written by Bradley Stevens
While most survival horror interactive experiences seem to be looking for unique ways of offering their own take on the genre, developer Honor Code has decided on placing players at the bottom of the sea for their latest psychological journey.
Narcosis is a welcome entry into the survival theme of games, with just enough fear and anxiety on the surface of this deep water adventure to keep players on their toes. While experienced survival horror players might find Narcosis to be more exploration and story driven, atop its less chilling elements of design, Narcosis concludes as a well-paced experience, which will often raise your senses.
Narcosis tasks players as an underwater engineer, with a team of other engineers and scientists in an effort to gain a better understanding of Earth’s less human inhabited terrain and environments. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned rather quickly, and players find themselves alone and stranded at the sea floor.
Played from a first-person perspective, players are confined to their restrictive deep-sea diving suit, which as the narrative evolves can feel like a prison, leaving you limited to how you must traverse the dangers of the deep. Whether trying to look straight down, to your left or right, your new found reality of mobility or lack thereof leaves players in a rather rigid state, forcing you to take in all the foreboding and disturbing sights and sounds head on.
Due to its methodical and rather snail pace of traversal, Narcosis keeps the player guessing as it becomes apparent early on that looking through every nook and cranny for those trusty oxygen (o2) canisters and flairs, make up the difference between life and death. While looking for answers to somehow escape this grave of the sea, our protagonist will sometimes undergo flashbacks and or abstract dreams which can randomly leave players running endlessly through fields of flowers or in dreadful corridors among alarming figures which previously were not there, just a second ago.
While looking for answers players will come across the other members of this ambitious underwater research excursion, many of which are found in unsavory conditions. Upon these encounters the lead character will be forced to fight his fear of death by controlling his heightened breathing, which causing your o2 canisters to deplete your oxygen at a faster clip. Ultimately, players are forced to take hold of the dead members ID badges and other items which move the narrative forward.
Impressively, Narcosis is founded on a compelling story that kept me coming back to unearth its charming new encounters. The game has a smart way of making you want to know what is just around the corner or what is just beyond the players reach, which I applaud. Adding to this appeal, the story also balances a therapeutic narration as you go about your discoveries. Is this person who is speaking actually me, or will I somehow meet up with this person at some point, were the questions I asked myself.
Constantly moving right along at the games lethargic pace, players will get used to this as the underwater simulation approach is accompanied with some cool thrusters. Though limited in how they quickly move the player along, it is a welcome additive.
Throughout the journey players will be confronted by some aggressive sea life which will attack on sight. Often squids, smaller octopus and prehistoric looking fish will attack your helmet. Players are only equipped with what can described as a sea knife as a means to fend off attackers. However, your knife is of no benefit when encountering those giant spiders who quickly puncture your suit leading to a fast death. So, when you see these guys its best to move around them and avoid them at all cost.
By no means is Narcosis a game centered around any form of complex combat, for the most part the strengths on display here are founded on the games exploration of new found revelations.
Complimenting the affair Narcosis also maintains a decent soundtrack which can often sell the scare element quite well. However, visually don’t expect too much to jump at you unexpectedly. Graphically, Narcosis is decent on the eyes, with enough tight texturing and level designs to keep your attention for the entirety of the experience.
While Narcosis can leave the player with much to be desired from the games overall production appeal, what is on showcase here is a satisfying ride. It must also be understood that this playthrough review was not played in VR, as the game certainly begs to be played in this fashion. Again, outside of VR Narcosis was a good time, yet I would hope developer Honor Code is able to bring the game over to the PlayStation VR headset, where I would be surely taking the game for another spin.