Frogwares’ The Sinking City originally came out back in 2019, a Lovecraftian mystery about a city plagued by a flood and bouts of madness, with hints of ancient eldritch gods at the center of everything happening. The game has been embroiled in a lot of controversy following Frogwares’ split with former publisher Nacon (previously Big Ben), and the game has been delisted and relisted from digital storefronts numerous times. The Steam version is currently under more controversy, with Nacon actually pirating the game to sell it. It’s a mystery that it feels like it’ll take Charles Reed to solve.
Fortunately, there’s at least one version of The Sinking City that isn’t besieged by the conflicts between Frogwares and Nacon. The Sinking City PS5 is the new next-gen release, self published entirely by Frogwares, and optimized for the new console. It’s fundamentally the same game as the PS4 version, with improved resolution and performance throughout. We’ve previously reviewed The Sinking City, so I won’t focus too much on the game’s overall content here—though this was my first time playing it, so I may make note of certain elements that stuck out to me. We’ll largely be looking at the title’s PS5 upgrade and optimizations, and if it’s worth grabbing on the next-gen console.
The Sinking City PS5 Review – Frogwares’ Own
Amid the dispute and Nacon publishing the PS4 version of the game, there is no free upgrade to the PS5 version of The Sinking City. However, Frogwares did opt to price the PS5 game lower than the PS4 version, saying they had no say in the original price point of the game. The PS5 version runs at 4K/60fps, and is pretty technically sound. I only had a rare stuttering issue or two, but nothing that was overtly noticeable or impacted the gameplay experience in any way. The lighting and textures have also been improved. You can get a good look at the improvements and comparisons to the last-gen version in the PS5 launch trailer.
Graphically, The Sinking City PS5 looks like a game that belongs natively on the console. Except for the cutscenes, which look noticeably more muddy and low resolution than the actual gameplay and in-engine cinematics, The Sinking City PS5 is pristine and detailed. It gives me a lot of faith in Frogwares’ upcoming Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One on the platform. Load times are also extremely snappy, so fast traveling throughout the city isn’t a painful ordeal. And when certain mysteries have you moving from one side of Oakmont to the other, this fast loading is quite a blessing.
It also features DualSense support for haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers are used in combat, but combat isn’t the game’s strong point. I avoided it wherever I could, and not just because resources can be limited. There’s very little feedback to the player that your shots are connecting with enemies, and it makes combat feel like a very flat experience overall. Fortunately, fighting with the bizarre horrors isn’t the main focus of the game, and the variety of mysteries more than makes up for it. Neither the haptics are triggers are anything terribly special overall, with other games implementing them in much more visceral ways, but it’s nice that Frogwares is at least playing with the functionality.
The Sinking City PS5 Review – Play it Again
Nothing else has really changed from it’s last iteration, so if you are looking for alterations to the mysteries and gameplay, you won’t find them here. The Sinking City consists of nine main story chapters and a number of side mysteries (more if you get the Deluxe Edition/DLC). There’s very little in the way of handholding, though most mysteries are solved through a combination of scouring sites for clues, using various records archives in the city (the local newspaper, police station, city hall, etc.) to dig up information, and plotting out where to go next using street names on the world map. It’s a great system that puts solving the mystery in the hands of the player rather than at the behest of game mechanics like waypoints and glowing objects, but the formula did start to feel a little repetitive by the end of things. There was also some very noticeable repetition in the layout and design of some of the building interiors, which added to that formulaic feeling by the end.
Still, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the mystery and uncovering the conspiracy at the heart of Oakmont. The ending does feel a little abrupt all said and done, but it’s otherwise an engaging journey following Reed’s journey. Pacing is overall good, though there are certain sections where you’ll dive beneath the surface of the water that tend to really slow things down. With the rest of the game being relatively slow-paced in general (this is a mystery game, after all), the fact that the diving portions brought the pace to a screeching halt meant they stuck out like a sore thumb. I wish something had been done to either make movement faster here, or make them more interesting than just being long walking sequences in relatively dull and dark environments. There were only about four of these that were required, however, so it’s not something that comes up all the time.
Notably, the PS5 version is also missing the ability to manually save the game in multiple slots. There’s only one autosave. While the game saves generously, it does mean a little extra work for trophy hunters looking to get the various Trophies for making opposing decisions in cases. I managed to get my Platinum in one playthrough, but it required uploading the autosave t0 the cloud via PS Plus and redownloading it to make the other choice and move on. Fortunately, fast loading times meant this was little more than an inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.
Frogwares is a master in mystery. While their pedigree is mostly rooted in Sherlock Holmes, this foray into Lovecraftian horror is an admirable effort made even better by the technology of the PS5. Loading times are vastly improved on The Sinking City PS5, and the game looks better than it ever has before thanks to improved textures, lighting, and resolution. This version is also free of Frogwares’ publisher drama with Nacon, and paints a pretty exciting picture for what the developer can do with mystery games on the PS5.
The Sinking City PS5 review copy provided by developer. Reviewed on PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.