Dry Drowning is a cyberpunk visual novel that follows a series of gruesome murders. Players take on the role of Mordred Foley as his past mistakes come to a head in the present. A murderer obsessed with Greek mythology stages crime scenes that leave players racing to find a connection. Throughout the game there are a few major choices that determine the ending. Despite Mordred’s intentions, someone dies either way. Players must weigh the decision against their own interests. In the end, they’ll decide if Mordred repeats his past mistakes for a false redemption. Or potentially dooms himself.
There are plenty of puzzles that make the detective gameplay feel immersive. It also breaks up the heavy amounts of dialogue. Some of the instructions can feel vague, but most of the puzzles are obvious once the first piece clicks into place. This changes slightly when the dialogue puzzles appear in later chapters. Players can ask for clarification or call out an inconsistency, but certain phrases must be clicked to progress. Otherwise the game will go through the entire conversation again.
Nearly every character, besides Freya, will hate and lie to Mordred. If they don’t lie they’re still antagonistic whether or not players are completely honest. It makes it hard to care about their fates or hinder your own gameplay to save them. It comes down to how dedicated players are to changing someone who has rightly earned such hatred. This feels like even more of a useless battle once players realize an early choice locked in Mordred’s ending. Dry Drowning does offer a New Game Plus+ that lets you select your choices and start at the end of chapter one. So if players aren’t satisfied, or just want to see if there is a super secret ending, starting over is easy. There isn’t a skip to choices option after seeing text once. Dialogue choices that progress the storyline are underlined in red though.
With the ending being set so early in the game, there may not be an incentive to replay such a text heavy game. There are a lot of typos. The main antagonist isn’t a surprise at all. Help him or give up fame, it may not change Mordred’s fate. And there’s two catastrophes awaiting the city regardless of how good players try to be. Doing the right thing works against players as often as it doesn’t. While that helps nail the atmosphere of a dreary, corrupted city it might leave a player with mixed feelings.
Fans of bittersweet, or outright grim, endings will be right at home. Dry Drowning is a game that doesn’t make players feel great about their decisions. The tension is ever present. Neither Mordred or Freya feel protected by plot armor. No matter which ending someone gets, it requires some give and take.