Oakmont, Massachusetts is drowning. Half of the city was abandoned to the sea. The busy streets of the city were replaced by rivers, winding between the dilapidated wooden buildings of the lost windows. The problem is, I have to get in one of these stores. A dive team disappeared, the only known victim went crazy, and I was accused of knowing if the others are still alive – and the dive suit's garment shop is somewhere in this block.
Sighing, I board a nearby rowboat and hope the upper levels have survived relatively unscathed. I'll tell you what, Sherlock Holmes has never been so hard.
Looking in the abyss
The flowing city is more ambitious than I thought. When the project was announced – at the time when he was still a Call of cthulhu I was waiting for the developer Frogwares to become one of his Sherlock Holmes games with a cosmic horror folded. And it would have been good! the Sherlock Holmes the games all follow the same basic structure on a case-by-case basis, but they are (with the exception of the Devil's girl) also quite nice detective games. Easy but nice.
Frogwares has quietly entered his own good. Write about Crimes and Punishments in 2014, I said the Sherlock Holmes games had gone from guilty pleasure to "legitimately good", partly because of technical improvements. Devil's girl was disastrous from the point of view of history and structure, but continued to press for larger and better environments.
And in The flowing city This process results in a huge open world, with cluttered streets and seamless interiors. It's something we've never seen before, but it's certainly something we've never seen at Frogwares.
The effects go far. I had the chance to work with The flowing city for about two hours last week, and I should warn you in advance: they wanted me to stick to the main storyline of the demo. There are a ton of secondary missions, some of which were mentioned during the demo. You can address them in any order, simply by following the rumors on the map. But how long are they? How involved? I do not know yet.
We still reviewed the first two cases of the game: the disappearance of the son of local politician Robert Throgmorton, then the aforementioned diving expedition. And even without wandering in search of ancillary missions, the open city has influenced these cases in many ways.
The flowing city is repugnant to tell the player where to go, for example. You will have (very) occasionally a quest marker, but you will often have to pay attention to verbal instructions or deduce your next destination from the context.
The first case, Throgmorton, told me that his son was stranded on a boat. When asked where it had happened, he told me to face the warehouse door and then move to the left until he got there. that I find a fenced beach. That was it. No quest marker, or even a point of interest marked on the map. I just had to walk. The boat contained a vital piece of evidence and I'm not sure what would have happened if I had missed it – assuming The flowing city you can miss it. I could not test this hypothesis either.
Anyway, it's interesting to play a police game that does not hold the player's hand all the weather. Saying to go to a local dive bar, I had to wander on the docks until I found it. Another place indicated that a wounded man had fled the crime scene and I deduced that I had to go to the hospital. Once there, I needed to determine which newcomer seemed most likely to lie about an ax injury in the shoulder. And in the case of the diving suit, it was said that the transverse streets of the shop were enough to place my own marker on the map.
The flowing city shines in these moments. You feel like a real detective, walking through Oakmont looking for different leads, each clue revealing the existence of other people until you can recite a complete account of the crime. It is these Sherlock Holmes games, but on a much larger scale. The second case of the game took me more than an hour to complete and involved the local newspaper, an adventurers' company, a fight on the docks, the hospital, the store of combinations diving, a brief underwater section and a large underwater cave and / or or temple. Cthulhu Fans know what awaits them.
In any case, I have listed seven separate places, each with clues to the case and the world itself. Unfortunately, the crime scenes are a bit more complex. The points of interest are usually pretty obvious. The flowing city tells you when you have found all the clues in a region. It's a bit like Murdered: Suspect Suspect I think, which is disappointing given the subtlety The flowing city is at other times. But as I said with the rowboat, I would be curious to know if the player can miss whole areas of investigation and thus crucial evidence. This could be a neat twist.
Frogwares also brings back the Sherlock Holmes Web deduction, which allows you to draw erroneous conclusions about the evidence. And on top of that, there are a number of choices to make sure your conclusions. In the first case, I stuck the murderer, but he claimed that he had been possessed during the murder. He also offered a bribe if I looked away. My options? Give it to Robert Throgmorton, or do not take the bribe or take the bribe, then give him
It seems like The flowing city is preparing for a rather complicated faction narrative, with the Throgmortons and their political strength on one side and the Innsmouthers – fishermen, in the classic Lovecraft tradition – on the other. I can not wait to see how that goes. Again, this is very ambitious compared to what Frogwares did before.
Not that all the asperities were sanded. There was some shooting in my demo, a basic fight against slippery creatures looking like spiders. This aspect was not very inspiring and I hope it will not become an important part of the game in the future.
Your character also has hallucinations when his health meter drops Call of Cthulhu: the dark corners of the earthbut at the beginning of the game, this system did not seem very important. There was a good time when I shot at one of those nightmarish spiders, only for it to disappear in a cloud of smoke, product of my imagination. It was a special case though. Most of the time, my "madness" manifested itself in grainy images of our poor private detective protagonist hanging from a noose, which was appalling but was neither very interesting nor surprising. Hoping The flowing city can reach the peaks of cult favorites like Dark corners of the earth and Eternal darkness.
I can not wait to The flowing city for a while though, and getting practical time only made me more excited. No one else makes police games on this scale. There is bound to be some fun around the edges, but if Frogwares can solve the main problems and improve its more open structure, I think. The flowing city will be something special.
As I said, Frogwares has certainly made its mark in recent years. Impressive.