Nothing worth fighting for
News about The Drowning surfaced quite a while ago, with shiny videos demonstrating its rather unique controls against a popular backdrop: rural U.S. territory, infested by zombie-like creatures. Finally seeing the game emerge brings some joy, as the graphics and atmosphere suggest great potential. The disappointment, however, kicks in as soon as the in-game menus pop up: this is a freemium title optimized to rake in money, any way possible.
It’s that time of year again: an experiment gone awry,
humans turning into zombies and you having to set things straight. The Drowning opens with a boat dropping us off in the middle of this fine mess, with nothing but one tiny gun to survive. During a short tutorial you learn to shoot by placing two fingers on the screen, with the space in between being the point of impact. Movement resembles that of tech demo Epic Citadel or action-adventure Horn, where you press a location on the screen to move towards it. The controls are serviceable and immerse the player in a shooting range kind of experience, yet unfortunately reduce The Drowning to just that.
The gameplay is about as simple as it gets: shoot the
baddies, stay alive, collect the loot (a randomized set of parts depending on the amount of kills). Levels are usually divided into attack and defend scenarios, with new gun or vehicle parts and gas or oil as rewards. In order to advance to new areas, you need to craft vehicles and better weapons as certain foes can only be killed with a specific kind of weapon. Besides the right ingredients, crafting takes time, although you can skip the waiting, Smurfs’ Village-style. Pay up and the waiting is gone: an unwelcome and unnecessary time-management trade for this kind of game. After all, we are not playing Farmville here.
There’s a reasonable amount of content in the game,
with plenty of islands to travel to and picturesque redneck-themed locations to scavenge. Unfortunately, it’s the same errand run every time around. You enter an area, shoot the creatures and hope for the randomizer to grant a few rare spare parts for your weapons or vehicles. This gets old faster than you can think “what a nice pond over yonder”, lowering expectations for memorable moments every round played.
In a decimated world, it’s vital to have something or someone worth fighting for. Even a zombie game needs a beating heart or original approach and The Drowning offers neither. The hand-drawn cutscenes and charming graphics could have been put to good use, if only the developers would have copied more elements from their main source of inspiration: Contract Killer Zombies. While that game adds personality by using supporting characters (e.g. Evelyn) The Drowning remains a shallow tapping bonanza.
The Drowning is free to play but riddled with in-app purchases. These come in the form of gold, gas, black (oil-ish material) and flares. Gold can be used to purchase other in-game currencies and can in turn be bought with real cash. The game can be played for free, with a moderate amount of grinding. Although The Drowning offers asynchronous match-making as a social gaming experience, we tested the game purely on its core campaign.
The Drowning is available now as universal download for free (iPhone 3GS and up)