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Video Game / The Sinking City

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Toto, I don't think we're in Innsmouth anymore...

The Sinking City is an Investigation Action-Adventure game developed by Frogwares, best known as the developers of the Sherlock Holmes Adventure Game series, and first released in June 2019. 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...

Frogwares would end up in a prolonged legal dispute over game with its erstwhile publisher Bigben Interactive (later known as Nacon) especially over the game's 2021 release on Steam, which Frogwares denounced as a "hacked" version that was put together by Nacon without their consent in an attempt to steal the rights to the game from underneath them. Frogware eventually issued a DMCA complaint to Valve, taking the Steam version down.

Then, in January 2024, Frogware announced that their legal dispute with Nacon had finally been resolved, allowing them to re-publish the game on Steam and GOG, in an Updated Re-release version. Along with the re-release, Frogwares also announced a new DLC for the game, called Merciful Madness.

This game provides examples of:

  • After the End: A contained one with the Flood that has turned Oakmont into a post-apocalypse hellhole with most of the city underwater, wrecks, fires, and all contact with the mainland cut off. That's before we get into the fact that it is now infested with monsters and not even getting to the rest of the world is about to be destroyed due to events inside it.
  • 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 relegated 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:
    • 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.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The wandering randomly generated townsfolk do occasionally react to wylebeasts running amok in the streets, but for the most part they'll completely fail to notice them and will continue walking calmly while the monsters chase you around.
  • Artifact of Doom: Throughout the story, Reed is investigating a deep-sea expedition, 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.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The more advanced wylebeasts have glowing yellow weak points you can target to deal more damage, which is pretty important as they can otherwise soak up a very large amount of your very limited ammo.
  • Back from the Dead: Johannes. Especially blatant if you kill him yourself.
  • Badass Bystander: The local constabulary does a surprisingly decent job at putting down any wylebeasts that wander out of their infested areas and start running amok on the public streets.
  • Beast Man:
    • The Throgmorton family have distinctly gorilla-like features and physical prowess, which Mr. Throgmorton claims is due to becoming related to some "royal family" a few generations ago.
    • The Innsmouthers have a very obviously piscine look, with scaly skin, multiple rows of fish-like fangs, inhuman eyes, and a generally piscine cast to their features.
    • By extension, there's also the Blackwood family, who are related to the Marsh family of Innsmouth and have been taking in refugees after that incident with the Esoteric Order of Dagon and the FBI some time ago. They share the same piscine deformities as the Innsmouthers as a result.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Johannes van der Burg (A.K.A. Hastur) and Cthylla. Johannes is involved in several of the main story cases Reed tackles, as he is guiding him to awaken Cthylla, who is the source of the flood and madness afflicting Oakmont. Since Cthylla is imprisoned, Johannes is The Heavy of the story.
  • 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. Oakmont is a town that is full of weird religions, horrifying monsters, and occult secrets. And that was before the Flood that left half the city destroyed and radicalized most of the population. Generally, a lot of the regular citizens are involved in something shady and the good can be working with eldritch forces while the bad can have noble motives.
  • Blue Blood: Oakmont is very traditionalist with an emphasis on bloodlines and thus, ruled by an aristocracy of Grand Families for their wealth and influence over the city: the Throgmortons are the central pillar of the community that fund establishments like the Oakmont Library and University; the Carpenters rule Oakmont's criminal underworld with an iron fist, the various encountered gangs answering to them in some form; the Blackwoods share kin with the Innsmouthers through the Marsh family and dominate much of the fish market. By the time Reed arrives in Oakmont, however, most of the Blackwoods (sans Ebernote) have disappeared, leaving the Throgmortons and the Carpenters as the remaining ruling powers.
  • Body of Bodies: The larger wylebeasts, namely the Giant Mook variant and particularly the huge boss guarding the Necronomicon in the DLC missions, are composed of multiple human bodies merged into a nightmarish gestalt creature.
  • Body Horror: Every enemy was once human. Each contorted into a nest of flesh and teeth while screaming in a rage.
  • Broken Aesop: Much of the game deals with the evils of racism (the KKK are sidequest villains) and the plight of the Innsmouth refugees. Every figure who engages in xenophobia is treated with disgust and Reed's dialogue always makes his low opinion of xenophobes clear. However, the Innsmouthers are followers of a Religion of Evil and heavily involved in the city's organized crime. Given the Deep Ones are historically villains in Cthulhu Mythos fiction, it also will confuse longtime fans of the setting. The Esoteric Order of Dagon is established as the "real" evil among the Innsmouthers but almost all of them are involved with it or at least sympathetic. It doesn't help that no matter how nice Reed is to the Innsmouthers, they will attempt to kill him multiple times.
  • 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 payment, or to agree to work for free out of sympathy, while outright rejecting the offer is impossible.
  • Came Back Wrong: If you choose Bethany Throgmorton in "Through the Looking Glass" Arthur Throgmorton comes back as a zombie seven year old.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: You can find Billy outside of the Under the Keel bar at the very beginning of the game. Presumably, it's because he's just knocked off work after helping arrange Albert's murder at Johannes' order.
  • City Guards: If you are not careful with your weapons, you can get into trouble with the local policemen patrolling the streets.
  • City of Adventure: Oakmont is the location for the entirety of the game. It is full of monsters, cultists, corruption, nightmarish secrets, urban segregation, and more. It is also where the start of the world's end is going to take place.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Cult: Two important ones appear in the game, the Esoteric Order of Dagon also known as the EOD and the Redemption Church. At the end you have to find one that thought eating part of a supernatural stone would save them. In addition Charles can wear a cultist costume in the game.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: Almost all of the indoor locations are repeat copies of the same handful of building templates.
  • Developer's Foresight: If you try to shoot Johannes van der Berg at the Devil's Reef Inn before you talk to him, the gun clicks as if there's no loaded rounds and he says, "Is that a gun, or do you just want a handshake?"
  • Dialogue Tree: Short summaries of your potential responses appear in mid-air, with no other stylistic elements.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Charles Reed can become quite hostile to Hastur, Cthulhu's brother, which can cause him to take offence at his "tone." Reed can later escalate this by shooting him in the head if the player chooses to. It's lucky that Hastur has more use for Reed alive than dead, allowing Reed to get away with all of this.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Robert Throgmorton might be the closest thing the game has to a Big Good, but he makes no secret of hating the Innsmouthers. If you tell him Lewis Flynn, one such Innsmouther, murdered his son Albert at the start of the game, he uses that as an excuse to plunge Oakmont into a race war.
  • 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 (actually sentient beings pulled from another dimension who only look like the students because of the spell), 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 magically-created clone as part of Graham's bid to take over. If you side with Graham, the clone completely assumes the role of the real Brutus Carpenter.
    • In the Self-Defense case, Reed discovers that one of Oakmont's citizens looks remarkably like him and was blackmailed into helping frame Reed for murder.
  • Disk One Nuke: If you bought the Necronomicon Edition, you're given the submachine gun at the start of the game. With this, you can easily clear out the early game fetch quests, giving you tons of XP to get the best skills before you even do the first story quest.
  • 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.
    • Many of the Letters from Oakmont investigations indicate the letter writers committed suicide. Examples include someone who was prompted by "voices coming out of their plumbing" to cut themselves up piece by piece and flush the bloody pieces down the sink, and a family who barricaded themselves in their homes out of fear of what was going on outside, eventually committing suicide by overdosing on sleep medication rather than starve to death.
    • At the end of the game, Graham Carpenter immolates himself.
  • Eldritch Abomination: But of course. A proper menagerie of them, at that.
  • 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 protagonists 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 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.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Over the course of the game Reed finds himself in the middle of numerous evil organizations acting as a Spanner in the Works for each other in a big Gambit Pileup regarding Oakmont and the secret buried deep beneath it. Yahtzee has noted the game is as much a Mob War story as it is a Cosmic Horror story.
  • 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.
    • Equally hated by both Innsmouthers and Oakmont natives are newcomers, who are members of the outside world who have come in the aftermath of the Flood. This is because the majority of them are drawn by their terrifying dreams and most of them end up insane as well as homeless.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion: The people of Oakmont pray to a god called Kay.
  • Fetch Quest: The "Worshipers of the Necronomicon" DLC has the "Mystic Tomes", "Fools Gold", "Blood from a Stone" quests which adds a couple of dozen of these. Charles Reed follows clues to locations all over the city in order to recover artifacts related to the occult.
  • Fish People: The Innsmouthers have human bodies with fish-like heads.
  • 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.
  • Genuine Human Hide: One of the ambient creatures wandering around Oakmont is what appears to be a giant cat-sized shrimp that's wearing the body of a dead cat as a skinsuit. They're non-hostile and may very well be alien wildlife rather than wylebeasts, given that they seem to be vulnerable to poison (which wylebeasts are noted as unaffected by).
  • Giant Mook: The large, fat, centaur/ centipede-like wylebeasts are the toughest of the regular wylebeast types, capable of withstanding multiple grenades and almost your entire reserve of pistol/revolver ammo, with a weak spot in the throat that's almost impossible to get a clean hit on for some reason.
  • 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.
  • 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 a museum of all the human atrocities committed in Oakmont to drive home his point.
    • The Innsmouthers are inhuman fish men/hybrids but the majority of them are actually no different from any other Oakmont citizen. The EOD is in power primarily because the Innsmouthers have nowhere else to turn in a hostile city that considers them monsters.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Bullsquid-like wylebeasts are revealed to be people who ate human flesh after the Flood (in most cases presumably out of desperation), causing them to crave it more and more and eventually transform into monsters. The investigation in which you learn this involves an insane chef at an elite restaurant who served human flesh to his unsuspecting customers, transforming them into monsters living in the restaurant's basement which he continues to feed with human meat.
  • 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.
  • Invading Refugees: The Innsmouthers are fleeing persecution from the government due to the events of The Shadow Over Innsmouth but are still led by the Esoteric Order of Dagon (EOD). This means they're neck deep in evil plots and criminal activity that are contributing to Oakmont's collapse. Played with as it was the chilly reception they received from the locals that contributed to their radicalization.
  • The Klan: Appears in the Nosedive case. You get to shoot them. They think they're bigshots when they're clearly a joke compared to the numerous genuinely dangerous secret occult organizations at work in Oakmont.
  • Laborious Laziness: An Innsmouth named Walker stated he wanted to be a Landlord as he sees that as a job where he didn't need to do any work. So he stated he worked his butt off to earn enough money to buy three properties and then tasks you with clearing the wylebeasts out of 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.
  • Mob War: Along with the cosmic horrors, Reed has to deal with the various gangs vying for control in the city and even work with them on occasion to proceed. Most notably, there's Brutus Carpenter, the Klan, the Yellow Kings, and the EOD.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • During the The Secret of Long Pork Pies investigation, upon finding a sink full of chopped-up human body parts in a restaurant kitchen, not only is Reed's sanity unaffected but he even quips "I don't think the health inspector will be pleased". Not quite as bad as "This noosed broad has seen better days", but pretty close.
    • At Robert Throgmorton's mansion, after Albert Throgmorton's funeral is over comes a wake in which Albert's body is replaced with a life-sized cake in the image of the deceased. After the somber circumstances of the young man's death kick off the plot, it's both unexpected and darkly humorous.
  • 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.
  • Murder by Cremation: Graham Carpenter attempts to have his father Brutus Carpenter killed this way. Carpenter managed to regain consciousness just before it actually happened.
  • 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, although as a whole they're actually based on the Jermyn family from Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family. This is especially notably by how they claim to be tied to "foreign royalty".
    • 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 Ephraim 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 collectibles 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, chief among them The King in Yellow.
      • 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.
    • You can find a note in Billy's base mentioning some coordinates. These are the coordinates of R'lyeh.
  • No Body Left Behind: Upon death, wylebeasts will dissolve and melt into puddles of black goo after a moment or so.
  • 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 Always Evil: The game heavily emphasizes the point that, even though it's pointless to deny that EOD is a clearly evil doomsday cult intent on subverting human society from within (and the Deep Ones' long-term plans probably aren't too good for humanity either), not all Innsmouthers are culpable for their actions (if only because most of them are too low on the food chain to know what's really going on) and many are just ordinary people trying to get on with their lives who just happened to be born with a fishman for a parent. While most Innsmouthers you meet are assholes, Reed points out that their social ostracization means they have little choice except to radicalize and turn to fanatical groups like the EOD for support. While dealing with Robert Throgmorton the only dialogue options involve challenging his prejudices, instead of agreeing with him "yeah, fuck those fishmen" after they've tried to kill you numerous times in the past.
  • Notice This: Supply stashes nearby will be highlighted when using your scan ability.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Reed's tiny motorboat, the Cyclops II, manages to always be at whatever waterway Reed needs to traverse, with no indication of how it got there from where Reed left it last.
  • 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:
    • Played with. A lot of the prejudices present in 1920s America are not present, not due to any progressive movements, but rather out of the realities of living in Oakmont. Segregation, if it was ever present, was eliminated by the flood. People in Oakmont treat all local inhabitants equally regardless of skin color. Racism is downplayed and focused exclusively towards Innsmouthers and Newcomers. That said Oakmont is remarkably progressive towards real-life minorities. African Americans are not only present in all factions but in some cases in positions of power, and even run some of the central functions of Oakmont life. There is even a black member of the local KKK!
    • That said Reed is remarkably tolerant of homosexuality and understands why a person would want to keep it a secret, which was historically accurate for the 1920s. He also expresses surprise that Anna has reached such a high rank in the E.O.D. and has a University Degree. To which she coldly remarks that "women can go a lot farther in Oakmont than on the Mainland." Additionally, everyone smokes like crazy.
  • 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. It's mentioned that alcohol and cigarettes are also used as currency, but Reed never trades in them (likely because bullets are way more useful to him).
  • Punny Name:
  • 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: The Esoteric Order of Dagon operates outside the law. Depending on your choices, you can help them instead of revealing their corrupt dealings.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: Downplayed; on the one hand, the game has what appears to be a very tight economy in which bullets are your currency as well as your ammo, combat often eats up more resources than you gain from looting a cleared area (encouraging stealth), and you generally have access to a fairly limited amount of overall resources. However, all this is thrown out the window by the fact that loot containers respawn their contents after you leave an area, allowing you to farm up to your max carry capacity at your leisure.
  • 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.
  • Scenery Gorn: The city half flooded, and the remaining half looks like it is gradually rotting and crumbling away. Just from looking at it you can viscerally imagine how the place would smell and the feeling of moisture clinging on your skin.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Throgmorton considers the Innsmouthers to be criminals and evildoers, so he persecutes them horribly while using his influence to make the city as hostile to them as possible. As such, the Innsmouthers have to turn to crime as well as the Esoteric Order of Dagon to survive.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: 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 is eating them is still a surprise.
  • Shoot the Dog: The ending to "Through the Looking Glass" has Reed choose between a grieving mother and the fact her plan to resurrect her son is batshit insane. It will return him in the body of a mummified seven year old. If you thwart it, Reed is forced to kill her despite her being a victim in all of this.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the notes you can find around Oakmont is a pin-up poster hidden in a locker. The descriptor says it reminds Reed of "old Snake's shenanigans", with it even mentioning that "(he) miss(es) that guy".
    • A destination you end up going to during a side quest is a glasswork workshop that makes mirrors. The owner of which being one Gaunter Randall, who looks very familiar.
    • The archives of the Police Station mention a Lt. Phelps.
    • Several examples of Grave Humor in the game are references— an urn in the Crematorium reads F**k it, Dude, let's go bowling.
    • The list in the morgue makes note of a "Jack White", who needs to be cremated urgently.
    • Police records for a felony lynching at the Orion Club identify Z.H. Comstock as the chief suspect.
    • The "Master Sleuth" costume has Reed wearing a deerstalker hat, which is commonly associated with Sherlock Holmes.
    • A mural of Shub-Niggurath can be found in a cave temple to her. Her "head" in the mural is almost identical in appearance to her depiction in Quake
  • 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.
  • Spooky Painting: A painting in one of the houses that an Innsmouther has you clear out has a note beside it suggesting that the painting has driven the former of the old house completely mad.
  • Supernatural Hotspot Town: Oakmont is home to several different cults, with cultists walking around the unflooded parts of the city in broad daylight. It's also full of refugees from Innsmouth, one of the upper-class families is the result of a union between a human and an ape, and grottos around the city contain ruins pertaining to the Great Old Ones.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Happens quite a few times due to the game's heavy emphasis on Grey-and-Grey Morality and Black-and-Grey Morality.
    • Graham Carpenter wants to assassinate his father, a ruthless and brutal gangster, in order to take over the family business and reform it into a charity. He's unquestionably an honorable and all-around Nice Guy, and his father is unquestionably responsible for scores of murders and other crimes, but his father also indicates he'd like to turn over a new leaf after his brush with death ( though it's strongly hinted he's more set in his ways than he'd like to admit), while the son is being advised by a doomsday cult and could potentially become their puppet.
  • 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.
  • Where It All Began: The finale brings you back to the boat you started your journey on.
  • 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 a very secretive 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.
  • Underground Monkey: There are only 4 types of wylebeasts, but each type has 1 or 2 more advanced sub-types with different abilities, such as creating smoke, healing allies, Regenerating Health, cloaking, or laying down exploding mines.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: A big highlight of this game is that depending on the difficulty, there is little to no handholding when it comes to finding mission objectives. They are not automatically marked on your map; you must manually add markers to your map using clues and evidence obtained from investigating areas, questioning people, and combing through records and archives. In other words, the game makes you think like the detective you're playing as.
  • 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.
  • Useless Useful Spell: While a number of skills are pretty useful, some are just a complete waste of experience.
    • While occasionally traps can be used to delay an opponent or even kill a weak one, they're so situational and it's so uncertain where enemies will appear that it's not really worth the skill that does extra damage with them. The skill that lets you pick up traps faster is even less so because if you're spending time picking up a trap you should have already cleared out enemies in the area and have plenty of time.
    • In general melee is the last place you want to be while fighting Wylebeasts, and the only ones that it's practical to fight in melee are the weakest kind, making faster melee and more melee damage useless.
    • You can take skills to reduce the damage you take while swimming or from falling. The problem is that unless you'll probably spend virtually no time doing either of those things.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: You can't take firearms or even ammo from killed human enemies, and on occasion you'll find weapons lying around but can't take them, only being able to acquire the shotgun, submachine gun, and rifle as specific quest rewards.
  • 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!". You can also turn him over to the police, which is at least justified by the fact he's a murderer.
    • "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.
    • There's nothing stopping you from mowing down innocent civilians in the streets. Doing so will drop your sanity like a rock, with two murders in a row being enough to drive Charles to suicide.
  • 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 (namely, the humanoid spitters can convert humans into more of themselves with their contagious vomit, the hopping Bullsquid-like creatures are people who transformed after eating human flesh, and the Giant Mook creatures are formed from dead bodies stashed together in mass graves). 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.
    • Anna Cavendish disappears after her mission and is never brought up again.
    • Robert Throgmorton is seemingly the only major character who doesn't either die during the game or show up in the finale committing suicide as the Cycle ends, making him potentially the only major human character other than Reed to survive in any of the endings that don't involve the End of the World.
  • You All Look Familiar: Other than major storyline characters, most of the characters with dialogue (including side-quest givers) draw from the relatively small pool of generic NPC models. In the first hour of the game alone you'll notice that the head of the local newspaper looks identical to the fortune teller in the harbor bar, just with a different dress.


Video Example(s):


The Sinking City

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...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / CosmicHorrorStory

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