Narcosis is a first-person survival horror game that takes place deep within the ocean. You play as a deep sea diver working on a drilling rig, who is trapped underwater after a very large earthquake.
Pro Brilliant ending
Without revealing any kind of spoilers, the ending has a great twist that makes perfect sense in the context of the story while also managing to be a surprise. It's one of those incredibly clever endings that has you sitting there in awe at how well it was pulled off, and sits in your head for days after playing. People who enjoy a great story will definitely appreciate the finale.
Pro Great narration and storytelling
As you navigate the environment, the story is told as a voice-over retrospective with the narrator telling of the events as they unfold. It's revealed a little bit at a time - just enough to make you keep pushing forward and engaged in the story. The voice acting itself is spot on, and you can hear a real sense of dread and panic in his words, which makes the events in the story that much more impactful and disturbing. Altogether, the storytelling in Narcosis is incredibly effective and paced well.
Pro Atmosphere captures despair well
Narcosis captures the despair of being trapped miles under the ocean incredibly well through its great atmosphere. Everything is dark and gloomy, with low visibility and small, claustrophobic corridors within the underwater facility. It's very easy to get lost, and when you don't know where you'll find your next tank of oxygen, this can be devastating and stressful. The darkness itself permeates everywhere, so you're never quite sure what kind of horror is even in the same room as you, let alone through that sealed door at the end of the hall. Overall, the game aims to make you feel trapped and confused, and certainly succeeds.
Pro Key survival elements really add to the feeling of hopelessness
Narcosis has two very important resources that need to be managed - oxygen and flares - and both add to the tension of trying to stay alive in a dangerous environment where the odds are truly stacked against you.
Oxygen can be replenished in various ways, but it's always a concern. Seeing something that frightens your character will cause you to use oxygen faster, so even how much you consume is constantly in flux. Watching your gauge quickly tick away with no refill tank in sight can be pretty tense, and is a constant reminder of the need to keep pressing on if you want to survive.
Dangers lurk in the dark such as hidden enemies and sudden drop-offs into the watery abyss. As such, flares are needed to see in some dark areas, but you can only carry 10 at a time. Furthermore, flares are pretty rare, so debating whether or not you really need to light the room up or save them for later will require you to make some on the fly decisions - for better or worse.
Overall, having to manage both of these limited resources really adds a layer of hopelessness to the already devastating situation of being trapped and alone miles under the ocean's surface.
Pro Little details that aid immersion
Most of the in-game audio is either the bubbling of water, the click of the air tank, or your own breathing within the diving suit. Whenever your character becomes scared, the breathing intensifies and uses up your oxygen supply at an alarming rate, which in turn, may make you a little panicked. The mask also fogs up with each breath, and your vision becomes blurry when you're low on oxygen. Little things like this really help make it an immersive experience.
Con Movement controls are clunky
You can't turn or change direction with the mouse, and have to turn using WASD keymapping. This control scheme is very unconventional for a first-person game and, as a result, it's hard to get accustomed to and causes problems in areas where precise movement is mandatory.
Con Awkward and frustrating platforming
There are some areas where first-person platforming puzzles are required to advance. A clunky control scheme coupled with a low visibility environment and underwater physics make these a chore. As such, this adds very frustrating element to gameplay since platforming just doesn't work in first-person games.
Con No direction with objectives
It's often unclear what exactly you're supposed to be doing or where you're supposed to go within the collapsed underwater drilling facility. There are no clearly outlined objectives or goals, so it's a lot trial and error getting from one area to the next. As a result, a lot of time is spent wandering around confused and lost in a dark environment. While this definitely adds to the atmosphere of feeling alone and trapped, it doesn't translate well to gameplay where it's easy to get stuck and have no clue what you're supposed to be accomplishing.
Con Character walks incredibly slow
Underwater in a heavy dive suit, every step is painfully slow and it takes a while to turn around. While this may be realistic, this slow walking is tiresome when translated to gameplay and makes navigation a hassle. The suit does have a boost which acts as a sprint of sorts, but the boosters are limited and need time to recharge.
Con Combat is horrible
From time to time, you will need to defend yourself from dangerous sea life such as predatory fish or squid. Your only tool to combat this is a knife, which feels very heavy and useless in water. Swinging a small knife underwater in a very constrictive, slow-turning suit doesn't result in the most fluid combat. Trying to position yourself and aim your swings is usually a futile and frustrating exercise with fast moving enemies.