Drowned God Review
The net effect is that the story - which made this game so intriguing in the first place - is almost totally lost, and that is a shame.
Although it touches upon literally dozens of conspiracy theories, Drowned God only provides strong evidence for one: that someone, somewhere is working behind the scenes to sabotage all good ideas for computer games, turning them one by one into Myst-like point and click adventures.
This is not to say that being a Myst clone is necessarily a bad thing; there are plenty of mildly entertaining games based on the tried-and-true formula (3-D rendered scenes/occasional puzzle sequence + ambient sound - meaningful inventory = surrealistic adventure). It's just that we expected so much more. To have heard him speak, which we did, one would think Drowned God creator Harry Horse was on to something bigger than this - something that not only would make for an incredible game, but that would also raise awareness of the thread of deception that runs throughout recorded history. Instead, we got an above average but pedantic adventure that ultimately disappoints - not because of what it is, but because of what it is not.
At least they got the graphics right. Drowned God is loaded with freaky animations and unexpected visual twists - the inner workings of a time travel machine, the twisted visage of Morgan Le Fay, the murky ruins of Atlantis - all imaginary things made disturbingly real. The soundtrack is less impressive, primarily because of overuse: The background effects drone on mercilessly, and many of the game's narratives (which are universally well-written and finely acted) must be listened to over and over again.
Yet the real story is Horse's tale of conspiracy, or what's left of it after the layers of navigation and prosaic (and in some cases, hopelessly difficult) puzzles are piled on. Horse seems to have a lot to say, but it's hard to listen, thanks largely to the indecipherable path players must follow through the game. This is navigation at its worst: there are too many areas where the player's "correct" move is wholly counter-intuitive; too many gratuitous clicks between locations; and too many times when the player must revisit areas which he has struggled hard to forget.
To its credit, Drowned God does have a few very original puzzles - the Newton/Einstein dialogue puzzle in particular is a brilliant idea - but many more are straight out Adventure Design 101. Mazes? Connect the dots? Concentration? Ideas as original as Horse's call for puzzles to match, not rehashes of things we've seen far too many times already.
The net effect is that the story - which made this game so intriguing in the first place - is almost totally lost, and that is a shame. One can only wonder what might have been if Drowned God had been done in the style of The Residents' Freak Show. That disc told a series of disparate but somehow unified tales, imparting to the user a chilling sense of dread and unease - and it did so with only minimal navigation and no gameplay at all. Had Drowned God been done in like fashion, gamers would have been spared a mediocre adventure, conspiracy theorists would have gotten their fix, and Horse would have had his moment of triumph. Instead, we're just left with a strange gurgling sound - but it's not that of a drowning god. It's just another good idea going under for the last time.
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