Deep at the bottom of the ocean an earthquake rocks the underwater science base, Oceanova causing wide-spread destruction. Your character is outside on an assignment when the quake hits knocking you to the ocean floor. Your survival comes from the huge, cumbersome dive suit you’re wearing. A suit that begins to feel very much like a coffin.
Trapped inside the massive & cumbersome dive suit, everything is limited. Movement is tank like with vision controlled independently. It’s slow & methodical but makes you so aware of the trapped & uncomfortable situation. To add an extra layer of tension to the experience you also have an oxygen meter, something you have to keep an eye on regularly by looking down at your suit’s display.
The dwindling supply of oxygen is your main focus. It forces you to keep moving, to constantly be looking for tanks to refill it. It creates many desperate & tense moments as it ticks slowly towards your doom.
The purpose of the game is survive, to find a way out & hopefully find other survivors. However as you begin to explore the deep, dark ocean it becomes clear that the earthquake caused way more damage then anyone could have imagined. As things get more desperate, madness begins to set it causing your character to experience supernatural & terrifying events.
The immersion in Narcosis is fantastic, the control system & limited vision really making you feel like you’re there. The bottom of the sea is both a fascinating & terrifying place. Honor Code have done a fantastic job of making it both beautiful & oppressive. Deep gorges, huge rock formations & strange, wonderful life-forms (except the crab spiders, creepy bastards). It’s a stunning place to be & while most things aren’t dangerous, you’re constantly on your toes because of the dwindling oxygen supply.
To keep things fresh you also get to explore destroyed & flooded areas of Oceanova in the hope of finding other crew members that are alive. These areas are where the scares tend to come into play. Dark & oppressive corridors, bedrooms, kitchens, offices etc. Places where you get to see signs of the lives once lived.
These areas are also where most of the spooky situations occur. Narcosis relies heavily on the ‘jump scare’ tactic (being a VR game that’s no surprise) but does a fantastic job of it thanks to the build. These aren’t just thrown in your face (for the most part), they are built over a period of time & it really makes you question just what your character’s state of mind is.
Narcosis gets so much right but it does have a few flaws. For starters it’s very short. It can be completed (story-wise) in about 2 hours. It also is very linear & thanks to the oxygen meter there isn’t much drive to stray too far off the beaten path. That’s a pity as there are number of collectables to find that enhance the stories of the rest of the crew of Oceanova.
There are a few areas that can be a bit confusing to navigate. However, that only really enhances the feel of being lost at the bottom of the ocean. Something that Narcosis absolutely nails. You feel lost, you feel alone, you feel like it’s just a matter of time before your oxygen runs out & your suit becomes your coffin.
The Final Score - 8.5/10