The ocean is terrifying. Not only is it filled with nightmarish hellspawns that look like they flopped out of H.P. Lovecraft’s notebook, but it’s also a mysterious place we have yet to fully conquer because of how deadly it is for our fleshy bodies to navigate. That sense of danger, mystique, and separation makes the ocean depths a prime setting for a horror game that few seem to take advantage of. NARCOSIS, a walking simulator-horror hybrid that takes place on the seafloor, attempts to realize this potential, but ends up drowning because of its flimsy scares, poor controls, and abhorrent visuals.
Despite those flaws, Narcosis is far more focused on its story than it may initially seem. You play as a crew member of a deep sea mining operation that has gone sideways, causing you to saunter from place to place in hopes of finding a working escape shuttle. The story plays out in a series of non-diegetic monologues that slowly reveal themselves as something more as you progress.
Great voice acting and solid writing delve into such themes as survivor’s guilt, isolation, fear, and other harrowing topics and push the story forward at a satisfying clip. Its best elements come forward when those themes are juxtaposed against the dark recesses of the sea, reinforcing the spoken words through the cold, mysterious water that surrounds you. Listening to the one of the miners describe his deepest feelings of loneliness while walking around solitarily in a flooded, once-lively facility is narratively cohesive and where its walking sim roots shine the brightest.