The Sinking City Review
While The Sinking City at times is a successful homage to the work of H.P. Lovecraft and other noir inspired titles that have come before it – like L.A. Noire – the majority of your adventure is spent amidst a bevy of frustrating mechanics and sluggish, aggravating game-play. Nintendo Switch owners beware, The Sinking City is a rough game and an even worse port. Leave this one to the deep.
You’re thrust into the world of Charles Reed, a private eye investigating the disturbing happenings of Oakmont, Massachusetts. Reed has been suffering from haunting visions, tied to the town, and sets off in search of answers. Once Charles arrives, he discovers the city has been flooded and will need a boat to navigate much of the terrain.
A lot of what you’ll be doing in The Sinking City involves detective work. As you make your way through the world and the various cases you’ll be tasked with solving, evidence will start to appear in what’s referred to as your “Mind Palace.” The Mind Palace is where you’ll deduce clues, and link evidence, similar to what the previously mentioned L.A. Noire did. The Sinking City, however, fails to capture the sleuthing excitement that you might expect from a game like this. Cases usually devolve into simply mashing two clues together to see if they stick, with no penalty for getting something wrong. At no time did I ever feel like a detective, nor was I encouraged to play the game the “proper way.” Instead of anticipating the next clue, I was pining for the case to close.
When you aren’t trying to piece together clues to figure out your next step, you’ll be engaging in some of the worst combat mechanics I’ve personally ever experienced. Ammo is extremely scarce, which I do think works for a game like this. It makes you feel like every shot truly counts. The problem is that the shooting mechanics are stiff, yet overly sensitive. Your cross-hair either moves too slow, or too fast, making accurate shooting tremendously tricky. There’s also a complete lack of impact in the gun-play itself. Landing a shot isn’t satisfying, as enemies barely react unless they’ve been defeated. Also, thanks to some incessantly dumb A.I., getting by enemies never proved too challenging as it is usually a viable option to run past anything you encounter. I would even see enemies walk into the water, killing themselves and offering me the slightest bit of reprieve.
Finding evidence and killing enemies will reward the player with experience points that can be spent on Charles’ skill tree. Over three different paths, the player has quite a few options on how they’d like to make their version of Charles stronger, but I didn’t think any of them particularly stood out or intrigued me. The skills are, for the most part, bland and uninspired and completely uninteresting. They just added to the overall frustration. Instead of feeling excited to make Charles stronger, I mostly spent the game frustrated that I didn’t have more inspiring skills to look forward to.
Got That Sinking Feeling
I mentioned earlier just how bad of a port this is on the Nintendo Switch, but I’m not sure if words will do it justice. I believe the game looks better in handheld mode, but that isn’t saying much. Textures are incredibly low-resolution as if the game entered a time machine in 2001 and landed in the present day. Framerate is also horrible, regularly dipping below 30 frames. Much of my game was spent battling through a choppy mess. The Sinking City is also victim to arguably the worst pop-in issues I’ve ever seen in gaming. With nearly every step, assets such as grass, fencing, signs, NPCs, and so much more, will appear out of thin air. Within an hour or so of this happening, it was almost too distracting to continue playing. Thanks to some well-written dialogue and interesting characters, however, I managed to push through.
The strength of The Sinking City is surely its writing and plot. Battling through terrible gameplay and frustrating technical problems will actually reward the player with a satisfying story. Twists and turns keep things interesting, and real-life societal issues being used to tell a sensitive story between two groups of people works well. I also found the plot to be reasonably interesting right from the get-go, making those early hours spent learning the mechanics a little bit less daunting.
The Sinking City on Nintendo Switch is extremely rough around the edges. I understand the lack of hand-holding when examining clues and evidence, but the fact of the matter is the game is so terrible in nearly every other aspect, that I wanted my hand to be held to get through it quicker! The Sinking City is the type of game that will appeal only to the most hardcore of H.P. Lovecraft, or noir fiction fans. Everyone else will be left wondering how so much could go so wrong in what really is an excellent idea for a game. Like the visions haunting Charles Reed, I’ll be seeing this one in my nightmares for quite some time.
***Nintendo Switch Code provided by the publisher for review***
- Interesting Characters
- Intriguing Storyline
- Runs Horribly on Switch
- Major Pop-In Issues
- Terrible Shooting Mechanics
- Investigating Evidence a Chore