A new game from a brand-new publisher, pushing new boundaries with an old genre, and finding home on an especially well established platform: It’s no exaggeration to say it’s a genuine honour for us here at Studio V – the aforementioned fresh-faced publisher in your midst – to present our latest project on the pages of Xbox Wire. For all fans of narrative focused thrillers, say hello to Dry Drowning.
Taking place in the fictional north European city of Nova Polemos, we like to describe Dry Drowning as a ‘psychological investigative visual novel’ set in 2066. By following the story of Mordred Foley – an unscrupulous private detective haunted by his dark past – you will be immersed in a series of macabre serial killings inspired by ancient Greek myths.
Alongside companion Hera Kairis, it’ll be your task to unearth the truth in a hostile world seemingly out to set you back at every turn. The only tools in your arsenal are Foley’s knack for piecing together clues and slicing through people’s lies, with Dry Drowning drawing riddles aplenty and minigames laced with mystery into view along the way. It all plays out in what’s an intentionally dark and dystopian view of the near future, with play layered throughout with a dynamic soundtrack featuring more than 50 tracks and an admittedly peculiar and (in our view) awesome art style.
A story well told
This is no run-of-the-mill adventure, however. With Dry Drowning we have set out with the express aim of rejuvenating the visual novel genre, telling an extremely compelling and mature story filled with heavy moral choices and more than 150 story branches and three distinctly different endings. In short, we want this to be a game shaped by you, the player.
Tracking down the assassin brings with it some rather personal challenges for Foley, whose sense of morality is tested over and over again. It’s a setup we think will force you, the player, to consider some rather tricky questions of your own: Could you use your friends as bait to catch the crazed killer, for example? Or would you tamper with a crime scene in order to suit your investigation and ensure justice prevails, or leave things as they are and risk the culprit never being caught?
The choices don’t stop there, however. In the opening hours of the game, Dry Drowning hands you the opportunity to take down an entire corrupt political class, naturally having a massive impact on the world around you in play. Doing so means losing some characters right from the get go, while others may never turn up further down the line. Indeed, this decision fundamentally alters entire chapters. It can even make solving the case can be easier or harder, all depending on some specific actions.
Art, music and inspiration
As part of this drive to place the story front and centre in Dry Drowning, we also decided to mix Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future with the kind of atmosphere more akin to thriller movies and TV series, such as Se7en and True Detective. Games have naturally been an inspiration as well, with narrative-led titles like L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain serving as obvious ports of call, as well as games that employ a system of branching paths dependent on the choices made by you, like Life Is Strange or Telltale’s enviable line-up.
It’s a combination of influences that, along with the game’s artwork, soundtrack and gameplay, creates an oppressive setting for a society not so different from the one we’re living in right now. Just as in real life, racism, sexism, immigration, and political extremism all have a role to play in the world of Dry Drowning. In order to survive in this climate and, of course, solve the case, you’ll have to gather clues and find more about the characters that are involved. Some of them may lie, and you’ll know precisely who they are thanks to the game’s ‘Living Nightmare’ system.
For some mysterious reason (later revealed to you in play), Foley is able to tell if someone is lying to him by simply looking at their face. A mask will entirely shroud their features when the lie is told. Presenting clues, however, will rip that shroud from their face, though making mistakes may lead you to a premature end…
It’s this intense and almost infinite sense of edginess that helps ensure each and every chapter, each and every moment of Dry Drowning leaves you both uneasy and eager in equal measure. That’s all we can reveal right now but, rest assured, we can’t wait to show you more. Get ready to dive into the darkness of Dry Drowning on Xbox in 2020.