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Toto, I don't think we're in Innsmouth anymore...
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The Sinking City is an Investigation Action-Adventure game developed by Frogwares, best known as the developers of the Sherlock Holmes Adventure Game series. The game is set in an open world inspired by the universe of H.P. Lovecraft.

You take on the role of Charles W. Reed, an investigator in the 1920s United States. As soon as you arrive in Oakmont, Massachusetts, you are led to investigate a mysterious flood inundating the city, in the hopes of shedding light on the darkness that has seized the place and corrupted the minds of the inhabitants - and yours...


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This game provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Johannes van der Berg sure is a polite and charming fellow for being a Great Old One trying to bring about the end of mankind.
  • A.K.A.-47: All the guns featured in the game have generic alternative designations. The most thinly veiled ones being Reed's pistol and revolver, both being "Bolt" brand, even though they're obviously of Colt make: the pistol being a fusion of the Model 1903 Pocket Hammer (.38 ACP chamber, 7 round magazine, all-around general design) and the iconic 1911 (magazine release button being on the side of the grip rather than the bottom) and the revolver being a .44-40 chambered Colt New Service.
    • They even go so far as to rename the ammunition, with the Thompson-inspired Submachine Gun being chambered in .45 ABP (Automatic Bolt Pistol).
  • Anachronism Stew: Oakmont is littered with Blue US Postal Service mailboxes— however, the game takes place in the 1920s, and that design wasn't introduced until 1971.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: As you complete main story cases and side cases, certain ones will award you with more outfits for Reed to wear. A couple of them are regaled to DLC: the Investigator DLC pack adds the "Dayware" outfit, while the Worshipers of the Necronomicon DLC adds a "Cultist" outfit.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: when you die you respawn with all your weapons, healing items, and scrap. Thus you won’t need to search for supplies.
    • Another small one is the ability to walk between areas and the supplies return to where and what quantity they were. So some hard to find items will replenish if you simply walk into two houses.
  • Apocalyptic Log:
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    • More than half of the documents and papers you find lying around qualify. Makes sense, since you're generally investigating crime scenes in a dying town.
    • This is actually lampshaded by the landlord of the Devil's Reef Inn, who says that so many newcomers leave unintelligible scribblings in his rooms that he just burns them.
  • Artifact of Doom: Throughout the story Reed is looking into a deep sea dive. Where Professor Dough ended up stealing a strange mechanism that is needed to awaken Cthylla.
  • Asshole Victim: The local KKK chapter tried to muscle in on Ebernote Blackwood and his worshipers. Most of them got slaughtered by the wylebeasts summoned by Ebernote and the few survivors can be finished off by Reed.
  • Back from the Dead: Johannes. Especially blatant if you kill him yourself.
  • Beast Man: The Throgmorton family have distinct gorilla-like features, which Mr. Throgmorton claims is due to becoming related to some "royal family" a few generations ago.
  • Bedlam House: Reed mentions that he spent some time in an asylum after the sinking of the Cyclops. Judging by the fact that one of his hallucinations is a doctor approaching him with an outstretched hand (and the fact that this takes place in the Cthulhu Mythos, whose asylums have a slightly worse track record than real-life asylums) it can be assumed he was sent to one of these.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Anna Cavendish plays up the image of being a good, charitable woman who's unaware of the true nature of EOD. In reality, she's knows full well it's actually the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Even if Reed sides with her over her ex-husband, she tries to have Reed killed then disappears.
  • Black and Grey Morality: What the game's setting operates on. Although determining which folks operate on which side can be rather tricky and is often left up to the player to decide.
  • Blue Blood: Throgmorton, Carpenter, and Blackwood made up the Grand Families, who act as defacto aristocracy of Oakmont due to their massive influence and wealth over the city. Furthermore, Mr. Throgmorton even claimed that his family's marriage to a royal family provided his lineage with social prestige and "exquisite" features.
  • Body Horror: Every enemy was once human. Each contorted into a nest of flesh and teeth while screaming in a rage.
  • But Thou Must!: When Charles is asked to search for a woman's missing husband, his only options are to accept the job and take her golden engagement ring as a payment, or to agree to work for free out of sympathy, while outright rejecting the offer is impossible.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: In the side quest Rest in Peace a husband plunders his mistress' grave because of this. In the end he commits suicide due to his inability to say he loves her.
  • Captain Ersatz: The giant tentacle that attacked Charles looks exactly like the one in The Mist.
  • Cast From Sanity: Reed's "Mind's Eye" skill takes from his Sanity Meter to use, though it functions as Regenerating Mana in practice.
  • Chain of Deals: Especially in the main cases. A lot of the people you need things from just so happen to have problems that only a private eye can solve, and they're not above making you take care of those issues first before they'll help you.
  • City of Canals: Many of Oakmont's streets have been flooded to the point of being only traversed by boat. There are also nightmarish creatures swimming in its waters, and Reed's boat gets attacked by a giant tentacle pretty early on.
  • City of Weirdos: Oakmont is full of Innsmouthers, ape-men, gangsters, the KKK, multiple cults, and humanoid abominations, all of which are considered normal by the residents. And that was before the Flood brought wylebeasts and mass hysteria.
  • Cult: There is cult that operates within the city and covers up some quests. In addition Charles can wear a cultist costume in the game.
  • Color Wash: During the day you can expect more browns whereas at you get a sickly grey tint at night.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Every Oakmont native has pretty much accepted that they're living in a Cosmic Horror Story, and are less perturbed by the strange dreams and hallucinations and more concerned about the fact that there's a distinct possibility that an Innsmouther could be living next door. Newcomers such as Reed do not have such luxury.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: What did you expect?
  • Dialogue Tree: Short summaries of your potential responses appear in mid-air, with no other stylistic elements.
  • Doppelgänger:
    • In the "Assigned Reading" side case, the students in one home try to make illusions to take their place to attend class so they don't have to. Unfortunately, the "illusions" are really this, who cause a Kill and Replace on their originals and cover it up with an actual illusion.
    • Brutus Carpenter is sent to his death and replaced with a body double as part of Graham's bid to take over. If you side with Graham, the body double completely assumes the role of the real Brutus Carpenter.
  • Driven to Suicide: a given considering who is driving the city crazy. A great deal of people can be found in their homes with ropes and bullet wounds.
  • Expy:
    • Oakmont is one for Arkham, Massachusetts, including having its own versions of Arkham Asylum and Miskatonic University.
    • Mr. Throgmorton is one of Arthur Jermyn; both are scions of aristocratic families, both have a distinctively ape-like cast ot their faces, and both are the result of an Interspecies Romance between man and ape.
    • Reed is one of the unnamed protagonist of Dagon, being a Great War Navy vet who lost his ship and discovered an unspeakable horror on an isolated island. They can even share the same fate of committing suicide.
  • Eldritch Abomination: But of course. A proper menagerie of them, at that.
  • Eldritch Location: The final area is essentially various non-euclidian designs stretched as far as you can see. Makes sense in context due to the presence of Cthulhu's daughter.
  • Facial Horror: The right side of Graham Carpenter's face was torn and mutilated in the Great War, and he wears a mask in lieu of any reconstructive surgery. If the player chooses to kill him over Brutus, his ghost gives the now unnecessary mask to Reed as a gesture of forgiveness, revealing his true visage.
  • Fantastic Racism: The refugees from Innsmouth do not get along with much of Oakmont's population - especially the Throgmortons, who refer to them as "fish-faced freaks." However, the Innsmouthers hate the Throgmortons right back, with several people of Innsmouth descent comparing the Throgmortons to apes. You have the opportunity to outright call Throgmorton a bigot at the end of the Quid Pro Quo quest.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Some of Charles' visions are actually of his past, especially his time marooned after the sinking of the USS Cyclops.
  • Future Slang: Oakmont's local dialect has a few unique terms in it— "ve'ra" means "fine" or "very well", "droch" is used in place of "damn" or other expletives, and they use "mer" to refer to the sea.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Confronting the horrors of Oakmont is directly harmful to Charles' sanity, and if the sanity bar bottoms out he will lose his mind and die. Looking at monsters does incremental damage that can be easily recovered by simply getting away from them, but inspecting more horrific sights like dead bodies or eldritch artifacts can drain more than half of your sanity at once.
  • Grave Humor: All of the tombstones not case related has a joke on them.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: While Cthylla is the main antagonist, Cthulhu once again never technically appears but there are references and statues around the game world.
  • Humanoid Abomination: It is implied that Granny Weaver is more than just an urban legend, having killed Joy's dog and neighbors and compelled her not tell anyone about her, with notes claiming that she is the spirit of a witch that fled Salem.
    • Mr. Van Der Berg is wearing a distinct yellow suit which hints at his true identity.
  • Haunted House: All of the abandoned houses feel like they are but it's played straight in Granny Weavers residence.
  • Heal It with Booze: Both the First-Aid Kits and Antipsychotics are made using alcohol and coiled springs, the latter of which presumably act as the basis for the syringe you actually use to administer the items.
  • He Was Right There All Along: During a fight in the basement, Granny Weaver's silhouette can be seen at the top of the stairs. After Charles looks away for a split second, the figure vanishes.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Over the course of "Self-Defense", Milton Pierce and the Yellow Kings set up Reed as a fall-guy for van der Berg's shooting by extorting Glenn Byers and kidnapping his family, with Pierce only agreeing to change his testimony if you kill his mother. Instead, Reed can not only warn Mrs. Pierce of her son's intentions, blow the Yellow Kings away, and free Byers' family, but keep Glenn out of trouble by planting the murder weapon among Pierce's possessions, getting Milton hung for the murder he himself planned. Van der Berg is quite impressed at Reed's knack for revenge.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Despite being on the ocean floor during dive sections, you can still see perfectly well for a pretty good distance. The chemical lamps strewn about provide little to no actual light and only function to mark your path.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: This is van der Berg's opinion and his justification for why he wants Reed to open Cythgonaar and release Cthylla. He shows Reed museum of all the human atrocities committed in Oakmont to drive home his point.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: During a side quest you're sent to investigate a restaurant where customers have been disappearing. It's not hard to guess what's happened to them, but who exactly's eating them is still a surprise.
  • Interface Screw: As Reed's sanity decreases, the screen will start going...weird. The camera usually goes fish-eye lens, but other random effects are different color filters, heavy film grain, and various hallucinations, including hallucinatory enemies that can still do damage.
  • The Klan: Appears in the Nosedive case. You get to shoot them.
  • Lovecraft Country: Oakmont is flooded, haunted and populated either by half-mad residents or incomprehensible monsters. It helps that it is set in the same world of Lovecraft's universe.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: The Fecund Mother (also explicitly named Shub-Niggurath in one document), an eldritch creature worshiped by one of many local cults.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: Joy talks to Charles with her mouth sewn shut. Charles comments that it seems torturous or even downright illegal, to which Joy assures him that it's a local custom in Oakmont, and a punishment for something she did. This is implied to be the calling card of Granny Weaver. Even after you complete the Silence is Golden case associated with Joy, she keeps the stitches in because she has two years left on her "sentence".
  • Multiple Endings: The game has three:
    • In the No Choice ending, Reed escapes Oakmont with the Seal in hopes of breaking the cycle. However, a few years later, van der Berg tracks him down in Boston and floods the city. Maybe. It's unclear if that last part really happens or is a hallucination.
    • In the Sacrifice ending, Reed commits suicide to restart the cycle and buy humanity a few more centuries. However, it's implied it's for nothing, as van der Berg is seen waiting for another boat to arrive at Oakmont, presumably bringing another Chosen to finish the job.
    • In the Annihilation ending, Reed accepts his role as Chosen and open Cythgonaars, unleashing Cthylla. She promptly kills/absorbs him and heads for the surface, heralding the doom of mankind.
  • Mythology Gag: Many to the wider Cthulhu Mythos.
    • Reed stays at The Devil's Reef Inn.
    • A statue of Cthulhu.
    • The hairy, apelike appearance of the Throgmorton family calls to mind the Martense family from The Lurking Fear.
    • Flooded stores in Oakmont include "Whatley's Household Chemistry", Dombrowski Real Estate, and "West M.D."
    • You can find hidden brain cylinders, presumably left by the Mi-Go, containing the brains of figures from Lovecraft's works such as Wilbur Whately, Richard Pickman, and Ephrhaim Waite.
    • In the Oakmont Aslyum, you can find a motivational poster of a mountain bearing the words "On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain"; however, the word "Truth" is crossed out in red, and "Madness" is written in its place.
    • One of the hidden collectables in the game is "Deep One Gold", calling back to Shadow over Innsmouth, where Marsh returns with treasure from the Polynesian civilization which first introduced him to the deep ones.
    • Several references can be found on the map.
      • C. Smith Avenue is a reference to Clark Ashton Smith, who was a close friend of Lovecrafts.
      • Yellow King Avenue is clearly a reference to Hastur, an Eldritch Abomination he included briefly in a few stories.
      • Marsh avenue is named after Obed Marsh, the man who started Innsmouth’s worship to Dagon.
      • Alhazred St. is located in Reed Heights, named for Abdul Alhazred, author of the Necronomicon.
      • Warren Road may borrow its name from Harley Warren, the unfortunate soul from The Statement of Randolph Carter.
      • Kingsport St. runs near the asylum, named for a town in Lovecraft's Arkham County. Just south of it is Providence Avenue; Providence, Rhode Island was Lovecraft's hometown.
      • Whisper St. may be named for The Whisperer in the Darkness.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Charles is often referred to as 'newcomer' rather than Mr. Reed, and his complete lack of knowledge about Oakmont or its customs serves to fill the player in on what exactly is going on around here. Often people will respond to Charles' entry-level questions by commenting that he really is a newcomer after all.
  • Nice Guy: Graham Carpenter is, apart from maybe Joy Hayden, the nicest and most considerate person in Oakmont. He's using his family's resources to feed starving people and shows commiseration with Reed over fighting in the Great War. Even in death, his spirit appears to forgive Reed for whatever role he played in Graham's death.
  • Noodle Incident: The entire town won’t bring up Innsmouth unless really pushed. It makes sense in context since in the book the entire town was wiped out thanks to Robert Olmstead.
  • Not So Above It All: During the first case, you can enter the room of a former railroad worker who has a model train. Inspecting the train will prompt Reed to go "Choo choo" before giving an embarrassed "Ahem".
  • Piranha Problem: Sort of. They're man-eating eels, but they're just as happy to start chomping on you if you dawdle in the water.
  • Politically Correct History: Averted. The game has a disclaimer during the opening that addresses that while the views of the time period are considered wrong in the modern day, they included them for historical accuracy, rather than act like they never happened.
  • Power Born of Madness: Charles can sometimes look into the recent past to see phantoms of the people acting out what they did a little while earlier, which suits him well as a detective. Unfortunately it's also from his mental state not being the healthiest.
  • Practical Currency: With no way to reach the mainland, and the wylebeasts growing in number, bullets are the only accepted tender within Oakmont.
  • Punny Name:
  • Reality Ensues:
    • At the end of The Shadow over Innsmouth, the FBI raid the titular town. They couldn't arrest or kill all the citizens, and those that escaped have been left homeless, forced to emigrate to Oakmont and live in a very prejudiced community.
    • In Lovecraft's stories, we don't see many characters outside of the white upper-class protagonists and the often non-white lower-class antagonists, thus giving a very skewed perspective. Thanks to the fact that Reed doesn't share the xenophobic views of Lovecraft (and by extension, several of his protagonists) we get to see a more balanced view of the Cthulhu Mythos, wherein even people from Innsmouth are portrayed as sympathetic characters.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: A recurring feature as Charles goes progressively mad.
  • Regenerating Mana: How the Sanity Meter works. Seeing horrific things can cause it to decrease, but some time away from it or from using the "Mind's Eye" skill will allow the sanity to return within a few seconds.
  • Religion of Evil: Esoteric Order of Dagon they operate outside the law and depending on your choices you can help them instead of revealing their corrupt dealings.
  • Run for the Border: A man in one of the earlier main cases fears for his life and won't give you the information you need unless you arrange for him to be smuggled out of Oakmont. Of course, the people you need to work out the deal with have their own problems they want you to sort out first.
  • Sanity Meter: Due to a traumatic event that happened to Charles, he has a tendency to hallucinate whenever he sees something that disturbs him. This is used as a mechanic in his Sherlock Scan, allowing him to see past events and focus on clues. In general, it functions as a Mana Meter that is Cast From Sanity.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Reed served in the U.S. Navy during the Great War as a diver and was the Sole Survivor of the USS Cyclops when it sank. The experience left him traumatized, and he spent a considerable amount of time in psychiatric care because of it.
    • Graham Carpenter fought in the trenches of Meuse-Argonne and suffered a disfiguring wound to his face that forces him to wear a half mask. When Reed asks him about it, Graham politely says he'd rather not discuss the war.
  • Sherlock Scan: His fragile mental-state allows Charles to look into the past to see events as they happened. He is also able to go into "concentration mode", allowing him to notice points of interest in his surroundings.
  • Shoot the Dog: Joy's neighbor Granny Weaver went insane, killed Joy's dog and turned it into a teddy-bear. Whether or not she is human or something else is yet to be revealed.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrouded in Myth: Just about everything, as should be expected for the setting. You'll get quite a ways into the game without learning any concrete information about the Blackwoods, the EOD, or even the god everyone in Oakmont worships.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Cthygonarr instead of Cthulhu.
  • Take That!: Mayoral candidate Milton Pierce is shown to be a pompous, ruthless, egotistical blowhard who urges its citizenry to "make Oakmont great again" by repelling outsiders from their community, and has proposed the construction of a wall around the town to keep out any such foreign influences (a meaningless gesture, as Oakmont is already closed off from the rest of the world by the Flood).
  • Take That, Us: One of the ad posters you can find around Oakmont is for a new Sherlock Holmes book, "Mystery of the Creepy Watson", a reference to the developer's previous Sherlock Holmes games and the infamous off-screen teleportation that Dr. Watson does to keep up with the player.
  • They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason: Charles doesn't seem familiar with the concept. You can ask people a lot of prying questions about themselves, from asking Robert Throgmorton why he looks the way he does to asking Brutus about his wheelchair usage. More often than not the questioned party will be rather put off by your lack of tact.
    Brutus: Does your curiosity always beat out your courtesy? I'm old, kid!
  • Town with a Dark Secret: And how. Oakmont is more secret than town and practically everyone you talk to is either in on these secrets or wholly oblivious. The biggest secret is the town is built upon an abyssal prison which contains an eldritch being who can end the world.
  • Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Throgmorton pins the city's slow decay on the Innsmouthers just as much as the Flood, and his vendetta only increases once Albert is murdered by one, but it is shown to come from a genuine desire to protect his city. Even if Reed doesn't come out and call him a bigot at the end of "Quid Pro Quo" — which greatly upsets him — he still urges Throgmorton that his refusal to welcome or help them in any way is only making things worse for everyone; disquieted, he says he'll think about the matter.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Mr. van der Berg gets murdered later in the game, only to reappear in Reed's hotel room no worse for wear. In fact, it's even possible for the player to seemingly kill van der Berg themselves, but he'll be back in at least one of the endings. It's likely due to him actually being Hastur.
  • Video Game Caring Potential:
    • As mentioned below, you can tell Anna in "Quid Pro Quo" that her night watchman Daryl, who was distracted making toys for charity on the job, screwed up... or you can say that he fought off multiple attackers before going down, and recommend him for a raise. Later in the mission, you can also tell Daryl to break off from the EOD and skip town while he can, saving him from possible punishment down the line.
    • In "Extra Hours", Reed can find circumstantial evidence that reveals one of the murdered men, R.J. Bekker, was Officer Shaw's romantic partner. Rather than out him, as Shaw is nervous he might, Reed instead says he knows why Shaw is so committed to this case, and offers his sincere condolences for his loss.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: As you might expect from a detective story, a number of optional mission endings can let you rat out innocent people to the authorities, even if you've already promised that you won't.
    • There's an option to steal Sidney Stokes' secret bullet stash in "A Delicate Matter", which he was saving to get his mother a proper burial. The trophy / achievement text even ends with "You monster".
    • "Quid Pro Quo" gives you the chance to help Professor Cavendish carry out his poisoning by killing two EOD guards. There's also an indirect example in snitching on Daryl — a relatively friendly, big-hearted Innsmouther who even carves toys for the local orphanage — to Anna for neglecting his guard duties, setting him up to be tortured or killed.
  • Was Once a Man: As you discover during a series of side cases, an uncomfortable number of the monsters you'll encounter in Oakmont were once people and have since mutated into unrecognizable forms through various mechanisms. You can discern some humanoid aspects to them, if you dare to examine their corpses more closely.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In-Universe, no one knows what happened to the Blackwood family, who disappeared after the Flood. Reed eventually learns what most Lovecraft fans will probably guess: they returned to the sea, as Deep One spawn are apt to do.

 
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The Sinking City

The already xenophobic citizens of Oakmont possess a racial hatred towards the Innsmouthers who moved there when their village was destroyed.

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