pegi 18 for blood, gore and violence, so be warned.
The city of Oakmont has been slowly expanding since its founding in the 17th century. Throughout its history its inhabitants have This has led to a number of different districts with varying architectural designs and structural layouts, all of which are gloomily lit by light from an overcast sky and a mysterious fog that dynamically changes according to the day/night cylce. The creepiness is further accentuated by the shimmering black pools of water that can be found throughout the city, aside from those parts that are completely flooded and can therefore only be traversed by using a speedboat.
Aside from the exterior world, there are also hundreds of buildings that players can explore, filled with seen and unseen monsters, humans, apparitions and hallucinations. The weather shifts from rain to fog, and night to day. Shadows lurk on edge of the player’s vision and the few people the city’s population is either missing or slowly going mad or turning into something other.
Aside from eerie groans and creaks within the buildings, there is also debris from the flood still littered everywhere both within and outside the buildings. This holds true even in apartments where people are currently living. To add to the ambience, the sounds are also pretty realistic, with squelching from the mud being audible as Reed walks and runs through the streets. While much of the city seems abandoned, there are also places where people are walking around. As to what happened to the rest of the inhabitants; that will likely be discovered as the story unfurls. Some characters may also betray Reed, so it is wise for him to accept jobs graciously and cautiously. Although whether the ‘gracious’ part will make any difference, is as yet to be shown.
Frogwares is planning on releasing a city generator tool that will allow the community to create their own playable maps with complete buildings after The Sinking City’s release. It has also been hinted at that the creators would like to add new DLC missions at a later stage. This will likely depend on the community response to the game.
The game has not yet been played by anyone outside the main producers, and gamers should remember that this is being produced by a small studio, whose main focus seems to be on story and tone over graphics. With that said, Frogwares has shown footage of enhanced graphics and real models being used to provide more realism to character interactions and cut-scenes, so it is likely that the beta gameplay graphics and voice acting footage that have been revealed thus far will be improved by the time The Sinking City makes its official debut. So, as long as gamers aren’t expecting major studio results in terms of graphics, it appears that players will be in for a treat.