The Drowning is an extremely high profile and promising iOS game that has been a long time in development, but was finally released this month. We previewed the game way back in February, and then it was set in an extended soft launch period in New Zealand/Australia. It’s finally available worldwide, and is launching with plenty of hype, which also leads to high expectations. The Drowning is a horror based first person shooter, and the main highlight is a brand new touch based control scheme which is billed as the wave of the future.
The game is set-up like quite a few other shooters as waves of creepy looking entities come right at you, and you need to blast them away before they get to you. To control the action, you tap where you want to move, swipe anywhere to change perspective, and tap with two fingers to shoot with the bullet focused at the center point between your fingers. The control scheme works as advertised, and it becomes second nature to control a first person shooter on a touch screen device. It’s such a smooth and natural experience to control the action with direct touch manipulation as compared to joysticks and action buttons, which are included as an option. A recent update also incorporated a single button to turn 180 degrees to greatly improve the handling of the swarming enemies.
The controls definitely stand out, but it’s the gameplay that comes up severely lacking. We were expecting a deluxe first person shooter with an adventure storyline to essentially compare to the likes of Modern Combat, N.O.V.A., and similar mobile first person shooters. Instead, The Drowning delivers nothing more than a simple arcade game which is essentially target practice. There is a storyline related to how an oil spill created these mutated people that are now trying to drag every remaining survivor into the oil to drown with them. It seems like a pointless inclusion when you’re simply just shooting enemies in an arena set-up. There are 15 different environments to unlock, but each one delivers just an attack or defend mode. Both modes deliver a two minute high score shooting fest, and that’s it.
It’s surprisingly simplistic as you simply just keep shooting enemies for two minute bursts. The attack mode provides waves of three or four enemies at a time, while the defend mode provides three entry points to defend against one or two enemies at a time. There is virtually no variation as you go, and the only real difference is the visual design in a new environment. There is a deluxe 3D graphics engine to deliver all of this repetition, but the visuals are irrelevant when you have uninteresting gameplay. You keep expecting more, but it never comes, and the set-up couldn’t be more disappointing. There’s virtually no engagement or incentive to keep wading through the monotony, and it’s sad that the new control scheme is applied in such a simplistic game.
The game feels more like a tech demo than anything else, and there are also numerous in-app purchases for good measure. Completing each two minute round earns you various parts to scavenge together to create new weapons. You can use parts or gold to unlock more powerful weapons, and that gold costs real money. Some of the parts are used for various modes of transportation to unlock new environments to progress the story, but you’re essentially just unlocking new rounds of two minute target practice. There’s also a gas meter, with each play using one gas, and you can deplete that to require a timer or money to keep playing.
The Drowning (Free, Universal) is a well designed tech demo that delivers extremely basic gameplay that isn’t worth sinking your time into.