I’m big on aquatic horror. Deep Star Six, Leviathan, The Abyss. These film titles really get to the claustrophobic reality of being trapped deep under the ocean, which is scary enough, then adding a monster or alien into the mix. Honor Code’s Narcosis completely lives in what we love about those elements of aquatic horror and adds in a heavy dose of the surreal in a game that has plenty of narrative strengths going for it.
In Narcosis you take on the diving suit of a of a deep-sea miner. While on the job, shit goes wrong leaving him stranded at the bottom of the ocean. It’s up to you to find a way to get back to the surface, while piecing together bits of vital narrative info and trying not to loose your mind due to hypoxia and well… Narcosis.
The experience is at its basics a walking simulator with some survival elements thrown in. The majority of the game is spent walking from structure to structure in pitch-black freezing waters trying to find additional oxygen rations and attempting to avoid the local creepy-ass deep dive sea life. These things are all kinds of nope and range from giant squids to monstrous spider crabs.
The game doesn’t rely on big combat set pieces when it comes to dealing with those things. Instead, you bat them away with a small knife or use stealth to avoid them all together. The first few stealth bits, are effective in the scares department. It’s horrifying just being that deep under the ocean then you throw in some hideous H.P. Lovecraft looking “bad guys” and it’s all out disturbing.
A lot of the gameplay elements become stale over the roughly 5-hour play through time. The game really shines when it comes to its strong voice work and its narrative structure and payoff. The non-linear storytelling has you jumping from your current situation to your training as a deep dive miner, as well as events leading up to the incident.
As the title of the game implies, there is a very hallucinogenic components at work. The longer your diver(s) stays down at the bottom of the sea, they begin to suffer the effects, leading to all kinds of creepy moments and jump scares. Narcosis does a great job of Freddy Kruegering you and bluring the line between reality and tripping the fuck out.
The intro to the game and its new gameplay style is best when fresh. After a while of getting used to the situation and knowing what to expect from its gameplay, the game begins to lose its edge and interest. For the second half of the game I found myself only playing to finish the narrative and didn’t care much for the about what was inbetween. A little more variety would have gone a long way here.
If you are into Jules Vern, Lovecraft and love aquatic horror as much as myself, then I say give it a try. It’s a quick play and if anything else, you will get a cool story and some serious claustrophobia. There isn’t a lot of action, but the immersion, structure and unique genre approach are worth a peek.