OUR RATING – 7/10
Dry Drowning is a visual mystery novel produced and published by WhisperGames and Studio V. Released at the beginning of August 2019, it piqued a lot of interest. A demo version is available on Steam and GOG.
From the meaningful intro to the protagonist’s dark past. To studying the circumstantial evidence in bloody murder cases, the noir thriller begins with a strong introduction.
Nova Polemos is a metropolis that has grown into a city-state, where social exclusion and surveillance are commonplace. Private detective Mordred Foley is accused of fabricating the evidence of a murder case that eventually resulted in two innocent people being executed. The evidence was not strong enough to indict him, but the public allegations do not improve his agency’s backlog.
Foley then takes on a case that both looks promising financially and could also shed light on an old case. There is only one catch: his client is the head of a party with fascist goals. Whether you accept the order or not is not an option. Unfortunately, the plot never branches out that much until shortly before the end. However, you can take a stand against the client’s views and even manipulate the case later. Consequently, this affects small details in conversations and parts of the action.
With more than 150 decision roots and three different endings, the game easily keeps up with the genre.
Dry Drowning is about tough decisions. The consequences you may not realize immediately, but they can have all the weight throughout your story. Decisions that seem nice at the beginning – as simple as protecting an employee – can be viewed as negative. Doing such small things can in turn cause her to suffer (psychological trauma, etc.) On the other hand, it can also mean something completely different. All the information that players receive is these decision-making options affects the outcome of the game. For example, if something turns out differently than expected, you can play again to get the outcome that you want.
Sometimes, decisions about life or death, or even serious changes that affect all of Nova Polemos must me made. Dry Drowning is distantly related to the Telltale adventures, although it is most likely a point and click adventure. At times, you have no choice between different conversation options during the fixed conversations.
There are three chapters in the game, and each chapter will have a case. The investigation mode opens when you trigger them. This investigation is the traditional mode of collecting evidence by clicking on it. Each option will have a certain impact on the subsequent plot. This is also one of the motivations for players to play this game repeatedly.
One highlight is the time retrospect of the third chapter, the past and the reality back and forth. The collection of evidence allows players to further understand what happened six years ago. It will reveals some important details in the past. The evidences will let you proceed to the most exciting part of the game – revealing the opponent’s mask.
You can find brief information in the inventory on all the clues that Mordred collects. The same goes for the people he learns about or meets during his journey. Sometimes he even solves mini-games, which is a great change from reading a lot. These distractions are easily manageable, and I feel the tasks could have been more demanding and occurred more frequently.
The same applies to the playful highlights. You have to choose the right option several times in order to solve a case or to expose the perpetrator. In short, you should have all the relevant information in front of your eyes at these moments. Note that after three unsuccessful attempts it means “game over”. Of course, you simply start the corresponding situation from the beginning. Unfortunately, there are no branched courses of action at these points.
The Good, the Bad and the Overall Gaming Experience
As a visual novel, its characterization is obviously not in place. The protagonist Mordred’s image is still full, but other characters including Hera are particularly thin. This is also because the game is full of pen and ink.
In terms of character dialogue and investigation, there is basically no daily character communication. Even if there is, it is an understatement. The quiet daily life in this game does not exist. Other characters’ roles are too little, and the villain Pandora only appeared a few times. He hasn’t shown his obsession and craziness. We can only say that the script has yet to be polished.
Although there is nothing too brilliant, it still achieves the effect of rendering a depressive atmosphere. In this society, people’s lives seem to be drowning.
The adventure can be played almost as well on the Nintendo Switch as it is on the PC. The controls are fine in and of themselves. You can use the inventory very easily through a drop-down menu at the top. Conversations are easy to handle and, overall, the control system cuts a fine figure.
What can give a bit of a headache is the size of the subtitles on Nintendo Switch. They can be a bit difficult to read due to the small size, especially with longer texts in handheld mode. But this is something that the developers could fix very quickly with a patch, a setting of the UI.
The two-hour original music seems to make the process interesting. The sad piano music pops up with gray notes, making the player feel the depression like drowning. The music renders the atmosphere very well. The raindrops in the background slipped slowly. The questioning mask is also very visual, and the gray base color is very depressing.
As a game with so many elements, Dry Drowning looks golden. But in actual deliberation, there are many problems in the game. The weak character image and certain unreasonable settings make this game seem a little hollow. Ultimately, the ending is a good expression of the author’s thoughts. The final scenes pretty much rescue the entire game. It is extremely ironic and full of shock.
The game’s values are very much in line with the genre. The criticism of dystopia and politics is as vivid as it is incisive. All in all, the storytelling, beautiful graphics and soundtrack, various possible outcomes, and three different endings, make the game fun and intriguing ride.