Interactive novels are one of the oldest form of games, dating back as far as Zork and A Bard’s Tale.
Rather than remaining walls of text with scattered images, though, they’ve gradually evolved into comic book style visual novels with cut scenes and animations, like the incomparable Phoenix Wright or Danganronpa.
Now in 2019, Dry Drowning is another step forward for the genre. Remaining faithful to its roots by transitioning between scenes with the click of a mouse, you’ll be able to dive headfirst into a futuristic thriller with some unique twists of its own.
As Detective Mordred Foley, you have a bad reputation out on the streets due to a past case you worked. Police don’t like you, some can’t stand the sight of your face. But when some strange killings start taking place, inspired by Greek Mythology, it turns out Foley might know more than the average Private Eye.
Along with his talented assistant, Hera, Foley will visit all kinds of moody and atmospheric locations in order to uncover the truth, as he reluctantly revisits his past in order to help refocus for the future.
Set in Dystopian 2066, this is a politically charged adventure that pays homage to many of the great futuristic stories, like Blade Runner and Total Recall If the stunning art style doesn’t give that away, the story pays homage in respectful ways.
Unlike some media, though, this isn’t so blatant about its inspirations. And this is also a game with its own identity, carefully sculpting a world that feels fresh and different, all while telling a compelling, dynamic story that kept me glued to the screen.
Dry Drowning isn’t your traditional Visual Novel fare, mixing it up with a few different genres as well, throwing in some hidden object-esque scenes as well as multi-choice dialogue with an inventory and database.
What we have is something that feels like a classic adventure game. You solve puzzles using items from your inventory, while finding the killer by talking to suspects. But you’ll also be looking for clues by carefully studying the environment and sometimes even associating things from your past in order to progress with cases in the present.
Dry Drowning takes things further still by adding in a moral choice system that will be very familiar to those who like Life is Strange or Telltale adventures.
You’ll often be presented with an A or B choice and the story will progress dependent on the decision you’ve made. One example of that is, right at the beginning, you have to decide whether to promise your partner if you’ll work a case or not.
This builds into the game’s trust system, which affects the characters you meet and how they respond to you. And there’s apparently as many as 150 different story branches, with up to three endings. Yikes!
As you might expect, not all suspects are going to be particularly forthcoming with you and often Foley can tell when they’re lying because he can see their identity has been concealed by a creepy mask and the screen distorts. But the game leaves it up to you in terms of how you handle their involvement in the case.
We did notice some minor writing issues with one or two spelling mistakes as well as a couple of problems with spacing. There were also some minor transition problems where the screen didn’t immediately respond to a click or it didn’t provide all dialogue as it should.
On the whole though, Dry Drowning is in excellent shape and is going to take more than a few people by surprise when it releases next month. It’s a surprisingly immersive and intense experience that definitely leaves its mark on the player.
Expect a full overview of the game when it launches on PC next month, but so far, so fantastic. It’s certainly not a Cyberflunk.
Dry Drowning releases next month on PC and comes to Xbox One in 2020.
Preview code kindly provided by the PR Agency.