What Lies Beneath?
Fear can play a monumental force in survival as it creeps around every corner waiting for the unsuspecting. In Narcosis, players will find themselves lost in the depths of the ocean in hopes of reaching the surface as they slowly push themselves past the dark pressures of the insurmountable odds of survival.
While many horror games rely on dreadful abominations and classic jump-scares to keep the player on edge, Narcosis uses the gritty psychology of dealing the with ever-closing feeling of death when plunged deep onto the ocean floor. Taking on the role of a member of an oceanic drilling team, the game starts players off with a short, casual tutorial on how the simple controls operate. Soon after, you’re immediately thrust into a cataclysmic shockwave some 50 miles out, in turn wreaking havoc on your small drilling team, and the base of which you called home.
A Man And His Diving Suit
The slow, weighted pace of the incredibly heavy dive suit allows Narcosis to tell a story with the surrounding atmosphere that creeps on the player throughout the moderately short experience. Players will use the environment around them to navigate through the darkness, refilling oxygen tanks to stay alive along the way and shooting off flares to light the path ahead. There are many dangers that lurk at the bottom of the sea, luckily you have your small, rangeless pocket knife to keep you safe. Well, sort of.
While you won’t be entering blistering gunfights or dealing with any massive boss battles, Narcosis does throw a few combat instances your way. The darkness of the ocean can be a confusing place to traverse, and around any given piece of coral may wait a creature seeing you as a threat in their territory. While most situations can be taken care of with a few jabs from your trusty blade, there are also a couple of instant death scenarios that will keep players on their toes.
The seemingly frail spidercrabs may come off as harmless at first, but they can easily be your diver’s worst nightmare.
With a razor-sharp claws, these scattering creatures can plunge right through your dive suit instantly ending your endeavor to reaching the surface. Dark pits leading to who knows how far down can cause a great leap in pressure, cutting short the survival adventure. The slow-moving dive suit can be a godsend when dealing with hazards such as these by providing the player with enough time to think about the path you choose, but also comes with a modest propulsion booster to help thrust yourself into hard-to-reach areas. However, one must also pay close attention to their onboard oxygen levels to stay alive.
Escaping The Pressures of Fear
Your oxygen level will continuously decrease as you spend time deep beneath the surface. And as your heart rate increases when coming into contact with deadly dangers it may begin to lower much more quickly. The game does a great job of having extra oxygen canisters and refill stations sporadically placed throughout the game, never once having the levels dip much further below 50 percent. Though, in intense moments of an angry cephalopod wrapping around your face mask or spraying a blinding cloud of ink, the O2 levels will begin to sink faster.
Narcosis acts as a survival horror game but strategically throws a few trivial puzzles into the mix, as well. Most puzzles use the environment as their solutions, never once forcing the problems into the story. From powering up back-up generators to finding hidden pass code numbers blended into the environment itself, the game does an excellent job of hinting at the player on where to go next. And while the mostly linear game may seem a bit daunting at first with the dark and eerie atmosphere, subtle gameplay elements like the start-up of narrative dialogue conversation or vibrantly lit underwater flora helps ensure the player is headed in the right direction.
Throughout the deep-sea adventure players will discover an underwater labyrinth spanning from the destroyed drilling base to the deepest and darkest regions of the sea. With a dose of psychological phenomenons to signify our protagonist is constantly fading from the grips of reality, there’s a satisfying helping of horror and anticipation with every heavy step taken. Your anxious diver will also periodically stumble across a morbidly deceased member of the drilling team, usually caught in an unpleasant state right before they met their untimely end. Along with the discovery unlocks a data entry with a short bio of what kind of person this team member was.
Narcosis provides a fear that many of us can relate to by placing our character in the unknown depths of the ocean floor. With constant moments of desperation and borderline panic attacks, dropping oxygen levels keep the experience very real and thrilling. The game never seems to throw challenges and puzzles that are overwhelmingly difficult at the player, keeping a strong focus on the story and atmosphere.
If looking for a relatively short, but thoroughly engaging experience, Narcosis creates a memorable adventure in a game with simple controls and basic structures while simultaneously throwing in a meaningful amount of surprises. The story begins as about as slow as walking pace of the dive suit, but eventually brings the player in for a satisfying conclusion, never once feeling like it was dragging. For a psychologically inducing thriller with an absorbing atmosphere and trite puzzle solving, Honor Code delivers with their latest compelling survival adventure, Narcosis.
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