The year is 2066. Social, political, and racial tensions are high. Property and people have names rooted in mythology. And a mysterious serial killer is running rampant in Nova Polemas. Welcome to the world of Dry Drowning.
Dry Drowning is a point-and-click visual novel that has you playing as Mordred, an investigator who just recently had some legal problems. He can also tell when people are lying–their faces become twisted animal masks. Mordred and his partner Hera are pursuing the serial killer Pandora (while getting entangled in other cases), who kills in ways inspired by Greek mythology.
Despite being set in the future, the world is recognizable and the tech available that marks “the future” seems like a realistic progression from the present day. Hologram projectors, for example, exist as do immersive mobile games; clearly steps from what is available for the consumer today. Even the semi-surveillance state with its political tipping point is, unfortunately, recognizable and it’s easy to imagine how forty plus years progressed in this way naturally. The world isn’t entirely chrome or anything, either. There is a cyberpunk feel, but our world is still visible. This keeps things grounded, and it doesn’t require an active suspension of disbelief to absorb.
The game is draped in the film-noir aesthetic throughout, ever appropriate for a detective story. Mordred definitely fits the noir detective type well, and interacts with the world in a way one might expect from that type, though you can manipulate that basic character with your decisions. My Mordred ended up being very soft-hearted under the default gruff exterior, which actually caused a ton of problems in Nova Polemas.
Oftentimes, the decisions are tough, and I suspect being cold-hearted would lead to just as much trouble. Supposedly, the game has 150 different branching paths, so I’m going to guess that every decision has backlash, no matter what. Watching the story branch out is definitely a highlight of this game and even as I’m currently playing through it I’m already noting what I’d like to do differently to see how and if things will change.
The gameplay is integrated very naturally with the world and its story. It’s very easy to tell what you can interact with and how you can interact with it. All menus are pretty self-explanatory and simple to navigate. There’s also a tutorial option, which means you can get helpful hints whenever you’re experiencing some new gameplay mechanic.
The game also adds some interesting minigames to the basic point-and-click setup. There are some logic puzzles, matching games to help you visually sort clues and cases, and even a “Living Nightmare” mode where you interrogate suspects and force them to confess by showing them different pieces of evidence. You can tell you’re progressing because the suspects’ faces will slowly turn back into human faces. Puzzles and minigames are exactly the right level of challenging: they make you think, but they’re not frustrating.
These minigames keep the game active. Although Dry Drowning could work without them, it acts as a nice break to think in a different way or gather your thoughts for a moment. It definitely keeps evidence fresh in the player’s mind, which is often something I have trouble with in similar games.
I’d definitely recommend this game to fans of its genres. I felt it had a little bit of a slow start, but once I started learning more about Pandora and saw his first crime I was hooked, and by the time I reached the climax of the first chapter, I was completely invested. As I mentioned earlier, there are apparently 150 ways to make the story branch for three different conclusions, and already know that this is one of those games I’m going to return to again and again to try and see what else I can get out of it.
Dry Drowning will be available starting in August on Steam.