Lovecraftian games are definitely on the rise in recent years (to varied success), but The Sinking City’s blend of a mysterious and cosmic plot with clunky but serviceable third-person action rises above many of the rest of this fleshed-out genre. It places you in a detailed world filled with the fantastic and unearthly horrors befitting of any Lovecraftian tale, but provides a fresh but reverent take where others may have stayed on the tracks laid nearly a century ago. That said, while developer Frogwares’ delve into Cthulhu lore has incredible moments, the tedious elements of this pulpy 1920s tale can be the wrong kind of terrifying.
The Sinking City takes steps into genre-refreshing territory in order to set it apart from its Lovecraftian peers. Where 2018’s Call of Cthulhu tries to carve out a small space to tell its own stand-alone story that tucked itself into the already existing cosmic lore, The Sinking City feels like it’s picking up eight movies into a Lovecraft cinematic Cthu-niverse, delivering a concentrated dose of its distinctive flavor. The first five minutes introduce the protagonist, Charles Reed, to Mister Robert Throgmorton, an important character who appears to be half-ape, half-human. That’s a deep-cut reference to Lovecraft’s short story, “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.” This is quickly followed up by a run-in with the Innsmouthers, who are basically fish people from another novella. It pulls from so many of Lovecraft’s plots, quotes, and themes that it reverently captures the intrigue and interest from these pulpy stories while combining them in a new way. It inspires political and criminal intrigue amidst its true-to-genre story.