Studio V / VLG Publishing (studio)
09 August 2019 (released)
17 August 2019
Dry Drowning is labelled as an adult/dark crime drama which is intended for mature audiences. Now whenever I see things like this I’m either thinking this could be a rather mature and dark story that’s not for the faint of heart (something like Killer 7 or The Last of Us). Or my brain thinks of teenage boys writing overly complicated short stories, involving nudity, senseless violence and swearing to seem edgy, cool and more grown up than they really are. I’m always a little dubious whenever I hear any creator stating their story is dark, gritty and mature. Because you don’t need much to make a story engaging and dark and pushing too much just makes the thing fail apart.
I’m hopeful Dry Drowning will excel with an interesting story and compel me to stay with meaningful gameplay.
Dry Drowning is a bleak tale set in the near future where it constantly rains and everyone wears leather (aside from handsome private eye). There are plenty of issues rampant in the world of Dry Drowning with a social divide and class divide being the main reason why everyone is so glum, with just a sprinkle of racism to top the cake that’s soon to implode. However those can be brushed aside as you have a serial killer to catch and one you have a personal grudge against.
You play as Modred Foley, a sleazy private eye who’s been given a second chance of life after a life changing event. He returns to the comfort of his home where his loving partner waits. It’s been difficult, but Foley is able to start afresh and begin a new chapter in his life.
Or so he thinks. His world is turned upside down when he’s given a case to find a serial killer, baring the markings of the same killer he was able to catch many years prior. Not only might that, helping solve this case will either imprison an innocent man or free one of the most dangerous political figures of the 21st century (please, I’m not going there with a certain US president).
The story of Dry Drowning is a very engrossing one. It’s been crafted and paced rather to ensure players are brought into the world quickly, they understand the fundamentals and grasp the long list of characters to love and hate. There are plenty of dynamic elements to keep the story interesting, such as the power struggle, themes of mental illness and the manner in which the murders take place.
While the story itself is pretty interesting and even throws in multiple endings and a couple of gameplay dynamics that actually work with the story line (rather than feeling randomly placed). There’s a certain naff-ness (weird, un-charming and poorly written) to plenty of the dialogue, with one liners which feel out of place, a certain un-intelligence that characters exhibit which is just palin annoying or the feeling that a lot of characters are extremely one dimensional. It’s not the story at fault but rather some of the bland characters or uninspired dialogue. A story this decent, hell it’s pretty good, deserves better dialogue or at least a more interesting, less cliché protagonist.
Gameplay wise, Dry Drowning is what you expect from an interactive visual novel. There are plenty of investigation elements, whether it’s checking out a crime scene, speaking with potential witnesses or reflecting on notes and items collected to gather more of a sense on what’s going on. Environments are beautifully designed; pretty much the whole game looks and sounds really good for a visual novel. And there are plenty of different elements to engage with to keep the investigation interesting.
Some moments feel extremely linear and impossible to fail, while others are the complete opposite. It’s an unbalanced mix but as I said there are some neat gameplay mechanics which come into play later on. If you read my preview, you know I spoke about a potential gameplay mechanic which would be great in Dry Drowning. It doesn’t come into the picture, but something else does and it’s pretty cool. I will not spoil it here though.
The only real downside is that there’s only a small selection of endings to unlock and some, if not many of the paths you can chose to lead you to one of them don’t have much impact. Some of the choices just don’t matter and a choice can be utterly redundant it seems. It might have been great if Dry Drowning implemented a tactic from Heavy Rain where you could end the game at different stages and one wrong move could get you a poor ending. Then working your way through the entire case could produce a number of different endings. While all endings do have weight to them, it feels a little shallow to have 150 choices in the game but many of them appear to be window dressing.
That said, Dry Drowning is an interesting game and one that fans of the genre will surely love. It could’ve been more risky with the gameplay and had a better line up of characters and choices, yet it’s visual style and story are definitely the highlight’s for this gruesome cyberpunk, murder mystery.
+ Interesting and gripping story
+ Beautiful visuals and sound design
+ Some interesting mechanics to break up the standard visual novel formula
- Some characters are generic and uninspired, holding back some parts of the story
- Lack of replay value with only a handful of endings
A Steam review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review