Sinking City 2 Hero

Xbox Partner Preview – The Sinking City 2 Has Mutated Into a Full-Blown Horror Game 

The characters in a Lovecraft story are susceptible to… mutation. Minds and bodies are forever altered by exposure to the horrors hiding in the darker corners of the world. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that The Sinking City 2 – which just got a world premiere in the latest Xbox Partner Preview broadcast – has undergone its own unexpected change.

Where the first game was a detective adventure, with horror bubbling up from its flooded world, its sequel has taken on a darker, more aggressive form. The Sinking City 2 is a true horror game now, with more emphasis on combat, while keeping a Lovecraftian narrative close to its twisted heart. 

The Sinking City is one of our most successful titles, because of our stronger horror genre leanings and the setting,” Frogwares Head of Publishing, Sergey Oganesyan tells me. “For us, it was kind of a breakthrough, and we are super excited to work on a full-scale horror game. We have created quite a few detective adventures in the past, so now we’re going to mix things up to keep doing what people love from us – meaning story-rich experiences – while still being able to evolve.”

The Sinking City 2 Screenshots

The result is a game with a similar set-up, but a very different execution. Like the first game, Frogwares are using an early 20th Century setting, a city afflicted by flooding, and an outsider stepping into a situation they cannot comprehend. But unlike the original, we’re now being thrown headfirst into a horror story (rendered in the powerful Unreal Engine 5) – and the city in question is an unexpectedly familiar place. 

“It’s mid-1920s America, as the country goes full steam ahead into the boom years after the First World War,” explains Oganesyan. “But in some corners of the US, there is no glitz and glam. The city of Arkham (a name that should be familiar to most Lovecraft fans – and not to be confused by Batman fans) has been the victim of an ongoing flood of unknown, supernatural origins.” 

Oganesyan tells me that the team will be staying quiet on the precise details of the story, but hints that it will pull from new Lovecraft stories, as well as the original game’s influences – and will feature “iconic Lovecraftian monsters like the Deep Ones more front and center.” But Frogwares has always been a studio that puts its own spin on classic influences (this is the studio famous for its Sherlock Holmes games, after all) – and creating a truly original horror story is their key concern. 

The Sinking City 2 Screenshots

“The rot and decay from the waters have become constant,” continues Oganesyan. “In the darker corners of the gloom are creatures not of this world. And the population’s minds have twisted and contorted to the point where they are somehow used to it all. This is the world our character steps into on a mission that won’t be made clear to you right away.” 

That character isn’t the first game’s lead, Charles Reed – Frogwares aren’t yet ready to talk about who he is – but it was a very purposeful choice to offer players some new shoes to fill: 

“We wanted to create a story and setting that wasn’t burdened by what we created in The Sinking City,” says Oganesyan of the character and location shifts, “especially since players have various endings they favored or considered the ‘true ending’. This way we can let existing fans come back into this world fresh, while anyone who never played the original game can also step in without feeling like they are missing a big chunk of the story.” 

The Sinking City 2 Screenshots

Oganesyan jokes that this is effectively an act of kindness: “Let’s be real, how much psyche-shattering horror can one poor guy take? Let some new guy take that hit instead of piling more onto poor Charles.” 

But the biggest change of all is in the gameplay itself – something you can glean even through the CG reveal trailer. Where the original was a detective game with occasional horror-combat elements, The Sinking City 2 effectively flips that around. 

“Combat and exploration are the main focus now, with the horror setting more prominent. We’re also going to be smarter with our city design, making our world smaller to keep things flowing better,” says Oganesyan. “We’ve been hard at work focusing on making sure our combat is now central to the game. With this then comes enemy design, to ensure there is a strong visual horror element. On top of that, we also have our level design, story, and world design all leaning a lot more toward horror, so overall it’s a much stronger push in this direction. 

The Sinking City 2 Screenshots

“As for the detective work, it’s still there but now through a revamped system that makes it all optional. Players can now choose to investigate clues, knowing that in return they may get info that helps them progress differently. For example, engaging in some additional sleuthing may yield information on how to weaken a formidable boss or help you discover an alternate route that you had no idea about. You could, of course, progress without this knowledge, but it will be potentially easier or more engrossing to do so based on info you’ve deduced.” 

It’s a major shift, and clearly one that Frogwares has put a great deal of thought into – but it’s also been a passion project that’s had to be created slowly, through some incredibly difficult real-life circumstances, given the studio’s roots in Ukraine. 

“We’ve never shared this before, but we were in the early stages of pre-production on The Sinking City 2 when the war broke out in Ukraine in February 2022,” says Oganesyan. “This forced us to put all that work indefinitely on hold. Now that we know what we are capable of handling, have adapted to the situation as best as we can, and taken all the measures to ensure the stable workflow of our studio, we felt it was time to start up The Sinking City 2 again.” 

The Sinking City 2 Screenshots

It gives the changes Frogwares are making an extra significance. These aren’t just trivial experiments – the size of the game, the scope of those changes, and belief that they’re the right path have to be incredibly strong. They aren’t easy to make in these circumstances – which means that Oganesyan and the team are pushing to realize this vision because it is, quite literally, a labor of love. 

“The war on our doorstep is a constant that we have to deal with every day,” Oganesyan concludes. “Thankfully, things like work and being creative actually allow us some respite or even a return to the feeling of having a ‘normal life’. We’ve adapted through the grit of our teeth and by innovating the way we work. We now know what to expect and how to deal with it, so we’re absolutely going to push on and keep creating. 

“This is a game our entire team has been wanting to make for some time now, and we’re determined to get it done.”