You’re stuck on the ocean floor, your facility destroyed and oxygen dwindling. Dead and dying teammates litter the environment. Each step closer to the surface seems to only bring demise and frustration. Welcome to Narcosis.
This horror game from Honor Code, Inc hit a bit too close to home for me. One of my greatest fears is drowning, and another is encountering deadly sea creatures below the waves. Because of this, I was constantly on edge despite not usually having a tough time with the horror genre. If you have a fear of the deep, you might want to stay away.
Aside from the thematic terror, Narcosis does primarily use a mixture of jump scares and hallucinations to terrify the audience. While I normally feel like jump scares are cheap, for the most part, they actually fit right in this time. The pacing is done well, giving you a nice mixture of frantic low-oxygen moments that help to space out the jumps so you’re not simply overloaded. Then, right when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the room goes black and you’re surrounded by gruesome visions of what lies in wait.
“A good set of headphones or a full surround-sound system is highly recommended for Narcosis.”
Voice acting and sound design in general, are above par. Not only is the protagonist’s narration done quite well, but all of the side characters sound real and not phoned-in. Now, audio is important to every game, but the effects and ambient sound really help horror games immensely. A good set of headphones or a full surround-sound system is highly recommended for Narcosis. Sure, being in a suit under the sea should sound a bit more muffled, but for the most part, you’ll be too busy checking corners to really care that you can clearly hear that crab walking around.
As far as real gameplay goes, there isn’t a whole lot. Mechanics are pretty limited, and you’ll spend most of your time launching flares, boosting across gaps, or swiping away squid with your knife. While this does add to the fear factor as you’re quite limited in what you can do, it definitely turns this into more of an experience than a game. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but know that you’re looking at around 4-5 hours of walking around the ocean floor.
Visually, everything looks nice enough. Some more grungy detail could have been added around the outside of all the pipes and structures, like grime and ocean muck; instead, it all looks brand new. Heading through breached structures feels ominous with all of the debris floating around, and inside these research facilities is where the atmosphere truly shines.
Easily the best part of Narcosis is the collectibles scattered about, offering bits of information about the crew and their mission as you collect them. The crew bios are interesting enough that you’ll want to read them and short enough so you won’t feel like you’ve wasted any time. Frankly, a bit more character interaction would have really helped here, even if it was just a quick walkthrough of the main facilities to get acquainted with a few more of the people who would soon perish.
The price is a little high in my opinion, but if you’ve got a VR setup then it’s definitely worth it. Even without, if you enjoy other horror games where resources are limited and your mind is playing tricks on you, then there’s a good chance Narcosis is worth the money. Just make sure to grab your best headset, and turn out all the lights before you start.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Underwater is scary
- Excellent sound design
- Collectibles are nicely done
- More experience than game
- Some jump scares
- A bit short