Cyberpunk worlds are often grisly, grim, and gruesome. They offer dark, often pessimistic visions of our future, of a society ruled by tech and controlled by fear. Studio V's Dry Drowning, a visual novel set in such a future, is no different. Social and political unrest is aplenty, and the inevitable monolithic corporations loom over every aspect of daily life.
The year is 2066. Nova Polemos, an independent nation-state in northern Europe, is a cyberpunk world in social and political turmoil. The Black Hands - a far-right extremist party targetting the country's immigrants and unemployed - are the dominating party. They offer people security in exchange for their individual freedom. It goes without saying that Studio V’s grim vision of the future contains more than a few uneasy nods to 20th-century fascism.
As archetypical chain-smoking detective Mordred Foley, the shady world of grizzly murders and political intrigue invites you into its gritty underbelly when an old case rears its ugly head. A series of serial killings inspired by Greek mythology begins to plague Nova Polemos. Naturally, it's up to Foley - who sees distorted animal masks whenever someone lies to him - and his trusty companion Hera to put a stop to the carnage and redeem their grim world.
Foley and Hera’s reputation is in tatters following a scandalous instance of alleged evidence planted during a crucial case. As is common in noir fiction, the citizens of Nova Polemos mistrust and malign the duo. The nation’s population is a weary and paranoid bunch, happy to overlook their society’s questionable ethics in exchange for security, and they don't take kindly to detectives trying to land them in hot water.
Dry Drowning's Abundant Style
Dry Drowning is a game brimming with style. The vibrant watercolor art lends an air of murky uncertainty to the world. There’s some slick tech that sci-fi aficionados are sure to appreciate. Meanwhile, the audio design is superb. Although there’s no voice-acting in this blending of visual novel and adventure game, there’s an excellent array of eclectic music scoring the whole affair. Ranging from the eternally moody to the manic and thrilling, this soundtrack is certainly worth coming back to.
Unfortunately, Dry Drowning’s abundance of style can’t make up for its clumsy English localization. The writing is compelling and emotive, but frequent instances of sloppy grammar and poor sentence structure leave the whole thing feeling rushed. There are also numerous typos and autocorrected mistakes throughout. It’s a shame, really, because the grit and grime of this attractive world deserve a clearer translation.
Nonetheless, despite a somewhat awkward approach, the world of Dry Drowning is one worth getting lost in. It’s a brutal and murky cyberpunk world that feels dark and believable, loaded with political overtones that feel eerily relevant and unsettlingly plausible. It's easy to wrap yourself up in the concept of Nova Polemos as a secluded, North Korea-esque nation in isolation from the outside world. There’s also a nice variety of fleshed-out and compelling characters.
Solving Puzzles and Murder in Dry Drowning
Gameplay-wise, Dry Drowning is a visual novel. There are elements of traditional point-and-click adventure interaction, including examining environments and objects. Occasionally, you’ll have to solve some puzzles and piece things together, but it’s fairly straightforward. You’ll spend most of your time talking to people, investigating the murders and uncovering undesirable truths about this Orwellian future.
Dry Drowning's various puzzles and brain teasers are generally solid. However, there’s an overreliance on trial-and-error. Whenever you know someone’s lying, a minigame occurs. You have three chances to correctly contradict their statements. Doing so requires you to pick the correct object or statement. However, it can sometimes be unclear exactly what the game is looking for - mostly a result of the iffy localization. There are a number of such instances, where you’ve nothing to do but frustratingly bang your head against a problem with an uncertain solution.
Thankfully, the journey is well worth experiencing. There are plenty of engaging dramatic twists and turns and impactful choices to make along the way. Dry Drowning does a good job of making its world and events feel weighty and important, and you’ll often feel as though you’re on the cusp of something much greater than yourself. If lore and worldbuilding is something you like to dig into, there’s plenty to find here.
Dry Drowning Review | Final Thoughts
Ultimately, Dry Drowning is a compelling slice of detective fiction wrapped in a slick cyberpunk setting. The central mystery is intriguing, the writing is engaging (despite a rough localization), and the presentation is top-notch. Although it can sometimes rely on trial-and-error gameplay a bit too often, the blend of visual novel and adventure game is generally a successful one. If solving grisly murders in a politically charged cyberpunk world sounds like an exciting premise, Dry Drowning provides an exciting journey for those looking to get lost.
TechRaptor reviewed Dry Drowning on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Stylish Presentation
- Compelling Cyberpunk World
- Engaging Central Mystery
- Rough Localization
- Too Much Trial-and-Error