Narcosis Review: Drowning in Fear

May 13th, 2017 -

Before I start this review, I would like to bring to your attention the terrifying true story of the Spidercrab; God or evolution’s idea of a sick joke. I currently imagine Darwin and God smoking a fatty, joking about giving a spider thick armor and letting it grow as big as Prius. If someone figures out how to train these monstrosities and forms an army of them, we are done. Just nuke the world. I had no idea these things existed until this game educated me on them. I personally will be starting a petition on change.org to have these assholes wiped from the Earth.

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Narcosis, which is the freshman effort of Human Code, is a psychological horror/walking simulator that is a sign of great things to come. While not perfect, it’s an impressive first outing from this developer. The journey begins in a training pool which allows you to get used to the bulky underwater gear you will be wearing for the duration of your time with this game. The controls are a little clunky, which I feel was intentional to give you a true sense of self while in said titanium suit.

Without much introduction, you are placed outside of the Oceanova underwater installation on a normal patrol, and you are tasked with surviving after a sudden disaster that floods the base and kills most of your colleagues. While needing to constantly monitor your oxygen, you press forward to seek shelter. At times, this limits your ability to explore the setting as much as it deserves. While the oxygen mechanic does not result in many cheap deaths, it does add a palpable sense of urgency to everything you do.

Additional factors will cause your oxygen supply to be spent quicker, such as running into the hostile sea creatures that have taken over the installation, running across the corpses of your former friends and co-workers, or the occasional bouts with your own mental health. This all works in a complete package that really leaves the player feeling hopeless and that everything is trying to kill them. Which to be fair, pretty much everything you encounter in the game will try and likely succeed at killing you, specifically the spidercrabs, as well as a few other variations of sea life.

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You do have a knife to defend yourself; however, it requires pinpoint timing to avoid having your fragile glass mask crack. Additionally, you do have the ability to throw flares which will distract or discourage most of the hostile wildlife from attacking you. The only additional ability offered is the boost ability, which functions as a dodge and a means to jump or climb. This is a limited ability with a fairly quick recharge and will be required to traverse a number of platforming areas.

I tip my hat to the developers for bringing us a new underwater setting that feels so full of life and detailed in the vein of Rapture. Every interior space feels as if someone was just there, sipping on a cup of coffee or going about their daily routine. The world is filled with small details that give a crazy sense of immersion, which I can only imagine will be better on the VR platforms. The only visual area that needed some additional polish was some of the more dangerous forms of sea creatures. While most of the smaller fish look great as they rush past you, the larger ones appear to have been pulled from another game entirely; even more so when they are not moving.

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Regularly, you will receive flashes of other survivors in their deep sea exploration suits who will come and go as they please. While mainly serving as jump scares, they are effective in conveying the idea that your character is losing it. Narcosis is a true to life medical condition, where the afflicted suffer from mental issues from being at open sea for an extended period of time. You never truly know if what you are seeing is really there or just all in your head. This is not limited to the jump scares, as the environment will change on the fly, similar to the recent Layers of Fear. With the exception of a few chapters towards the middle of the game, they are frequent enough where they never become too predictable and escalate in a believable way the more severely damaged your mental state becomes over the 3 to 4 hour journey into madness.

The story is well written and has just enough mystery to keep you engaged throughout your time on Oceanova, which is primarily told after the fact in the form of a narrator. Occasionally you will come across collectibles that will provide more backstory on the former inhabitants of the installation. These don’t seemingly add to the story or game in any way, but do give you a reason to go back and explore, and may surprise you. I feel the ending was a little predictable, but did the story justice.

My only real complaint is a pacing issue near the middle of the game. During the portions of the game where you are exploring the open sea outside of the Oceanova, it feels rather empty, confusing, and unneeded. Adding to the emptiness, there is a strange lack of any psychological horror elements that shine throughout the rest of the game.

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While not as terrifying as other recent horror offerings, there is a solid feeling of dread throughout the game. I do use the term loosely, as this is primarily a walking simulator with horror themes. There are no real puzzles or objectives outside of going from point A to point B, and occasionally collecting a keycard or interacting with a console. Narcosis is more of something to experience than play. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, I would recommend buying this title immediately.

 BUY

Pros

  • Topographical Horror
  • Detailed Underwater World
  • Spider Crabs

Cons

  • Spider Crabs
  • Pacing Issues

Narcosis was developed and published by Honor Code, Inc. The game launched on PC March 28th, 2017 and X1 on May 9th, 2017 for $19.99. The game was provided to us for review on X1. If you’d like to see more of Narcosis, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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