The Sinking City is a game with an unenviable task. We’ve now reached a certain saturation point with riffs on H.P. Lovecraft. The author has become so ingrained in pop culture — especially in video games, it seems — that people kind of know what to expect. And I don’t just mean “Cthulhu will probably show up.” Lovecraft’s reputation as an unrepentant bigot is old news even in the mainstream. So The Sinking City, if it wants to incorporate the writer’s signature style, doesn’t just need to sidestep cliches. It needs to acknowledge and work around the cosmic horror that was largely inspired by a terrible man and his terrible views on certain groups of people.
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“A Delicate Matter” – The Sinking City Gameplay Trailer
One especially nasty story by old Howard was “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.” You might not be familiar with it. There aren’t any tentacles or horrors from beyond. Instead, the story is a pretty thinly veiled allegory for Lovecraft’s bigotry. I won’t go into all the details here. Suffice it to say that Lovecraft had some terrible opinions about race and social classes (duh).
The Sinking City shows some pretty clear Arthur Jermyn influence, though, in its latest trailer. The video shows 12 minutes of commentated gameplay, featuring an aristocrat named Mr. Throgmorton. Based on his attitude, not to mention his snobby name, you can bet he’s probably a bad guy. And that’s potentially interesting. The Sinking City looks to be playing with components of Lovecraft fiction in ways that subvert the motive behind those original stories. That’s a lot more intriguing than what we usually get: stories and games that take the cosmic horror aesthetic, and just ignore their awful origins.
It’s tough to say how well The Sinking City sticks that landing, without playing the game for ourselves. But the mostly unedited mission footage shown here definitely piques our interest! We’ll know more when the Lovecraftian detective game launches on June 27, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.