Narcosis review - fight for survival with the ocean, fear and your own labyrinth

Author: Jakub Mirowski
Date: 2017-03-28 12:00:00
The review was based on the PC version. Also applies to PS4, XONE versions

The light in water bodies rarely reaches more than 200 meters. Below this level, the nightmare begins: squid that can attack an unlucky diver, and fish that would scare a xenomorph with its appearance. Diving even further, we enter unknown territory: humanity has only explored a few percent of the world's oceans. These are good reasons to be scared to death at the thought of exploring any body of water larger than the surrounding pool alone. Meanwhile, Narcosis tells us to go down to a depth of more than 3 kilometers, hide in a coverall affectionately called "walking coffin" and undertake a desperate fight for survival . The developers didn't even have to try - this horror was writing itself.

The debut project Honor Code puts us in the role of a deep sea diver who, after a catastrophic earthquake, has to find a way to get to the surface. This simple assumption works much better in practice than another story about greedy corporations or secret research facilities on the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately, the developers themselves probably did not have that much faith in their vision: they apparently decided that the depths themselves are not scary enough and decided to spice it up with a solid dose of cliché visions to present the hero's struggle with his broken psyche. The choice did not pay off, because the scenes in which the protagonist's mind serves us strange delights have a much weaker effect than wandering alone in search of another oxygen bottle.

Despite the fact that scarecrows do not always work, it must be admitted that Narcosis grabs the player by the throat from the very beginning and does not let go even in moments when we are not threatened . This independent horror movie isn't particularly terrible: its power lies elsewhere. Traveling the ocean floor in the company of aggressive catfish or deadly Pacific crabs, and in addition in a suit that effectively limits visibility and makes every movement sluggish, is simply extremely uncomfortable. This is by far the strongest point of this game, although it could have been made even better - the struggle for survival would have become more exciting if the creators had not decided to place oxygen cylinders at almost every step.

Overall, however, the creators managed to fulfill their promises: without paranormal threads, sinister experiments or gargantuan monsters, they created survival, which evokes a feeling of strange fear even at moments when no bloodthirsty creature lurks on the horizon and we are not threatened with imminent suffocation. This is largely due to the well-run plot, which - despite the very simple in its assumptions - works perfectly, and the ending evokes extremely intense emotions. The horror of the situation is combined with the impassive, cold narrative presented in the form of an interview - all this arouses a paranoid fear in Narcosis about what lurks in the impenetrable depths of the ocean.

Due to its specificity, the game should work best in virtual reality. Limited visibility, slow movements - this title even asks you to use the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. And I would be lying if I hadn't admitted that playing with goggles does not provide much more impressions. The problem is that after a few dozen minutes at the bottom of the ocean, I found out on my own skin that Narcosis is poorly adapted to handle this technology. The title is really unpleasant to play with our labyrinth, which in my case quickly resulted in long nausea . Consequently, I had to split the game into three sessions, despite the fact that it took me about four hours to get to the credits.

The length of the game can also be included in the list of drawbacks of this production, although in the case of productions aimed primarily at devices using virtual reality, we have probably already got used to the fact that they can be included in one evening. Narcosis is unfortunately another position that suffers from the same pain, and in addition, it is not particularly tempting to approach it a second time. It is true that we can once again comb the ruins of underwater complexes and dark caves to find the bodies of the remaining crew members or their items , but to be honest I did not feel such a need.

The debut project Honor Code also suffers from technical problems. I am talking here primarily about poor optimization: on my computer, with no major problems dealing with new titles in Ultra HD resolution, the game did not maintain 60 frames, which bodes badly for owners of weaker equipment. This is especially strange considering the fact that Narcosis is not a work of art in terms of graphics - a large part of the screen is non-stop hidden in the dark, the character models look average, and the environment, although detailed, in theory should not cause problems with a strong PC- volume.

Ultimately, this title is a mix of exemplary and spectacularly broken elements. However, I do not regret the time spent: the atmosphere, well-written script and the feeling of claustrophobic fear definitely appealed to me . But despite this, it is difficult for me to recommend Narcosis. Mainly due to poor adaptation to virtual reality technology, but also due to technical problems and short gameplay time. The debut of Honor Code obviously has captivating moments, but unfortunately - instead of thalassophobia, only seasickness is left behind.