The same company that brought you The Dark Eye and Bad Day on the Midway now brings you Drowned God. Stylistically, this game is one of the best
to come along recently. The opening movie alone made my day. Like most products which are only good as the craftsmen who make them, Inscape hired some quality artists to create Drowned God, among them Greg Bolton whose previous credits include work on Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer video.
Fans of conspiracy theories and the X-Files will find themselves on familiar ground with this game. It starts with the premise that everything you’ve ever heard is true. Every crackpot conspiracy theory or report of UFOs is based on fact. If you’ve read Robert Anton Wilson’s Chronicles of the Historical Illuminatus or Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum (which should be cited as sources for the game), you’ll find everything that’s in them also in this game. Whether it be the Knights Templar, the Count St. Germain, alien abductions or government cover-ups, odds are you’ll run across it at some point.
Beginning in a place referred to as the Bequest Globe, you begin your journey by entering your name into a computer and receiving numerological information about your name and its correspondence. From there, you’ll talk to Kefer and Malkut, entities that appear to be computer constructs of some sort, who send you on your first mission to Binah, realm of a time past.
You visit four realms: Binah, Chesed, Din, and Chokmah. In each of these, you must solve certain puzzles and collect certain clues you need to figure out the reasons behind your quest and the ultimate goals of these travels. In each dimension, you find one of four missing artifacts, these being: The Grail of Joseph of Arimathea, Solomon’s Rod, The Philosopher’s Stone and the Firebird.
There’s so much information to discover including real documents and transcripts including a remnant of the missing Flight 19 that allegedly disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle. It’s rather creepy to hear something like, "We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean."
Impressive visuals and sound by an outfit called Miasma complete the experience. If you’ve seen other games from Inscape, there aren’t a great many surprises here. Everything’s up to their usual standards with beautifully rendered scenery merged with animation reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s work.
If you’ve played Myst or Gadget, you’ll find Drowned God easy to explore and understand. The interface is point-and-click and you can spend a great deal of time just looking at the scenery. The rest of your time you’ll spend solving puzzles that are occasionally unusually difficult and more or less well-integrated into the storyline.
One of my frustrations with the game was the lack of context for some of the puzzles. When I got stumped, I was well and truly stymied. The game offers no hints and, for some of the puzzles, not even the suggestion of what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Some of the puzzles, while cryptic, can be solved using outside resources, as was the case with the game of Nine-Men’s Morris, rules for which can be found in any Hoyle’s guide or on the World Wide Web. One of the biggest puzzlers occurs early, in the realm of Binah, with the game you play against the Knight Templar. Fortunately, the clues you need to solve that one are given in the booklet that comes with the game. I would have preferred the Knight’s taunts to have given me some idea what I was trying to accomplish, but no such luck. There is such a thing as being too cryptic.
I’d recommend consulting a walk-through at a couple of other points unless you’re particularly good at solving puzzles involving topology. There’s several of these kinds of puzzles, all of them different and very tough.
There’s a couple of other minor things that register as complaints, including the soundtrack sometimes being too intrusive and ruining the mood rather than building on it, but that’s trivial compared to the overall experience of this game.
The game’s ending left me wanting more of the same, despite my initial hesitations. It’s hard to see how a game could work in so many conspiracy theories and maintain a sense of mystery and adventure. By beginning with the assertion that it’s all real, the way is paved for even more outrageous assertions that take you beyond the mundane world to the edge of imagination. If you couldn’t get enough of this game, be looking for the sequel CULT to be coming out in the (hopefully) not too distant future.