Drowned God makes not a whit of sense. I just thought I'd get all that out of the way right at the beginning. In fact, the story of Drowned God is so unbelievably convoluted that I half expect it was done on purpose by someone just to see if any game players were actually paying attention and would try to figure the thing out. Maybe it was a giant adventure gaming April Fool's joke.
The funny part of this, of course, is that it really makes no difference at all if you understand it in the least. Making no head or tails of the game's story in no way impacts a player's ability to enjoy it. And that's the greatest thing about this title, it's a puzzle game masquerading as a regular adventure game. Oh sure, voices heavy in ambiance intone great and immensely important things as the game progresses, but as this was playing along you could answer the phone, watch the TV, or yell at your kid to go see who's at the door, and it would not make any difference at all as to whether or not you'd be successfully solving the next puzzle.
But don't get me wrong. Drowned God is great to look at - it's right there at the top of the list as far as really well-designed (and well-organized, too) first-person adventure games go. The puzzles are fun and constructed well. There's really nothing that the fact of the story's being convoluted ruins as far as gameplay is concerned.
The music is well-written and as atmospheric and ethereal as one would expect for the subject matter. The music does loop and, although entertaining, gets old fast. There were appropriate ambient sounds, and these definitely added to the overall atmosphere.
Gameplay is straightforward. The player peruses an area and finds a path or a door, and through exploration finds herself at a puzzle to solve. The puzzles are all self-contained, which is to say noninventory. I thought the design of the puzzles in this game was very unique and clever, and they were some of the most unusual ones I'd seen. The people designing these actually thought up some original puzzles to solve, instead of using the same tired old litany of things like sliders and such. Several of the puzzles made use of an AI element built into the game. One of them, a Nine Men's Morris game, seemed particularly devilish until it became apparent that the AI reduced the difficulty of the game each third try as the player progresses until the player is pretty much given the game. Considering the initial difficulty of the game, this was a stroke of genius by the designers, as this would keep someone from becoming otherwise bogged down.
The game is played in first-person, and despite this it is not a solitary game - there are quite a few characters met throughout gameplay. Players that love solitary exploration will still find plenty of it here, so both those who like to wander alone and those who need a little conversation to keep a game rolling will find something enjoyable about Drowned God.
The story (you didn't think I was going to bother with this, did you?) concerns how aliens have been secretly involving themselves with the history of earth down through the ages, in order to control and manipulate how the human race perceives itself. Basically, it's the theory of an alternative Genesis. Throughout the game, the story unfolds, and it manages to include probably all of the best and brightest of urban legend conspiracy theories that have been bought by the best-intentioned people over the course of the last several decades. It's the writer's ability to include so many of these in one story that gets the head spinning, really.
The graphics are really well-drawn and well-designed, and those of you that like playing games to see great environments and to walk around in them looking at stuff (yours truly included), this game will be right up your alley. It has a tremendous number of pretty prerendered pictures to check out - lots of stuff to make desktop pictures and the like out of.
The game docs thoughtfully include definitions for some terms the creators (of the game, I mean) thought the budding conspiracy theorist might need to fully understand, and these are certainly an amusement all unto themselves. They include Aleister Crowley, Men in Black, Einstein, Morgan Le Fay, Tesla, Philadelphia, Highway 666, Ark of the Covenant, Victor Hugo, and Arcadia. Go figure. The docs also include the contact information for ten real-life UFO groups, in case the convoluted story and mishmash of conspiracy theories has pulled some chain loose in your brain and you feel compelled to talk to some live people about what they think about aliens coming to get them/us.
Unfortunately, the sequel to Drowned God, Cult, failed to materialize. The creator and writer of Drowned God, Harry Horse, at one time promised that the followup game would wrap up loose ends of the story (as if we'd be able to tell). Now, of course, would be my opportunity to do some sort of "The Truth Is out There" joke, but I'm gonna skip it - the pickin's are too easy.
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