The Drowning Hands-On Preview

The Drowning, a unique free-to-play shooter we’ve had our eye on for a while, has just been released in New Zealand and Australia. We’re not sure when it will land in the U.S., but we took the game for a spin. Read on to find out what to expect when this post-apocalyptic game hits an App Store near you.

At the start of The Drowning, a hands-off introduction finds your character on a small motor boat. Something is clearly amiss, because you’re audibly freaking out and plowing through the water at a dangerously high speed. After a few near-misses with rocks and abandoned boats, two animated corpses pull themselves onto your vessel, and you crash on the shore.

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Thus begins the playable tutorial. You’re introduced to the rather unique controls that have you tap where you want to walk, swipe to look around, and tap with two fingers to shoot. When you shoot, your bullet is fired at the midpoint between where you fingers touch the screen. It works better than it might sound, but it’s not 100% reliable. You can also pistol whip nearby enemies by tapping on them, but the game would occasionally mis-read our taps as movement rather than pistol whips.

After killing a handful of enemies in the tutorial, you meet a woman named Charlotte, who introduces you to the other core concepts of the game. Once you’ve cleared an area, you can scavenge for items that you can use to craft and upgrade weapons. Our first scavenging session, which merely had us tap a “Scavenge” button several times, turned up some bolts, a spring, and a box of arrows. We turned these over to Charlotte to upgrade our Glock pistol.

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Charlotte then directs you to a nearby house, where you set up your home base. From here on out, you fall into the main action of the game, which consists of you of going on timed missions to kill as many enemies as you can. Every enemy you kill gives you points, and your points determine how many items you can scavenge when the mission is complete.

Our first few missions turned up a broken crossbow, a broken hunting rifle, and a number of odds and ends like metal files and sprockets. When you find a broken weapon, you can tap on it to see what parts you need to collect to repair it. Once it’s repaired, you can equip it and use it in missions.

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The missions are challenging and enjoyable, although we’re finding them fairly repetitive so far. We’ve only encountered a single enemy type, so we’re hoping more are introduced in later missions. As you progress, you unlock new areas for missions, which might help stave off the repetitive feeling.

The Drowning is a freemium game, so it offers plenty of ways to spend your way to better gear. The premium currency in the game is gold, which you can use to buy gas, flares, and “black.” Gas is used to go out on missions, flares can be turned in to collect more parts when scavenging, and “black” is used to upgrade your weapons.

Overall, we’re enjoying The Drowning quite a bit so far. Like The Walking Dead, it strikes that strangely alluring post-apocalyptic vibe. It also has awesome music that sounds like Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Trent Reznor got together for a jam session. But whether the developers offer enough mission variety to keep things interesting as you piece together weapons and items remains to be seen. We’ll have a full review of The Drowning once it’s released in the U.S. Until then, you can work on your weapon-building skills.