There aren’t elaborate cut-scenes and CG to tell the story of how you ended up trapped in a diving suit, miles below the ocean. One minute you’re walking through the underwater world and the next minute everything goes to hell. Instead of hoping players will ignore the interface and heads-up display, Narcosis wants to keep bringing you back to the reality that your cumbersome suit is all that’s standing between you and a watery death. In one early scene, you’ll come across a co-worker whose faceplate was smashed, then quickly encounter the giant spider-crab looking creature responsible for the damage. You can’t help but watch your oxygen reserve shrinking, and you’ll quickly learn to minimize contact with bodies littering your former workplace because your fear causes you to hyperventilate, burning precious air that much quicker.
The sound design deserves special mention. There’s a monologue running throughout the game that you might think would be disruptive, but it provides a needed calm between dramatic episodes. It also adds a lot of character, giving the faceless protagonist of the game a voice and a purpose. Most of all, the dialogue lends more depth to the setting and the razor’s edge between tedium and danger that defined the highly stressful job he was doing prior to the accident. Contrast his calm, almost bored dialogue with strange noises just out of your field of vision, droning alarms, and garbled comms from other survivors you’re desperately trying to reach before they take the only remaining sub to the surface, and you’ve got the recipe for something that sticks with you long after you put down the controller.